Veterinary Medicine

About Veterinary Medicine

Veterinarians are doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVMs) who take a holistic approach to animal welfare and are often the liaison between people and animals. 

Veterinarians provide care for companion animals, farm animals, exotic animals, working animals (like those in the equine industry), and may work in private practices, rescue organizations, sanctuaries or zoos. However, the second largest employer of veterinarians is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Veterinarians also work in public health, wildlife protection, and even homeland security, as well as research and public policy.

Many aspiring veterinarians elect courses in business because many professionals own their own practice or create a limited liability corporation with other veterinarians. 

Preparing for Veterinary Medicine School

Veterinary medicine schools use a process called holistic review to weigh personal factors, academic preparation, and professional experience when reviewing an applicant’s “readiness” and value your experience working with people and animals! Put together, these create a picture of you as a whole person. 

In addition to having a clear motivation for the field,  coursework, shadowing, experience in clinical and community settings and hobbies and interests are common admissions factors for veterinary medicine schools.The GRE may be required. 

Course requirements vary so consult the websites of veterinary schools of medicine where you know/think you want to apply. You can begin by consulting AAVMC’s Summary of Course Prerequisites.

Vet Med Required Coursework

TopicCredits/SemestersUW-Madison CoursesIs AP Accepted?
Biology8-10 credits or 1-2 semesters with labsChoose one of the following sequences:

Zoology 101-102 and an additional bioscience course with lab such as Botany 130, Anat&Phy 335/435, OR Anat&Phy 337 AND 338)

Biology 151-152

Biocore 381-382 AND 383-384 satisfies Intro to Bio requirements

*Biocore: Students must apply to enroll in Biocore. For more information, visit their website.
If you have AP credit for Biology, plan to enroll in additional advanced Biology once you've finished your intro Biology sequence.
General Chemistry8-10 credits or 1-2 semesters with labsChoose one of the following sequences:

Chemistry 103-104
Chemistry 109*
Chem 115-116 (intended for Chemistry majors)

*Schools may accept Chem 109 as equivalent to two semesters of inorganic chemistry; some may ask for a letter from the UW-Madison Chemistry Department describing the condensed nature of Chem 109. See Pre-Health Advising for more information if you have taken Chem 109
Schools may accept AP credit for Chem 103.
Organic Chemistry6-8 credits or 2 semesters

Usually labs are required.

Some schools will accept 1 semester of Organic Chemistry with 1 semester of Biochemistry.
Chem 343 Introductory Organic Chemistry
Chem 345 Intermediate Organic Chemistry
Chem 344 Introductory Organic Chemistry Lab
Not Applicable.
Physics8-10 credits or 2 semesters with labsChoose one of the following sequences:

Physics 103-104 (algebra-based)
Physics 201-202 (calculus-based; recommended for Engineering majors)
Physics 207-208 (calculus-based; recommended for Life Science majors)

*If physics is required for your major, select the sequence recommended by your major. If physics is not required by your major, physics 103-104 is an appropriate choice
Most schools will accept AP credit for 1 physics course.
Biochemistry3 credits or 1 semester.Choose one of the following courses:

Biochemistry 501
Biochemistry 507-508 (intended for Biochem majors)
Not Applicable
Math1 semester college mathChoose a course based on your placement examMost schools accept AP credit. If you have placement credit for Math, take an additional Math course
Statistics3 credits or 1 semesterChoose one of the following:

Statistics 301
Statistics 371
An introductory statistics course in your major department.
Recommend taking Stats at the college level
Social Science3 credits or 1 semesterIf you have credit for AP psych, plan on taking additional psych
HumanitiesTake 6 credits of English. Some programs specifically require a Speech course.Learn more: English Requirements for Health ProgramsIf you have AP English, you can take more interesting English classes.
Sometimes Required
Genetics3 credits or 1 semesterChoose one option:

Genetics 466
Animal Science 366
Pick (2): Dairy Sci 361, 362, 363
Microbiology3-5 credits or 1 semester
*May not require lab
Choose one option:

Microbio 101-102
Microbio 303-304
Animal Physiology3-5 credits or 1 semesterChoose one option:

Anat/Phys 335 or 435
An Sci 373
Animal Nutrition3 credits or 1 semesterChoose one option:

Biochem 510
Animal Sci 311

Working or volunteering in clinics, with people AND animals, is valued by veterinary medical programs! Many vets are a “liaison” between a person and an animal who requires care, so understanding how to deal with people under stress is important. It’s also important to gain experience with animals in a variety of settings such as small and large animal care, rescue, retail, research, service/support, wildlife, zoos, grooming, or training. You don’t have to have experience in every setting, but variety is valued!

