Need advice for new career direction as DVM

My daughter planned on applying to med school and now wants to be a veterinarian instead. She graduated from a Big Ten University on full academic scholarship with 4.0 GPA, major in microbiology, four years of research, and lots of pre-med volunteer activities. After fostering pets during COVID shutdown, she had a change of heart and wants to be a Vet.

She will spend the next year pursuing activities with animals to support her application to vet school. I know many who apply have been working with animals for years, so she is at somewhat of a disadvantage. She has a list of ideas to pursue, but I was hoping to get some input on which activities she should pursue/ prioritize? Thanks so much in advance for any advice you could share. This has been really stressful watching her try to figure out what direction she wants to go with her life. She has made the decision to go for being a Vet, what speaks to her heart, rather than going for the high income of being doctor and something that she did not see herself doing for the rest of her life. However, as a parent, I am worried about her late start on this while at the same time glad she has chosen a line of work she will like.

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Has she looked at the prerequisites for vet school to verify that she has everything that she needs for vet school. There is a lot of overlap with pre-med track but not sure its 100%. May also vary somewhat based on particular vet schools. Vet school applications are open now and will close September 15, 2022.

Animal hours are important but there isn’t a bright line test in terms of how many hours are needed. Also not necessary to have any type of hours. But is helpful to have a variety of types of animal hours.

Does your daughter have any specific vet interest in mind? Small animal, large animal, equine, etc? Hours in that area will be helpful. Such as vet tech at a small animal clinic. Working on a farm. Or with an equine vet. Can shadow a vet in any of those areas. In the end, will want to have a recommendation letter from a vet so spending significant number of hours with a vet will be helpful.

Should be hours that interest her rather than just hours. If she is interested, its more likely she will be fully engaged and that will result in a better experience (and likely better recommendation letter). Will also help demonstrate interest in being a vet (knowing what practice is actually like).


I have a daughter who is currently studying in a DVM program, and another daughter who is currently doing microbiology/medical research as her first job after graduating university. Thus I have some experience related to this.

Premed classes and pre-vet classes overlap quite a bit. My older daughter (the DVM student) knew several premed students when she was an undergraduate student specifically because they were in many of the same classes. However, she also had a small number of classes such as “lameness in horses” that was clearly a pre-vet class and NOT a premed class.

Your daughter might want to talk to admissions at a few DVM programs and see whether they think that her classes already taken are a good complete set. She might want to take a few additional classes to get a bit more animal experience.

This sounds like a good plan. Getting relevant experience sounds like it is the most important area for her to catch up. It might take more than a year. She might want to try to get some large animal experience (horses, cows, …) in additional to small animal experience. She will also want some experience specifically in a veterinary situation. She will want to work with one or more veterinarians.

My daughter did quite well in applying to DVM programs. We both think that the main reason for this was not her GPA nor her GRE scores (all of which were relatively good, although she definitely did not have a 4.0). What my daughter and I think got her accepted was her experience working with animals – both large ones and small ones, and the associated references (some of which were from veterinarians). She had thousands of hours of experience working in a range of situations. Cleaning up after cows and horses, reaching inside a cow (several different ways), drawing blood from cows and horses and giving shots, helping out with surgeries on animals, helping out in emergency situations, all of this helped. Dealing with dying animals and their distraught humans also was a valuable experience.

Some things that you will learn from working with a veterinarian: Frequently animals cannot be saved. Sometimes they bite you or kick you or step on you. Sometimes you get rather yucky.

Many DVM students took some time off between getting their bachelor’s and starting in a DVM program. This is common. There are DVM students who are already at least in their 30’s.

Finances are important. A DVM program is about as expensive as an MD program. However, being a veterinarian does not pay as well as being a doctor, and even doctor’s have some difficulty paying off their student loans. It is very important for a DVM student to minimize their debt as much as they can. If you can graduate with a DVM and no debt then the pay is entirely decent. However, if you are $300,000 or more in debt then a veterinarian’s salary will make it tough to get by.

I agree with a lot of what @saillakeerie said above. I found myself saying “yes” to myself multiple times reading their post.


