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How Long Does It Take to Become a Veterinarian? (2022 Facts & Statistics)

cat and vet

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

Veterinarians have important jobs. They are instrumental in taking care of our pets and helping to prolong and even save their lives in many cases. If you’re thinking of a career as a veterinarian or are just curious about your own veterinarian and how it all works, read on.

We compiled 16 veterinarian training statistics, including:

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The 16 Veterinarian Statistics

  1. To become a vet, a DVM or VMD is necessary.
  2. Veterinary programs take 4 years.
  3. A BSc degree is usually required.
  4. Being a vet in the U.S. requires a license.
  5. There are 32 accredited colleges or schools of veterinary medicine in the U.S.
  6. The tuition for U.S. resident students for 4 years in 2021 ranges from $170,742 to $289,597.
  7. Approximately 3,200 students graduate from veterinary school every year.
  8. 95% of new graduates from Canadian veterinary schools are working in a clinic.
  9. The average starting salary in 2019 for new graduates was $70,045.
  10. In 2019, 94% of new graduates found work.
  11. Millennials made up 35% of veterinarians in 2019.
  12. 70% of veterinarians were women in 2019.
  13. From 2020 to 2030, employment for vets is expected to grow by 17%.
  14. The median wage for vets in 2020 was $99,250.
  15. The U.S. has the highest salaries for vets in the world.
  16. In 2020, New Jersey was the highest paying state for veterinarians.
How-Long-Does-It-Take-to-Become-a-Veterinarian
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Veterinary School Facts & Statistics

1. To become a vet, a DVM or VMD is necessary.

(BLS)

This is a doctor of veterinary medicine or Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris, and it must be obtained from an accredited college of veterinary medicine.

kitten in vet clinic
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2. Veterinary programs take 4 years.

(BLS)

Completing a veterinary program can take about 4 years, including labs, classroom, clinical work, and internships. Typically, 3 years are spent in labs and classrooms, and the last year involves clinical rotations at vet hospitals or clinics.


3. A BSc degree is usually required.

(BLS)

A bachelor’s degree in sciences, preferably in biology, is required to get into a veterinary program. It’s a highly competitive field of study, and some colleges prefer students to have studied agriculture or have experience working with animals at an animal shelter or farm or in some other capacity.


4. Being a vet in the U.S. requires a license.

(BLS)

Once a student has graduated and wants to become a practicing veterinarian, they must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination through the International Council for Veterinary Assessment. The student might also need to pass a state exam, depending on what state they want to practice in.

female vet on computer with white dog
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5. There are 32 accredited colleges or schools of veterinary medicine in the U.S.

(AAVMC-FAQs)

All these schools are accredited and members of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). There are also five Canadian and 15 international veterinary schools that are members, as well as five U.S. departments of veterinary science and six U.S. departments of comparative medicine.


6. The tuition for U.S. resident students for 4 years in 2020 is $170,742 to $289,597.

(AAVMC-Cost Comparison Tool)

These figures will depend on what college is attended and whether you factor in living in residence and other living expenses. The least expensive college is Purdue University, and the most expensive is the University of California — Davis.


7. Approximately 3,200 students graduate from veterinary school every year.

(AAVMC-FAQs)

Compare that number to the 13,323 veterinary students who were studying at U.S. veterinary schools in 2019. This number is up 2.3% from 2018 (AVMA-Students).

vet. examining parakeet
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New Graduate Veterinary Statistics

8. 95% of new graduates from Canadian veterinary school are working in a clinic in 2020.

(CVMA)

The vast majority of new graduates ended up working in private clinical practices, and 44% of these students were quite satisfied with their jobs. Otherwise, 4% of recent graduates ended up working in a government job, and the final 1% were interning or in residency.


9. The average starting salary in 2019 for new graduates was $70,045.

(AVMA-Economic Report)

This is up $4,062 from the year before. In 2018, the average starting salary was $65,983.


