Does employers care about vet school?

Hi everyone! I’m a senior in high school and have just decided that I wanted to pursue a career with animals. I’m thinking of going into the vet field but I’m also bordering on ecology and conservation as well; I’ll figure that out during my undergrad years. I’m planning to go to Washington State University for pre-vet and DVM since I’m already a resident of Washington. Since I don’t think WSU is very highly regarded, does the prestige of my school affect my chance of employment? Also, any suggestions for a good pre-vet school?

I think all vet schools are pretty much the same. They tend to geographically based, in that they tend to accept students from their state/geographic area. I know that for the incoming class at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (@ Virginia Tech), 2/3 of the class are from MAryland or Virginia.

It appears that you are asking 2 separate questions. The first is if you major in ecology/conservation and seek employment in those fields, does your school carry weight with employers? It depends upon whether the courses in those fields will prepare you for an ENTRY level position with a proposed company. Does the school offer the opportunity for undergrad research, does the school assist or offer internships in those fields, does the school offer the depth and breadth of classes. That is what employers are looking for. Also, keep in mind that an undergrad degree will afford an entry level position. You will need to go on to grad school. So the next question is: will you be a strong grad school candidate, will WSU prepare you for acceptance into grad school? A question to keep in mind for both courses of study: what is the acceptance rate into vet school or grad school from WSU?

State veterinary schools are under an obligation to accept the largest number of students first from instate, then the second largest number from any state with which they have an articulation agreement and finally, any out of state qualified applicants. All state schools of veterinary medicine will have their highest number of accepted students from instate. So, if you are considering vet school, you are wise to choose your own state school for undergraduate studies to keep down the cost. You can also major in almost any area as long as you are able to complete the science and math prerequisites for vet school. Your chance of admission to vet school are highest with your instate option. Vet schools, even for instate applicants, look for a high GPA, high GRE score, demonstrated leadership skills, a well rounded candidate outside of the area of veterinary medicine, completion of a minimum number of hours of direct veterinary experience under the supervision of a veterinarian, (volunteering in a shelter does not meet this requirement). They want good citizens who also understand what being a vet is all about.

Your second question is about good “pre-vet” schools. I was not familiar with WSU program so I looked at their website. It appears that they have a solid preprofessional advisory program, offer research opportunities, a hands on internship program and have an honors program that would allow you to apply in your junior year for acceptance into their veterinary program if you meet the requirements. They also state that you can major in any field, especially one in the sciences. All in all, WSU is highly regarded and seems to offer you a perfect option. In any school that you are interested in attending, you would also have to have the opportunity to complete the animal care hours.

Without knowing your stats, or your family’s ability to pay, there are several other options. You can attend an OOS public university that is more well known for environmental/ecology, etc. That school would also have to offer the components of completing the course and animal care requirements for vet school, have a good preprofessional advisory program and be one that is not known for grade deflation. The cost would be much higher than WSU and I personally don’t think it would be worth the trade. Another option is to attend a smaller LAC well known for environmental sciences and also offer the same as above. There are some LAC’s that will offer significant merit aid to bring the cost of attending to a little more than instate tuition as WSU. Take a look at CTCL schools and also Fiske’s guide. The last option would be to look at schools that combine BS/DVM program. Some of them, like WSU require a separate application in junior year, others offer more of an early entry program provided you attain the grades required.
Some of these are Mississippi State, Tufts, Perdue, and Kansas State.

I would also suggest that you look at the AAVMA website while considering veterinary school:

@Muad_dib Why do you say that vet schools are all the same? And why are schools like Cornell and Davis are called the best in the country? I’m genuinely curious.

@ECmotherx2 Thank you so much for your detailed reply. It turns out that I didn’t phrase my question very well. In my original post, I wanted to ask if going to WSU (a less well-known school) for my DVM will make me less attractive compared to someone who got theirs from Davis or Cornell. Also, I heard somewhere that the debt:profit ratio of this field is horrible compared to something life pharmacy or dental. Do you know if that’s true?

I have a daughter who at some point expressed potential interest in vet school. As such we have looked into it.

First of all, there aren’t very many universities in the US that offer a doctor of veterinary medicine degree. From what I have heard, they are all very good and they are all hard to get into. I have not specifically looked at WSU (we live in the east) but I am pretty sure that it is a very good program.

Also, veterinary schools is very expensive. It is similar to medical school in terms of cost and selectivity. However, it does not pay nearly as well when you get out. As such, you need to take the cost of attendance into consideration. You should try to graduate with as little debt as possible. For undergrad, you should graduate with a bachelor’s degree and no debt at all.

I think that your plan to stay in-state for undergrad is a very good idea.

Finally I might add that you want to keep a high GPA for undergrad. However, you also should have a lot of experience with animals, and preferably some dealing with the public. Veterinarians don’t just deal with sick animals, they also have to deal with the associated humans. If you can volunteer or get a part time job at a veterinary clinic and/or on a farm that would be good.