I agree with the above posts, adding she might reach out to the pre-vet advisor at her undergrad school…they should have someone familiar with vet school requirements and may even have leads for shadowing, vet tech jobs, etc and be able to help her construct a sound path forward. Good luck to your D!


just to be clear, though, a course in “lameness in horses” is not a pre-req for any DVM program! @DadTwoGirls is right that experience, at a range of levels, is key, and also that many many students take a year out to get both serious hands-on experience & study for the MCAT. The collegeniece is currently working as a (paid) full-time vet tech, having previously volunteered for 2 summers while she studies for the MCAT.

And most of all, @DadTwoGirls is right about the money: our local vet hospital is chock-a-block with young super indebted vet school grads who are slogging through long hours to bring their debt to heal- they can’t afford to do anything else at this point, and the vet clinics (imo) take advantage of that.

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I have known a number of young vets who are being offered starting salaries that won’t allow them to pay off their debt, let alone support a family. I had a classmate who had been a fully trained, practicing vet. She couldn’t make a decent living, and was the primary breadwinner for her family, so she then went to medical school, and became a pediatrician. Similar patient/parent dynamics, she said.

My point is, unless she plans on also being a businesswoman running a huge private boarding facility to supplement her income (for which she didn’t need premeds/prevets, and doesn’t need a degree), she should think very carefully about doing this. I could understand if someone had had this as their obsession, their life goal, from childhood, but clearly this young woman was not like that.

Perhaps she ought to look into getting a quick vet tech certification, and opening a boarding facility of her own, while also working for vets as a vet tech, so that she can see if she really wants to do this. And if she does, perhaps you ought to together take a very close look at the numbers, to see if she will be able to become a self-supporting person, and even raise a family, if that is what she wants, if she chooses vet school.


The ROI for vet school is worse than bad. Equine vet came to talk with my daughter’s pre-vet club and told them that they needed to decide if they wanted to own horses or take care of them because you can’t do both.

From what I can tell, vet schools are much more focused on the debt issue than they were 5-10 years ago. Talking about significance of debt burdens; limitations involved. Asking about funding plans for vet school. Trying to find more money for scholarships.

Definitely makes sense to work with vets in a field that interests you. See if you like what the day-to-day practice is. Can also get a good sense for income levels/lifestyle supported by it.

Some of the vet schools went away from requiring GRE/MCAT. Some wouldn’t even look at it last year. Not sure if that has continued going forward though.

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Yes. I have been a bit vague, and perhaps confused classes that are required to apply to a DVM program, versus classes that might be useful or of interest to students who might also be interested in a DVM program.

I am not aware of any classes that are required for a DVM program that are not also required for an MD program. As far as I know completing the required classes to apply as an MD also completes the classes that you need to apply for a DVM. However, I might have missed something. Your daughter should check this with a pre-vet advisor at your daughter’s previous university or with admissions at a school with a good DVM program.

There is no doubt however that the “other activities” are different. My daughter had essentially no experience in a “human medical” environment, and a LOT of experience with animals in many ways.

I am also not sure about the MCAT versus GRE. My daughter did NOT take the MCAT. She did take the GRE. At least one of her top choices did not require the GRE (nor MCAT), but most of her other top choices did require it (or at least one of the two).

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Lists average GRE scores for vet schools (and notes which ones do not require).

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My daughter took a circuitous route to vet school. She graduated with a degree in marine biology, intent upon going into a masters program upon graduation. She began volunteering at a primate rescue center during college and after graduation, announced that she would like to become a veterinarian. She spent two years working at the primate center and as a vet tech for a local veterinarian. She had 4 yrs. of undergrad experience, leadership in school and as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. A number of vet schools do require “X” number of hours of working with animals under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Daughter had marine, primate, avian and companion animal experience, but, many of her classmates had either large or companion animal. Vet schools, similar to med schools want to see research, clinical, community and leadership qualities. I would suggest that your daughter see if she could begin to volunteer at a local animal practice, and work her way into a vet assistant position. Best of luck!

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Chances are, she already has the prerequisites already if she’s been doing premed

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A list of required, recommended and not required courses for all, or at least most, vet schools:


Thanks for that list, it is very helpful. My daughter needed to take a genetics course and animal nutrition course prior to applying to one vet school.

