One of the most common questions I get asked by people (especially children) is… “How did you become a veterinarian?” Well I can tell you, it was a long journey! Of course it all started with deciding that becoming a veterinarian is what I wanted, and that’s covered in the last blog post (link here). Becoming a veterinarian takes just as much education as becoming a human doctor: 4 years (most of the time) of college and 4 years of veterinary school. After vet school, you have to take exams to make sure you learned everything you need to learn to practice veterinary medicine. I’ll pick up the rest of my journey in middle school when I started to decide what type of veterinarian I wanted to be.
In middle school, I met Jane Goodall in person after one of her lectures. I was impressed by her intelligence and passion for helping animals and teaching people, and I dreamt of emulating her example. Going to exotic locations to study wildlife sounded fun and exciting! During middle school, I started to build a good foundation in studying math and science so I’d be ready for advanced courses in high school.
During high school, I really focused on my grades and gaining more experience with animals. I studied really hard and excelled in math and science courses. Veterinary Medicine is a lot of science, so gaining a strong background in the sciences is very important! For more animal experience, I started volunteering at the Little Rock Zoo. Since I love working with people and animals, I chose to volunteer in the petting zoo area with the sheep, goats, and miniature horses. I loved every minute of it, but I still wanted more of an intellectual challenge. During high school, I also started shadowing a few local veterinarians (including the zoo veterinarian). I kept a record of every hour of experience with animals. If you want to be a veterinarian, I recommend you keep a log too, because you will be able to list every hour of animal experience on your veterinary school application.
I decided to get my bachelor’s degree in Animal Science at the University of Arkansas (I come from a long line of Razorback fans). During college, I made sure to always take a high course load (greater than 15 hours per semester) and get all the required courses to enter vet school. Every vet school has different prerequisite courses, so you should check with the schools you are interested in attending. I also took every animal science course I could fit in my schedule. During the summers I worked at a small animal veterinary clinic and I loved it! I loved the relationship humans and pets have, I loved the challenge of not knowing what cases would walk through the door. In college, I was also very involved with extracurricular activities (Pre-vet club, honors college, Block and Bridle, Equine training, and Sisters for the Lord). Taking difficult classes and being active in extracurricular activities demonstrates to veterinary schools that you can handle the rigors of vet school!
In June 2005, I engaged in my very own primate adventure in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. For two weeks, I observed the feeding habits of Central American Spider Monkeys. During those 2 weeks, I learned just how much I missed interacting with people on a daily basis (and not to mention how much I love running water and electricity).
Here’s a picture of a spider monkey that Dr. Katie snapped while in the jungle.
Your application to veterinary school is due almost a year before you start vet school! Most schools use an online application system so you can apply to multiple schools at once. I applied to multiple schools, but after visiting Mizzou, I knew Mizzou was the school for me! My whole family came to visit with me, and we all just loved the faculty and facilities of the Mizzou Veterinary School. In 2008, I graduated with my Bachelors of Science from the University of Arkansas (4 years of undergraduate), and in August 2008 I headed out to start my first year of veterinary School!
Dr. Katie and her family during a visit to the Mizzou Campus before vet school.
Advice for people who want to be a veterinarian:
- Keep a record of every experience you have with animals. This includes all the farm work, volunteering at zoos, animal classes, shadowing veterinarians, and anything else with animals! Try to get as much experience in different areas as you can!
- Study hard in school. You’re going to need exceptional grades and an excellent foundation in education to get into and succeed in vet school. Study! Study! Study! This goes for students of all ages!
- Volunteer! Volunteering not only helps your community but it helps you gain experience in working with a variety of people and animals.
- Remember that people are important too! If you don’t like people, veterinary medicine may not be the job for you! Be sure to explore many career options and get experience in the veterinary field to make sure it’s the right fit for you!
- Be well rounded. I know that I’ve stressed grades are important, but it’s also important to get real world experience as well!
I’ll be blogging next about what veterinary school is like, because I think that deserves a blog post or two all of its own!