Explore Jobs Explore Volunteer Opportunities

Veterinary medicine programs look for applicants who demonstrate a sustained commitment to service.  Learn more about service opportunities by visiting our Volunteering page and choose opportunities and organizations aligned with your interests!

Explore Volunteer Opportunities

Research is an important way to develop skills that help you hone your capacity to learn and begin to contribute to the generation of new knowledge in fields of inquiry. Working in a research lab also gives you the opportunity to cultivate relationships with faculty who can serve as letter writers when you apply to veterinary medicine programs.

Explore Research Opportunities

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required by some, but not all, DVM programs. The GRE is not a content exam meaning you do not need specific classes to take it. The GRE evaluates your writing, reasoning, and basic quantitative reasoning skills. Enroll in CPHA’s Applying to Health Professions self-paced course to learn more about the GRE.

What is the GRE?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized content exam designed to assess verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills. The GRE is an adaptive exam meaning that the difficulty of the questions you see are based on the number of correct responses you provide. Raw scores are scaled on a range of 130-170 for the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections and 0-6 for the written section. 

  • Verbal Reasoning (27 items) asks you to analyze and draw conclusions from discourse; reason from incomplete data; identify author’s assumptions and/or perspective; understand multiple levels of meaning, summarize text; understand the meaning of individual words, and relationships among words and among concepts.
  • Quantitative Reasoning (27 items) includes algebra, data analysis, quantitative comparison, probability, statistics, and math word problems.
  • Analytical Writing requires you to provide a focused response and assesses the clarity, focus, relevance, and your command of English of that response. 

GRE Exam Overview

SectionNumber of QuestionsTime Allotted
Analytical WritingAnalyze an issue or task30 minutes
Verbal ReasoningSection 1: 12 Questions
Section 2: 15 Questions
Section 1: 18 minutes
Section 2: 23 minutes
Quantitative ReasoningSection 1: 12 Questions
Section 2: 15 Questions
Section 1: 21 minutes
Section 2: 26 minutes
Total Content Time4 hours, 20 minutes
Total Test Time3 hours, 35 minutes

The Analytical Writing section will always be first. The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections may appear in any order after the Analytical Writing section. Section 1 of the verbal and quantitative reasoning section provide the baseline for the difficulty of questions you see in section 2.

GRE Timelines

After completing the GRE, you get an unofficial score and will receive an official score within a month. Since the GRE is not a content-based exam and scores are valid for 5 years, you can take the exam when it suits you. Many students choose to prepare and take the exam during the summer a year before they apply. The GRE is offered year-round at ETS testing sites across the country so finding a test date typically is not a problem. 

Studying for the GRE

There isn’t one “right” way to do well on the GRE, but people who are successful do these things:

  • Assess yourself! You need to be honest with yourself about:
    • Your attention span and the breaks you need
    • Your test stress – you will need longer to prepare if you have high test stress
    • The types of resources that work for you. It’s okay to try new study techniques and tools, but you cannot use all of them. If you convince yourself that you must complete everything in one section before you can move on, you will not make progress. 
  • Carve out regular time to study. You must build this into your schedule. If you study during the regular semester, treat the GRE like a class and block time for it! 
    • If you have low test stress (exams are your superpower!), carve out 10-12 hrs/week over 4-6 weeks
    • If you have normal test stress, carve out 10-12 hrs/week over 8-12 weeks
    • If you have high test stress, carve out 10-12 hours/week over 16-20 weeks
  • You might take a course if you know you need the structure of a course and want some tutoring that often comes with it. However, you do not need a course to do well on the GRE  if you can structure your time. 
  • Practice reading online so you get faster at reading passages; refresh math through pre-calc
  • Take practice exams! Taking a practice exam before you start studying shows you your strengths and weaknesses and allows you to prioritize content. 
  • The module “Prepare for the GRE” on “Applying to Health Professions” has more information on study plans, resources, and tips. Enroll in CPHA’s Applying to Health Professions course – it’s free!

Application Process

Veterinary Medicine schools use a central application called VMCAS, similar to the Common App, to collect biographical information, academic information, experience, and letters of recommendation in one place for schools to review. Applications open in February so you can create an application and start working on it, but you cannot submit that application until June. It CAN be important to submit early if a school does rolling admissions so talk to us in CPHA about timing.  Most schools also give you a chance to submit additional essays that are specific to their school called secondary essays. These essays are a chance to “speak” directly to a school about your interest in their program. 

If a veterinary medicine program does interviews, they can begin as early as August and go through December. In spring, you can attend second-look weekends if you have been offered a spot at a school. Schools (and applicants) finalize their decisions in February and March, and you begin your program in July. The entire application process takes a full year!

Learn more about Applying