An abiding interest in animals is the most obvious requirement for someone aspiring to be a veterinarian. There are 92,500 active veterinarians in the United States; the majority of them find employment in the private sector, as an owner of a solo practice or as an associate in a group practice. There are veterinary talent shortages in the areas of food safety, in governmental work, and for non-practice (academic and research), certified specialist, and rural practitioner veterinarians. Employment at zoos, breeding farms, racetracks, humane societies and animal welfare organizations is also possible. Veterinary schools are looking for a more diverse applicant pool than they have in the past.
There are twenty-eight veterinary schools in the United States; they enroll a total of 11,600 students each year. All of the schools have a preference for accepting applicants who are residents of the state in which the school is located. Most schools have contracted with states (usually without a veterinary school of their own) to accept a limited number of students from the contracting state and all accept a limited number of non-resident, non-contract "at-large" students; there are approximately 450 such "at-large" positions in veterinary schools in the United States at the present time. Competition for admission to veterinary school varies tremendously from school to school; some routinely receive a number of applications equal to ten to twenty times the number of positions in their entering class; others have fewer than five applicants for each first year position. A total of 2,900 students gain admission to veterinary school each year from a pool of about 6,300 applicants. Female students make up 80% of the students enrolled in veterinary school; in 2010, women became the majority of practitioners. Minority enrollment has increased steadily in the last several years and stood at 10% of the total enrollment in 2011. Over 90% of the graduates from veterinary schools in 2011 received job offers or had procured opportunities for continuing education before graduation; 87% of veterinary school graduates in 2010 had educational debt; median indebtedness was around $ 150,000 at the time of graduation. The average gross income for new graduates was $ 46,900 per year in 2011. Average income for all veterinarians is $ 98,000 per year; 65-70% of veterinarians’ earnings in 2011 came from treating pets; spending on pet care rose to $ 11.1 billion in 2001, from $ 6.9 billion in 1991 and the market may bear higher veterinary fees than what it currently does. Mean annual expenditure on veterinary care by dog-owning households exceeded $ 350 in 2007; for households with cats, expenditures exceeded $ 190.There are many issues that affect veterinary students and veterinarians in the 21st century. Some of these are the development of new technologies, animals gaining higher status, the consolidation of agriculture, bio-safety, homeland security and public health, and emerging research in areas such as genomics. Corporate organizations that deliver veterinary services and more open world trading arrangements will also impact the future of veterinary medicine. Flexibility in scheduling work times is a significant factor in employment; part-time veterinarians are not uncommon.
Additional information can be obtained from the American Veterinary Medical Association, http://www.avma.org. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, http://aavmc.org is another excellent resource. Anyone who is seriously considering applying to veterinary school should obtain a copy of the book “Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements in the United States and Canada”, which is available from Purdue University Press http://www.thepress.purdue.edu, phone 800-247-6553. This book is the official American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges handbook and it is updated each year, with the new edition available in August; total cost is around $ 20. General information about careers in veterinary medicine is also available at http://www.explorehealthcareers.org.Admission to veterinary school characteristically requires completion of a four-year undergraduate degree that includes coursework in specific areas. Oglethorpe University provides such a program; please contact the pre-veterinary adviser, Dr. Dan Schadler, at firstname.lastname@example.org, for further information.