I second what @ECmotherx2 said. Going with your lowest price option is your best bet. Most employers post vet school just look that the program is accredited with the AAVMA and then go from there. Whether the school is ranked 4 or 20 doesn’t make that much of a difference. They look at you and what you bring to the table. I’m sure there are some programs that look at UCD or Cornell first but most look at you and your strengths. With only around 30 schools in the country the differences are not huge.

Early admit programs are great if you are sure what you want to do. It sounds like you are not sure yet. The keys will be have you shadowed a vet? Do you have animal or vet hours. To get into vet school you need lots of those. Make sure you start now and don’t wait until you are in college. That can also help you decide if vet school is the way to go.

Yes, vet school is expensive and scholarships are few and far between. The salary of a vet is not in line with what it costs to go to school to become one. My son was told that is you can see yourself being anything in life other than a vet do it. If you are totally sure being a vet is what you want and understand the drawbacks (high debt potential, high stress, and lower income than you may think) go for it. He worked for vets and it just made him more sure of his path. He is second year pre-vet in an early admit program and after next year will enter the vet school.

Vet salaries vary widely depending upon location, whether you work at a private clinic or for a national corporation, a non profit rescue, zoo, wildlife sanctuary, or for the US government. My daughter worked for a national company as a vet assistant, when she went to vet school, the company visited and wined and dined the students who worked for them in the past. She was told starting salaries were around $83,000 per year, higher if you were bilingual. I think the average starting salary is around $72,000. The potential earnings, even if you continue to receive certification in a specialty area never come close to those for MD’s. There is also the risk of a higher rate of depression among vet students and veterinarians. Sorry to sound like a downer, just giving you some facts to consider. My daughter knew all of this and still decided to attend vet school and is happy.

The above posters have made a lot of good points. I am a current 3rd year veterinary student and wanted to add some additional comments.

The rankings released by US News and World Report for veterinary schools are bogus. They are a flawed measurement of veterinary school education. The rankings do not mean anything regarding quality of veterinary education, job/internship placement or higher starting salary. The rankings are a just popularity contest. For all practical purpose, vet school is vet school as long as it is AVMA accredited. Since you are LUCKY to have an instate vet school, plan on attending WSU. It will be the “easiest” to get accepted to and the “cheapest”. (NOTE: Vet school admission is not easy but having an instate school makes it slightly easier and vet school is no way cheap but attending your instate school is typically the cheapest option.)

I see you made another post about how to obtain shadowing experience. While I believe this is challenging for most pre-vet students, I have been most successful by actually asking in person. Dress nicely, have a resume/cover letter (something that states who you are (grade level, contact info, what you want) and talk to the receptionist at the clinic. Only try to initially shadow for a single day. Hopefully, things will go well and you can see if you can come back on a more regular basis.

Shadowing and understanding the field are very important before deciding to pursue vet med. Veterinary medicine is often idealized as playing with puppies and kittens. In reality, being a veterinarian is very much a people job (lots of client education/communication). It is not a job for those who “hate people” and would rather be with animals. Also pay attention to the different roles within the office. What jobs do the vet techs do? What jobs do the veterinarians do?

As far as your major, keep in mind that “pre-vet” is not a degree. While I am not familiar with WSU, I will imagine you will have to declare a major at some point if you enter the university as “pre-vet”. Pre-vet is more of a career goal than anything else. You can major in anything you want and attend vet school as long as you complete the pre-requisites. Most students choose to major in either biology or animal science but really it is up to you. I would suggest that you keep a Plan B career option in mind when you decide on a major. I did not attend vet school straight from undergrad and I was fortunate that I was able to enter into my Plan B career.

As you mentioned, recent veterinary graduates are in a bundle of hurt when it comes to student loan debt and the debt to income ratio. The average student loan debt for 2017 vet school graduates was $144,000. And over 25% had student debt above $200,000. The average starting salary for 2017 grads was $73,000. Thus, if you can see yourself in a different career then it is recommended you pursue that other option.

If you have any further questions regarding vet med or pre-vet studies, please let me know.

In terms of your question of does vet school affect your employment chances, it generally should not. Your letters of recommendations and how you carry yourself as a professional will be the main determining factor.

Since it is near impossible to get into vet schools as an out of state student your question is moot. The only exception is if your state has a contract with an OOS vet school to admit residents. Since Washington state has a vet school that is pretty much your only option.

@Tom SrOfBoston - that’s not true. Vet school admissions are very difficult in general. Your in state school should always be on your list because it is likely to be the cheapest. But it is not unusual for highly qualified applicants to get into a half dozen vet schools, and going OOS is by no means impossible. Most schools accept 25% or more of their students from OOS, which means it is undeniably harder, but certainly possible.