How to Become a Veterinarian: The Volunteer and Work Experience You Need

How to Become a Veterinarian

Photo by Average Jane, Flickr

With an attractive starting salary of over $60,000 and the enticing promise of working with wild or pet animals, the veterinary profession is considered to be one of the most sought-after and rewarding career fields. But, because of its popularity, it is notoriously difficult to gain admission into veterinary school. Often it’s not enough to have excellent grades or letters of recommendation to gain admission, and as such, work and volunteer experience become a major component which separates vet school candidates. If you are passionate about becoming a veterinarian, you’d better have a resume which displays that passion.

Gain Invaluable Experience and Make Money to Become a Vet

The best kind of experience a prospective veterinarian can have is previous work experience. If you are an undergraduate, look into what research opportunities your university offers. All universities which have vet programs (and many which don’t) conduct research involving animals. Lab experience is invaluable, as workers will hone technical skills which many other undergraduates lack. Lab work typically occurs in addition to basic animal care, which is always beneficial to have on a resume. If you are finishing high school and just starting to apply for colleges, research what lab opportunities different universities offer. Experience working with university professors is generally the best line on a resume, and will provide you great opportunities to obtain letters of recommendation.

In addition to university positions, securing a job at a veterinary clinic, an animal shelter, a kennel, a wildlife center, a pet shop, with horses, or any job that involves working with animals should be a vet candidate’s first priority. Not everyone will be lucky enough to land a job akin to a veterinary technician (who assist licensed veterinarians with exams and surgeries), but even starting as a receptionist at a clinic, or cashier at a pet shop, shows initiative and provides opportunities to advance in the field prior to applying to vet school. Strive to build a resume filled with specific, technical experience. If your boss needs help with a neuter or hates doing dentals, volunteer. Grunt work will lead to opportunities to participate in more advanced procedures and advancement from nontechnical to professional positions. When applying for a position, highlight the fact that you’re attempting to join the veterinary profession. Not only are you more likely to be hired, but the veterinarians you work with will look to provide you with experiences to build your resume.

how to become a vet

Become a veterinarian and a cougar cub could be your patient. Photo by MyFWCmedia, Flickr

A resume full of volunteer experience displays your passion and commitment for animals goes beyond making money. And what’s best about volunteering is an event usually only takes a day or two. That means you get a line on your resume, invaluable experience, and a display of passion in just a weekend. With those kinds of rewards, there’s no reason not to fill a veterinary application with an abundance of volunteer experience.

Volunteer opportunities are also fairly easy to secure. There are annual spay and neuter clinics in major cities, local wildlife preservation initiatives, shelters in need of help, and any private clinic will always accept free labor. If you don’t have a paying job just yet, offer to volunteer regularly at your dream clinic and your name will be on the top of the list when a vacancy opens. If you’re creative, you can even start your own volunteer initiative in your community. Whether you’re leading a wildlife preservation movement or just collecting cat food for the local shelter, saying you’re the founder of a volunteer group will set you far above your fellow applicants.

The veterinary profession is extremely competitive, but one of the most rewarding careers for those passionate about medicine and animals. If you’ve made up your mind to become a veterinarian, scour your community for opportunities to display your passion. Proving your commitment on paper isn’t easy, but having the right experience on a resume goes a long way towards demonstrating your drive and initiative as you begin moving towards your dream of becoming a veterinarian.

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