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o You Want to be a Vet  

The site receives a constant stream of emails from people with questions about how to become a vet. It seems you want advice about what subjects to take, what grades you need, what you can do with the degree and how to go about getting into vet school. I simply cannot answer all these questions time and again so please do read this page and also the archive of previous answers by following the link at the bottom. Oh, and good luck!

There are only a few universities in Britain and Ireland that offer the course and this means that there are hundreds of applicants for every place. It is probably the most over- subscribed course in the country. People often comment that it is much harder to become a vet than a doctor. This isn't strictly true but probably stems from the fact that the places are so limited. The courses are offered in Bristol, Cambridge, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Nottingham University.

What subjects and grades do you need?
Obviously the course is a demanding one and it is science-based and this is reflected in the subjects you are required to take and the grades expected. The grades needed are usually a minimum of 2 A's and a B and some of the universities will require an A* and two As. Most will require chemistry and biology and one other subject but which other subjects are accepted varies greatly between the universities and you should check each individually to be sure of what you need. I get a surprising number of emails asking if A-levels in 3 totally non-science subjects will be ok and the simple answer is 'no'!

Nowadays some of the universities also require you to do a BMAT test (biomedical admissions test) in order to get into vet school. This is an aptitude test rather than a test of straightforward intelligence. If you visit www.bmat.org.uk you can get all the information you need about these tests and also do some practice questions to give you an idea of what they are like.

For all the requirements and also to find out what the universities are looking for you can visit their own websites. These are really useful for the most up-to date entry requirements and many of them have brilliant advice about how to gain work experience, what they are particularly looking for in candidates and also information about fees and so on. You can follow the links below to find out more.

Bristol www.bris.ac.uk/vetscience
Cambridge www.vet.cam.ac.uk
Dublin www.ucd.ie/vetmed
Edinburgh www.ed.ac.uk/vet
Glasgow www.gla.ac.uk/schools/vet
Liverpool www.liv.ac.uk/veterinary-science
London www.rvc.ac.uk
Nottingham www.nottingham.ac.uk/vet

You can also look at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' page on the subject which has some very useful information:

I did get the right A- level grades after some very hard work and was very proud of myself but you soon realise that there are people at university that made my 2 A's and a B look like a primary school attempt. I didn't get a place the first time round because my predicted grades were not good enough so I took a year off and worked in a vet's for 3 months. I wrote down all the cases I saw and wrote case- studies, which I sent to all the universities when I reapplied the following year. I also worked on 2 farms to get experience of lambing and calving. This is where the most important advice I can give you comes in.

Because there are loads of people brainy enough to get the right grades you MUST make yourself stand out from the crowd in some way in order to get a place. How are the universities to know who will make good vets or who the most dedicated ones are? To be honest many people who are academically very bright get pushed into these kinds of courses because of the prestige but they sometimes become bored with the work and leave the profession. If you can show your dedication it will pay in the long- run. And remember this; you may want to be a vet to work with animals but every animal you see will have a human with it and you need to work with them too. Good inter-personal skills will send you a long way.

To show your dedication you need to get as much hands-on animal experience as you can. This will almost certainly be voluntary and will probably be very mundane jobs like making tea, cleaning the floors and kennels and generally being a dogs-body. However, if your life's goal is to be a vet then you have to take the bad with the good.

Try your local vet practices, kennels, RSPCA, PDSA, pet shops, farms etc. etc. Anywhere there are animals you should try to help out. There's no harm in making notes on what you've seen. The other benefit of doing this work early on is that you might find that you actually don't want to be a vet! You might decide that it's not as glamorous as you thought. Much of the time is spent doing very routine things and saying the same things over and over again. It can also be VERY stressful and there is a massive amount of responsibility that goes with it so you need to be sure what you are taking on. Think long and hard before embarking on the course and be absolutely sure that you know what you're letting yourself in for!

Having said all that, I personally love my job. I love helping the animals and I also love helping their owners as well. The vet degree is a solid science degree to have. You don't have to go into general practice. You can specialise in a certain species or in medicine or surgery. You can pick a particular subject to specialise in. You can travel the world, volunteer and really make a difference. You can work in industry, work for charities, work for a pharmaceutical or nutrition company. You can teach or get involved with students in other ways. I've gone down the welfare road. I'm a trustee of several charities and I'm closely involved with the BVA and their own welfare charity the AWF. With this comes the opportunity to help spread the word about good animal welfare and it is incredibly satisfying. In fact the veterinary degree is a ticket to a multitude of opportunities. The world really is your oyster.

Anyway, there's all the information. Now it's up to you what you do with it. If you decide to go for it then GOOD LUCK and keep us posted on how you get on.

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