What Are the Different Types of Veterinary Degree Programs?

Kenneth W. Michael Wills

There are several types of veterinary degree programs students can complete for entry into the profession, depending on where they attend school and intend to practice. Several nations require a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, while other nations operate undergraduate programs that are considered equivalent to such a degree in the home nation. Educational institutions in those countries typically issue a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine or similar undergraduate degrees. These programs, however, consist of about six years of study, rather than the usual four year requirement of most bachelor degree programs. Since most nations will require a completion of a licensing process in order to practice upon graduation, most education programs will focus on practice in the field as well as meeting regulatory requirements to sit for the relevant licensing examinations.

Veterinarian programs differ depending on where a person intends to practice.
Veterinarian programs differ depending on where a person intends to practice.

Countries in the North American hemisphere, such as the United States and Canada, usually require aspiring veterinarians to graduate from accredited veterinary degree programs that award the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Such a program usually consists of four years of study beyond the bachelor’s degree level. In order to qualify for entrance into the program, candidates are expected to have an undergraduate degree that focuses on biological science or pre-veterinary coursework. Upon graduation from the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, students are typically required to complete a residency in veterinary medicine before becoming eligible to sit for required licensing exams.

Veterinary degree programs for people working with livestock differ from those who work with pets.
Veterinary degree programs for people working with livestock differ from those who work with pets.

Contrasting to the North American model, many nations utilize an undergraduate model of education to prepare candidates for many professional occupations. Usually, these veterinary degree programs will award one of several bachelor’s degrees to include the Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine, Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery and Bachelor of Veterinary Science. This model of educational preparation is found in the United Kingdom and Australia as well as in other European countries. Lengths of programs vary depending on the educational institution and regulatory requirements, but typically take between five and six years until completion.

Transferring educational qualification between nations, however, is not always straightforward. Often, the deciding factor is whether the veterinary degree programs attended possess relevant accreditation that equals or exceeds standards in the reciprocating jurisdiction. For example, transferring credentials between the United States and Canada are fairly straightforward due to reciprocal agreements and utilization of the same standard exams in determining eligibility for licensing. Candidates going from the United Kingdom to the United States with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science, for example, may run into problems and still need to complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program in order to become eligible for licensing to practice in the United States.

Veterinarians may treat horses.
Veterinarians may treat horses.

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