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Best Online Degrees in: Pre-Veterinary Medicine

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Explore a Bachelor's Degree in Pre-Veterinary Medicine

A degree in pre-veterinary medicine is for lovers of all animals — pocket-sized furry friends and large livestock animals alike. While many schools do not provide the option to major in pre-veterinary medicine, they may offer a pre-veterinary track that incorporates classes in the natural and biological sciences. The major or track is for students who have their sights set on veterinary school, where they will learn how to diagnose and treat animal health problems and provide advice to owners on pet care and breeding.

Veterinarians who work in private practices may also need to handle the logistical and business side of their practice, which includes scheduling appointments and sending specimens to the lab. Most pre-veterinary science tracks require two years to complete after a student has completed their general education requirements, but this will vary by institution and program type; pre-veterinary medicine major requirements will vary from track requirements.

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Class Curriculum

Pre-veterinary programs are based in the math and sciences, so students will take classes in biology, microbiology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, statistics, genetics, zoology, physics, and the animal sciences. Required classes may also include the following:

  • Principles of Animal Nutrition. This course offers a general study of the constituents of feed, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water. Students will learn about how the animal body utilizes these nutrients. Other topics covered include the digestive system, ration balancing, and feed identification.
  • Animal Science. This course will cover various classes of livestock, including beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, swine, horses, poultry, llamas, rabbits, and ostriches. Students will learn about livestock management problems, as well as breeds, feeding, reproduction, and management procedures.
  • Animal Ethics, Policy, and Law. In this course, students will consider the ethical issues involved in using animals for research, education, food production, and companionship purposes. Students will learn about animal rights and welfare movements; the legal issues related to animal care and treatment; and regulatory agencies at the local, national, and international levels.

Class assignments will include readings and laboratory work, as well as quizzes and exams. Students are strongly encouraged to intern or volunteer at a veterinarian's office to augment their studies and receive hands-on training prior to veterinary school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), admission into veterinary programs is highly competitive; less than half of all applicants were accepted.

Building a Career

Students who major in pre-veterinary medicine will often apply to veterinary school, where they will pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). However, veterinary schools do not require applicants to major in pre-veterinary medicine as undergraduates, and many will major in related fields such as the biological and physiological sciences. With a bachelor's degree, pre-veterinary medicine students may pursue careers as animal technicians, environmental technologists, and veterinary technicians. Pre-veterinary majors may also pursue careers as biologists and zoologists, although these may also require further education.

Those who choose to pursue careers as veterinarians must go to veterinary school and attain state licenses; a DVM generally requires six to eight years to complete. After graduating from veterinary school, most veterinarians will work in private practice, while others will work in the food industry, research laboratories, or government. In the latter roles, they may inspect meat packing plants, check livestock for disease, or perform autopsies to determine cause of death.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage of veterinarians was $82,040. Meanwhile, the average annual wage for veterinarians working for the federal government was slightly higher, at $88,340.