Pre-Veterinary Medicine at UH Mānoa
Text compiled from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) website, the AAVMC’s Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the NAAHP’s Medical Professions Admission Guide, and the UHM 2013-2014 Catalog.
Veterinary Medicine Programs in Hawai`i: None
Veterinarians work with animals to help not only animals but also people live longer, healthier lives. They diagnose and treat sick and injured animals, prevent animal diseases, improve the quality of the environment, ensure food safety, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and advise animal owners, from livestock companies to individual pet owners.
Veterinary medicine continues to expand rapidly and now offers twenty-one specialties: anesthesiology, animal behavior, dentistry, dermatology, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, laboratory animal medicine, microbiology, nutrition, ophthalmology, pathology, pharmacology, poultry veterinary medicine, preventive medicine, radiology, sports medicine and rehabilitation, surgery, theriogenology (reproduction), toxicology, veterinary practice, and zoological medicine.
Veterinarians work in a wide variety of areas, including private practice, zoos, private industry, mobile services, research laboratories, government institutions, the military, wildlife organizations, racetracks, and circuses. Veterinarians work in public health, inspection, and regulatory agencies, and in government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Department of Agriculture, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Food and Drug Administration. Although most veterinarians are in clinical practice, some also choose to conduct research or teach in higher education.
Related Careers: animal health technician, animal research, animal science, animal training and breeding, animal welfare, environmental management, hospital administration, marine biology, veterinary assistant, and wildlife preservation.
Veterinary Medicine Programs
Becoming a veterinarian requires about 8 to 13 years of education:
Undergraduate Preparation (~4 years);
Veterinary Medical School (4 years);
Internship (1 year, optional);
Residency (2-4 years, optional).
Although not all schools list a bachelor’s degree as a requirement for admission, few students are admitted without one. Completing a bachelor’s degree is highly recommended. Admission to veterinary schools is highly competitive, and a bachelor’s degree significantly strengthens a student’s application and provides students with greater options for advancement and career opportunities.
Upon completion of veterinary medical school, students are awarded either the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) or Veterinary Medical Doctor (VMD). Both degrees are equivalent with respect to licensure and professional practice.
Many schools offer combined degree programs: DVM or VMD/PhD to combine veterinary medicine with research or teaching; DVM/MBA to combine veterinary medicine with business administration; DVM/MPH to combine veterinary medicine with public health; and so on. Combined degrees can be offered concurrently, sequentially, or in combination, and often extend the number of years in veterinary school.
The first two years of veterinary school are usually spent in classrooms and laboratories studying the basic sciences, including anatomy, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology. Years three and/or four are devoted primarily to clinical rotations.
Internships and residencies are available for veterinarians who wish to gain advanced training or specialization. In their senior year, veterinary students can apply through a matching program for an internship in small-animal medicine, large-animal medicine, or surgery. Veterinarians can often command a higher starting salary after completing an internship. The most prestigious internships are at veterinary medical colleges or large private veterinary hospitals. Ranking for internship is based upon academic performance and faculty recommendations.
Veterinarians who have completed an internship or who have two years of private practice experience can apply for residency programs. Residencies are 2- to 4-year programs that provide further specialization in 11 areas: internal medicine, surgery, cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, exotic small animal medicine, pathology, neurology, radiology, anesthesiology, and oncology. Some residencies combine research and graduate studies and confer a master’s degree. Upon successful completion of residencies, veterinarians are certified by the appropriate veterinary medical specialty board.
The North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) is an examination for veterinary medical licensure in the United States. Students in their fourth year of veterinary medical school are eligible to sit for the exam. To sit for the exam, students must submit two applications, one to the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME), and one to the licensing board of the state in which they intend to practice (if required). All veterinarians must be licensed to practice.
Prerequisites for Admission
Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the schools you are interested in attending.
The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to veterinary schools:
|BIOL 171/171L and 172/172L||Introduction to Biology I and II||8 cr.|
|CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L||General Chemistry I and II||8 cr.|
|CHEM 272/272L and 273/273L||Organic Chemistry I and II||9 cr.|
|PHYS 151/151L and 152/152L|
(or PHYS 170/170L and 272/272L)
|College Physics I and II|
(or General Physics I and II)
|8 or 9 cr.|
|BIOL/MBBE/PEPS 402 (or BIOC 441)||Biochemistry||4 cr.|
|MATH 215 and 216 |
(or MATH 241 and 242)
|Applied Calculus I and II|
(or Calculus I and II)
|7 or 8 cr.|
|PSY/SOCS 225 or ECON 321||Statistics||3 cr.|
|ENG 100 and higher||Composition I and higher||6 cr.|
Additional requirements may include courses in agriculture, animal nutrition (ANSC 244), animal genetics (ANSC 445), business, computer science (ICS 101), environmental biochemistry (MBBE 412), genetics, humanities, microbiology, social sciences, and upper division biology or zoology courses such as embryology. It is also recommended that non-science majors take additional upper-division or advanced science electives beyond the prerequisites listed above.
