How Long Does It Take To Become A Veterinarian?


If you are wondering how long it takes to become a veterinarian then you arrived in just the right place! In the US it will take approximately 8-13 years after high school depending on what type of veterinarian that you want to become. If you want to specialize, as in taking the extra years to become an exotic animal vet, then you will be looking at 10+ years for most board-certified specialties.


The answer will be different depending on what country you live in. In many countries, students pick a veterinary track in high school. This means that they begin the veterinary prerequisite science classes required at an earlier age. 

In the US, How Long Does It Take To Become A Vet?

For this article, we will focus on the US. In the US it typically takes four years of undergrad and then another four years of veterinary school to become a veterinarian. After eight years of college, passing the NAVLE licensure board exam, and doing a one-year internship, you will become a general veterinarian. Not every graduating vet student does a one-year internship, but you can gain a wealth of knowledge and experience by putting the time in but it is not always required. On the other hand, if you want to specialize then it will take another one to four years on top of the eight years of college that you already put in.


The decision to apply to veterinary college is a big commitment. The competition is high and you will need to devote all of your time and energy into the requirements necessary to gain admission. This is all while trying to remain a well-rounded candidate with diverse interests.


How long it takes to become a veterinarian can also depend on a few other factors.


8 variables that can affect how many years it takes to become a veterinarian.


  1. If you are in an accelerated Bachelor’s degree program then you can become a veterinarian in eight years or less.
  2. Do you want to gain a dual degree like the DVM/MSc? Or DVM/MPH? This will require more than the typical 4 years of veterinary college.
  3. If you attend one of the veterinary schools where a Bachelor’s degree was not required. With that being said the majority of students who gain admission to veterinary schools do indeed have a Bachelor’s degree. 
  4. Some non-traditional students have a Bachelor’s degree in an unrelated discipline, for example, art history. They will then have to go back to an undergrad program to gain the necessary pre-requisite classes to become a veterinarian. 
  5. Did you fail or withdraw from any classes, like organic chemistry?! If so this might prolong the amount of time it takes to become a veterinarian. 
  6. Did you take AP courses in high school that can be applied to your college transcript? If so then it will take less time for you to become a veterinarian compared to the average vet student.
  7. How many application cycles will you apply before getting accepted? This can lengthen the time it actually takes to become a veterinarian because you are spending so many years just trying to get into a vet school.
  8. Does your school of choice have a tough acceptance rate? The UC Davis Veterinary College acceptance rate is known to be tough.


How Long Does It Take To Become a Veterinarian and what are the steps?


Bachelor’s Degree

For most students, this takes 4 years.


Veterinary College 

This will take 3-4 more years. Some Caribbean schools have an accelerated veterinary program where you graduate vet school in 3 years. They pair you with a rotating internship through one of the  US veterinary schools.


General Internship

1 year. These internships are not necessary after earning your DVM degree but they can help you navigate the veterinary cases as a new vet. As a young inexperienced new veterinary an internship will allow you to acquire hands-on clinical experience. Even though the pay will be low for a year, the knowledge gained as well as the extensive training can be invaluable.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Veterinarian?

Specialty Residency and/or Internship (a few examples below)

Specialty residencies take place after a student graduates from veterinary college, passes the NAVLE, and does a 1-year internship as a practicing DVM. Consequently, the specialist usually has to pass another board exam that is given by the specific specialty organization. Likewise, the organization will be recognized by the AVMA. Below are just a few examples of the many veterinary specialties that are out there!


A list of veterinary specialties!


Avian/exotic vet: most residencies are three years. After residency, you need to have vet practice experience with birds for 6 years before being able to sit for the specialty avian board exam. 

Cardiologist: three to five-year residency.


Dermatologist: three-year residency


Neurologist: three to five-year residency.


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Handbook of Veterinary Neurology
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  • Lorenz BS DVM DACVIM, Michael D. (Author)
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Small animal internal medicine specialist: three-year residency.


Surgeon: three-year residency.


Veterinary Surgery: Small Animal Expert Consult: 2-Volume Set
  • Hardcover Book
  • Johnston VMD DACVS, Spencer A. (Author)
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Veterinary Behaviorist: Residency is based on achieving a certain number of clinical caseloads under a supervised veterinary behaviorist. Publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal based on your own research is also a requirement.


Veterinary Oncologist: 3-4 year residency. We featured an interview with a top veterinary oncologist, who works in NYC, named, Dr. Farrelly.


Veterinary Pathologist: One to three-year residency. According to the ACVP, approximately 50% of veterinary pathologists obtain a Ph.D. 


Zoological Medicine: three to four-year residency


Each specialty requires passing a national test, education, and continuing education!


Furthermore there are also other veterinary disciplines that don’t have residency programs approved by the ACVIM (American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine).  Nevertheless they will still require many more years of training and certifications. To name a few: holistic veterinarian, acupuncture, & forensic veterinarian.


While gaining your Bachelor’s Degree it is wise to work or volunteer at a vet clinic. In fact, you need experience working under a veterinarian in order to get into most vet schools. Not to mention the very important requirement, the letters of recommendation. In addition most vet schools want there to be two letters of recommendation from veterinarians. With that being said it is important to either work at, shadow, or volunteer at a veterinary clinic. This will allow the veterinarian you work with to get to know you better. The better the veterinarian knows you the more in-depth their letter of recommendation can be. Having excellent letters of recommendation can go a long way in helping you gain admission on your first try. 


We mentioned above that the amount of time it takes to become a vet can be impacted by how many application cycles you have to go through before gaining acceptance. Many vet students apply to vet school between two and six application cycles before getting accepted to one school. This is one reason why some students choose to go to a US accredited Caribbean school. The Caribbean school admits more students per year than the US veterinary schools. Hence the time spent applying year after year can be shortened by getting in on your first try.


In conclusion


How long it takes to become a veterinarian can vary greatly. Expect at least eight years of school, which will entail taking a heavy science influenced course load, throughout most of the eight years. You do not have to decide on a specialty before attending vet school. Many specialists we have interviewed over the years mentioned that they decided on their specialty during their one-year veterinary internship after vet school. Another way to explore the specialties available to you are to join a few clubs and organizations while in vet school. They will expose you to hand on work, as well as host speakers. 


How long does it take to become a veterinarian? In short, eight to twelve years!