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I am going to agree with what most of the posters have said. Debt is a huge issue. I’m not sure my son would have gone into it if he knew he would have huge debt. (He will not luckily). His fiancee was pre-med. She is now going to PA school because after a lot of research and working with MDs and PAs decided that was what she really wanted to do. Their classes were very similar but he did have a couple of classes that she did not. Some schools require animal nutrition so check out what each school she may be applying to requires. Many are still not requiring the GRE. For experience she needs to find a vet that will give her an outstanding recommendation. Get as varied experience as possible even if it is 20 hours in some areas. Volunteer to follow around an equine vet, ask an emergency vet if she can watch a shift (many of those hours are at night or weekends), get work at a SA clinic, see if she can volunteer helping at an animal shelter. Grades and experience are what most vet schools are looking for. Be prepared to fully justify the “Why the change from human medicine to vet med” question. It will be asked and will be looked at carefully by schools that interview. My son is a second year in vet school now and is doing great but this semester is VERY hard and he basically has no life but studying. He is counting the hours to summer vacation.


I wanted to thank everyone who replied. I will read and respond to the replies as soon as I can. We have had a family emergency as my husband was diagnosed with cancer and my time has been consumed with dealing with an unethical health insurance company. His prognosis looks good IF he gets the recommended treatment. Again, insurance is being very difficult.

I want to apologize for not responding sooner. My pet peeve is when a poster starts a thread and disappears. I will definitely be back with response and follow-up questions once we get my husband’s treatment set-up.

Thanks for your time, help, and advice.

Prayers for your husband and the whole family!


My daughter is examining prerequisites and she said none of the schools she is looking at require the GRE. It seems it is mostly optional now and is generally recommended to take it if someone’s aim is to increase their academic profile by scoring high on the GRE in situations where their GPA does not give them an academic edge in the application process.
She seems to think that taking the GRE would not help boost her chances for admission since she graduated from a Big Ten University with a degree in Microbiology with a 4.0 GPA. In addition to receiving a full ride academic scholarship, she also received some smaller scholarships so that her funding exceeded the cost of her education. I think her academic profile also would get a boost because she maintained that GPA while holding a paid biological research job all four years of college, dancing competitively and Captain of the dance team at NDA collegiate nationals, leadership positions at sorority ( academic, social, and community service leadership), volunteering at hospice, and recipient of research grants for summers. I am not sure that taking the GRE would increase her chance of admission at GRE optional schools. Thoughts on this? As a parent, my goal for her would be to be accepted the first time applying. There is a limit how much we can help her financially if my husband takes early retirement due to health issue and additional contributions to the fund for her continuing education will cease. We can still help from what we have saved so far, but not as much if she prolongs entrance to Vet school.

I agree that is the schools she is looking at do not require the GRE she doesn’t need to take it. I know my son’s school will not even look at it even if it is submitted. They have entirely taken it out of the decision making process. Sounds like she is doing well. They really liked that my son volunteered at a hospice and that he was president of his fraternity so sounds like she is right on track.

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First, so sorry to hear about your husband. Thoughts and prayers for him, you, your daughter and the rest of your family/friends.

Second, on the GRE, in addition to many schools no longer requiring the GRE, some vet schools take it a step further and say they will not consider GRE scores at all. If your daughter is looking to apply only to vet schools that will not consider GRE scores, the decision is easy. No reason to take it. But if she is applying to schools which are GRE optional but will still consider those that are submitted, I would at least consider taking the GRE is she expects to do well on it (from what you have posted so far, I expect that she would). Improving an application won’t hurt you and it may help you. As you note, better to have an application that is better than it needs to be than one that is deficient in a way that could have been improved resulting in a need to re-apply the following year.

My kids always did well on standardized tests and never spent significant time preparing for them/stressing about them. Other kids cannot stand them (even some who do well on them). From what you have said, sounds like your daughter may not like them. If that is the case (or she thinks she would need to spend too much time preparing) and she is applying to vet schools that do not require them, I think its fine to skip the GRE based on what you have said about her academic record. And given she needs animal hours, I think it makes sense to focus more on that and less on the GRE.


Prayers for your husband and your family. Are there any social service or legal organizations that can assist you with negotiating with the insurance company?
Your daughter sounds like an amazing young woman. Unless she is set on attending a school of veterinary medicine that would consider the GRE, I would suggest putting that on a back burner for now. Just something I thought of while reading her accomplishments, make certain of the individual school’s requirements or recommendations on hours working with animals under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Each school has different requirements for hours or “suggested experience.”

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