What makes a strong candidate?
Schools need to be certain that the students they accept are capable of completing the veterinary curriculum and are likely to become good veterinarians.
Are you capable of completing the veterinary curriculum?
Admissions committees seek students who have:
- completed the prerequisites
- a high overall GPA
- a high science/math GPA
- performed well on the GRE or MCAT
- balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic
Are you likely to become a good veterinarian?
Admissions committees seek students who have:
- demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
- high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
- demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
- a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
- experience in the field and with what veterinary medicine entails
- a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
- excellent oral and written communication skills
- strong letters of evaluation/recommendation
There are currently 30 accredited veterinary schools in the US, each unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths. Applicants can research schools using the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR).
Although there are resources that rank schools, the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants. More important is whether there is a good match between applicant and school.
To find schools that are good a fit for you (PAC peer advisors can help with this process):
- Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
- Start by considering all schools, which usually includes all 28 schools;
- Create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
- Once you have your GRE or MCAT scores, create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools on your Long List into ‘Reach’, ‘Match’, and ‘Safety’, ranking the schools by preference, and finally choosing how many schools to apply to. Be sure to apply to schools in all 3 categories (‘Reach’, ‘Match’, and ‘Safety’).
If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to admissions directors, and chat with students.
All veterinary schools require applicants to take a standardized test called the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). However, some schools also accept the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in place of the GRE.
Preparation: Your most important preparation for both the GRE or the MCAT is your undergraduate courses, many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills. Remember that the Verbal Reasoning score is not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do in veterinary school, but also the most difficult score to improve.
GRE Summary: The GRE assesses your knowledge and skills in Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning. The test requires approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete. The GRE is offered in computer-based and paper-based formats, and is offered year-round for computer-based administrations and up to three times per year for paper-based administrations.
GRE Scoring: The Verbal and Quantitative sections each receive a score between 130 and 170, in 1-point increments. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, in half-point increments. GRE scores are often reported as percentiles, with the median score (50th percentile) among examinees being 150 for the Verbal and Quantitative sections and 3.5 for the Analytical Writing section. Scores at around the 65th percentile or above are considered competitive for veterinary schools.
Official Test Preparation Material:
- The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test from ETS
- Practice Questions on GRE website
- Free diagnostic exam on GRE website
MCAT Summary: The MCAT assesses your knowledge and skills in Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning. There is also an optional trial section, which examinees can complete to receive a $30 Amazon gift card. The test requires ~5 hours to complete, and entails ~144 multiple choice questions. The MCAT is administered in a computer-based format, and is offered over twenty times each year.
MCAT Scoring: Each of the three scored sections receives a score between 1 and 15, for a possible total of 45. The trial section is unscored. The mean score among examinees is 24.
Official Test Preparation Material:
- The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam, by AAMC
- Practice Exams, on AAMC website
The Application Process
There are three general steps in applying to veterinary schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview.
1. Primary applications for most schools must be filed with the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS), which is a centralized application system. Once the application is complete, VMCAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated.
2. Secondary applications or supplementary forms are specific to individual veterinary schools; schools send these to applicants after they have received the VMCAS application. Both frequently request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation. Some schools may even screen applicants before the applications or forms are sent out. However, secondary applications and supplementary forms differ in that the latter is not a formal application.
Note: Most veterinary schools participate in VMCAS. Students interested in applying to other schools must complete each of their prospective schools’ individual applications. For these schools, the application process consist only of steps 2 and 3.
3. Interviews: After reviewing the primary and secondary applications (or supplementary forms), veterinary schools invite promising applicants to interview. Applicants are responsible for all costs of interviewing, including airfare, lodging, professional attire, and meals.
WICHE: Hawai`i residents are eligible to participate in the Professional School Exchange Program (PSEP), a service of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). In a competitive process, PSEP selects applicants to receive financial support from state funds; those students will be able to pay subsidized tuition if they attend a participating program on the west coast. WICHE applications become available in July and have a mid-October deadline.
Note: To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply one full year in advance of matriculation, generally in the summer of your application year.
- The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
- Most application questions can be answered by reading the VMSAR.
- Contact individual schools’ admissions offices to find out how they handle:
- Advanced Placement (AP) credits
- International Baccalaureate (IB) credits
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
- military credits
- courses taken at a community college
- non-U.S. coursework
- courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
- residency issues
- time limits on prerequisite science courses
Ashley M. Stokes, DVM, PhD
Associate Extension Veterinarian
Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
1955 East-West Road, Ag Sci 314G Honolulu, HI 96822
UH Mānoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to veterinary school.
|Associations||American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC)
|Entrance Exams||Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
|Researching Schools||Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR) Physical copy available in PAC|
|Applications||Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS)|
|Financial Aid||Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)|