When I was in elementary school and we wrote down what we wanted to be when we grew up, one of the more popular selections (alongside astronaut and firefighter) was to be a veterinarian. Now that I’m in practice, I often have clients come in with their children who also want to be a vet when they grow up. If you have a child who would love nothing more than to work with animals when they grow up or you wonder what it takes to become a veterinarian, this article is for you.
Experience is key. First and foremost, I would recommend that you bring your children with you for your pet’s annual check-ups. Growing up in San Ramon with pets, I went to Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care with my pets all the time. It gave me a feel for what veterinarians spend the majority of their time doing – examining pets and talking to owners in the exam room. If you let the veterinarian seeing your pet know that your child is interested in becoming a vet, we may be able to take the time to let them listen to your pet’s heartbeat or talk to them about being a vet if they have any questions.
Volunteer at your local animal shelter. I volunteered at the East Bay SPCA when I was in high school – they accept volunteers as young as 10 years old (if accompanied by a parent). Once you turn 16 years old, you can volunteer on your own. I enjoyed spending time socializing (read: petting and playing with) the animals and got a sense of what it takes to take care of an animal as I also helped with washing dishes, feeding them, and going through basic training commands with the dogs. For more information regarding local volunteer opportunities click here.
Work at a veterinary hospital. Once in high school, I spent a summer working at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center. I also continued to work at a veterinary hospital while in undergraduate school. Working at the hospital is hands down the best way to decide if veterinary medicine is for you. You get to work hands on with animals, you can watch the procedures that doctors perform, and you get direct insight on what the full job entails (phone calls, paperwork and all). This is also helpful when you need a personal reference or letter of recommendation if you decide to apply to veterinary school down the road.
To become a veterinarian, you first need to attend an undergraduate university – it is easiest (due to course requirements) to major in a science degree such as Biology or something similar. Veterinary school is another 4 years – in California, we have UC Davis as well as Western University down in southern California. There are a total of 30 veterinary schools currently accredited within the United States. Admission to these schools is competitive, so doing well in school is important. It was a long, hard road but ask any veterinarian and I’m sure they’ll tell you it was worth it.
Have questions about veterinary school or being a veterinarian that I didn’t cover? Please feel free to ask them below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Dr. Wong is a graduate of the Veterinary School at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Prior to veterinary school she completed her undergrad at UCLA and graduated magna cum laude with a B.S in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution. She spent time in the rainforests of Nicaragua studying the poison dart frog and also spent three months living and working in rural villages in Tanzania with the non-profit Support for International Change. Dr. Wong completed a rotating internship at VCA West LA in Los Angeles and her special interests include soft tissue and orthopedic surgery as well as emergency medicine and dentistry. She is a San Ramon native and loves to spend time outdoors running, surfing, snowboarding, hiking, and kayaking.