10. In 2019, 94% of new graduates found work.

(AVMA-Economic Report)

This is an excellent outlook for new veterinarians! 94% of new vets found either full-time work or new opportunities to advance their education up to 2 weeks before graduation.

vet. checking sick turtle
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Veterinary Career Statistics

11. Millennials make up 35% of veterinarians in 2019.

(AVMA-Economic Report)

Millennials are a generation of people born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 25 to 40 in 2021). This number will probably continue to increase as the previous generation of baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) retire.


12. 70% of veterinarians are women in 2019.

(AVMA-Economic Report)

Women are entering the field of veterinary medicine in larger numbers, but more male vets than female vets become owners or partners. Female vets also tend to be more stressed than male vets (Vetspanel).


13. From 2020 to 2030, employment for vets is expected to grow by 17%.

(BLS)

This job outlook is faster than the average for all other occupations. Over the next 10 years, 4,400 job openings for veterinarians are expected for each year. Many of these job openings will be to fill jobs that have been left vacant due to retirement or vets leaving the positions for other occupations.

equine vet technician
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 14. The median wage for vets in 2020 was $99,250.

(BLS)

The median wage is roughly how much half of the vets earned at about the middle range. The lowest 10% of vets made $60,690, and the highest made more than $164,490.


15. The U.S. has the highest salaries for vets in the world.

(DVM360)

The U.S. pays vets well and is followed by the Netherlands and Switzerland. The top veterinary colleges in the U.S. are the University of California — Davis, followed by Cornell University.


16. In 2020, New Jersey was the highest paying state for veterinarians.

(BLS-Employment and Wages)

New Jersey had 1,300 veterinarians employed as of May 2020, and the mean wage was $128,430. New Jersey is followed quite closely by Maryland at $128,120 and the District of Columbia at $127,310. Oklahoma comes in as the lowest-paying state at $79,130, which is still nothing to sneeze at!

chicken vet.
Image Credit: greenOlli, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions About Veterinarians

What career options are available for veterinary student graduates?

While most new graduates get into clinical work with companion animals, many other career paths can be followed. Some get into research that helps both animals and humans. Others take on government jobs, particularly with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Here, they provide aid for homeland security, public health, and the environment.

Of course, there are options for working in zoos, farms, wildlife rescue, or specializing in aquatic, avian, or even reptile animals. (AAVMC-FAQs)

What kind of classes do you take in veterinary school?

Students take quite a variety of courses beyond the expected biology and anatomy. Classes range in everything from:

  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Histology
  • Immunology
  • Pathology
  • Nutrition
  • Reproductive medicine
  • Ophthalmology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Neurology

This isn’t everything, of course. There will also be classes on ethics, communication, professionalism, and practice management. (AAVMC-FAQs)

What kind of qualities do you need to get into veterinary school?

You should be an animal lover, but the school will also be looking for students who have great communication skills, can run a business, conduct research, and can work in areas such as public health, food supply, and biomedical research.

Students will be trained across various species and will be able to work in everything from research to medicine and health. (AAVMC-FAQs)

mini pig and vet
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What kind of classes should high school students take if they want to be vets?

Students should be strong in things like biochemistry and advanced math, but they also need to have strong writing and communication skills. Most colleges also expect at least 400 hours of work with animals through a shelter, research lab, or veterinary clinic. (AAVMC-FAQs)

What are a few of the benefits of being a vet?

Other than the amazing bonus of working with and helping animals, there are multiple benefits to being a veterinarian.

  • Variety in a career path
  • Variety within the job itself
  • Instigating actual and positive change for owners and animals
  • Constant learning opportunities
  • Job security
  • Forming relationships within your community
  • Opportunity to educate new graduates and vets
  • Sharing a love of animals and being in a helping career with awesome coworkers (SGU)

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Conclusion

We hope that these facts and statistics have helped you acquire good information about what being a veterinarian is all about. The benefits of becoming a veterinarian definitely outweigh any disadvantages.

If you feel inspired to become a vet, you have an incredibly challenging but rewarding road ahead of you. Or maybe you just now have a greater appreciation for your own vet. Whatever happens next is up to you, but as long as you have a strong love for animals and include them in your life, you’ll also have important relationships with veterinarians.


Featured Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

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