Animals have played a crucial role in the lives of humans for thousands of years, and ensuring that our furry (and not so furry) friends are happy and healthy has become a firmly established field of expertise. Veterinary science deals with the health and wellbeing of animals. Like medical degrees, this encompasses everything from preventative care to psychological analysis and complex surgical procedures. If you’re passionate about ensuring animal wellbeing, have a strong aptitude for scientific study and feel up to the challenge of dealing with all kinds of creatures (and owners), a veterinary science degree could be for you.
What do veterinary science degrees cover?
Veterinary science was formalized as a discipline in the 18th century, when a host of specialized colleges were established across Europe. Since then, it’s evolved into a complex and advanced field, requiring a relatively long and demanding period of study in order to become a qualified practitioner. Much like human medical care, veterinary science is competitive and demanding, yet also highly regarded; it promises the rewards of social status, attractive employability and salary prospects – and of course the satisfaction of contributing to animals’ quality of life.
If you study veterinary science, you will cover many of the same topics found on a medical degree, but with a focus on animals instead of humans. Course modules may include anatomy, animal behavior, animal husbandry, cell biology, nutrition, physiology, genetics, epidemiology, pharmacology, infectious diseases, pathology, parasitology and public health. You may also have the opportunity to study veterinary science modules which are less scientific but all part of the preparation for veterinary careers, including communication skills, law and ethics, business management and others.
Entry requirements for veterinary science degrees
In order to study veterinary science, you will be expected to demonstrate a very strong academic record in science subjects, especially chemistry and biology. You’ll need to show excellent grades from your previous studies in these two subjects and have an overall good diploma. Good grades in mathematics and physics are usually not obligatory, but they may be an asset to your application. As veterinary science degrees are often highly competitive, applicants are also expected to show evidence of their longstanding interest in the field, perhaps through completion of some relevant work experience or voluntary work.
Course structure and assessment methods
Like medicine, veterinary science education and training follows a different system depending on the country. In some countries, you can study veterinary science at undergraduate level, while in others the subject is only offered at postgraduate level, after completion of a relevant undergraduate program such as biology or animal science. In either case, you can expect your studies to last at least five years, and often longer.
During the first few years of your studies, you will be introduced to the main background knowledge and theory required to become a veterinary science practitioner. During the next stage, you’ll have opportunities to choose to specialize in certain areas you are most interested in. Towards the end of the program you will usually complete a work placement, which may include working in a clinic, farm, zoo or another organization in which animals are inspected and cared for.
At the end of the course you will typically be expected to carry out a research project on a topic you have chosen yourself. Assessment methods include in-class exams, essays, short projects and practical examinations.