How Long Does It Take To Become A Veterinarian?

How Many Years Does It Take To Become A Veterinarian?

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

Depending on what country you live in, the answer to how long to become a vet will change. In many countries, students pick a veterinary track in high school. Choosing a high school veterinary path means that the student begins 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 US vet schools. It typically takes four years of undergrad and then another four years of veterinary school to become a veterinarian in the US. 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, it will take another one to four years on top of the eight years of college 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 to the requirements necessary to gain admission. Putting your heart and soul into getting in is what you have to do. Veterinary schools want you to remain a well-rounded candidate with diverse interests, so juggling all of this is tough.

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


8 Variables That  Effect How Many Years It Takes To Become A Veterinarian.

  1. If you are in an accelerated Bachelor’s degree program, you can become a veterinarian in eight years or less.

  1. Do you want to gain a dual degree like the DVM/MSc? Or DVM/MPH? A dual DVM degree will require more than the typical four years of veterinary college. Nora is in one of the Colorado State PhD programs and will soon earn a DVM/PhD

  1. Suppose you attend one of the veterinary schools where a Bachelor’s degree was not required. Even though this is possible,  most students who gain admission to veterinary schools have a Bachelor’s degree. 

  1. 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 veterinarians. Going to vet school later in life is possible, Ryan did, and now he is a non-traditional student at LSU.

  1. Did you fail or withdraw from any classes, like organic chemistry?! If so, it will take more time to become a veterinarian compared to the average pre-vet student.

  1. Did you take AP courses in high school that you can add to your college transcript? If so, it will take less time for you to become a veterinarian than the average vet student.

  1. How many application cycles will you apply before getting accepted? Submitting an application to a few VMCAS cycles can lengthen the time it takes to become a veterinarian because you are spending so many years just trying to get into a vet school. There is no exact answer to figure out how many vet schools you should apply to each cycle. We pulled data from our interviews and compiled it into a case study on the students’ differing numbers.

  1. Does your school of choice have a challenging 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 four years.

Veterinary College 

Earning your DVM  will take 3-4 more years after the Bachelor’s degree. Some Caribbean vet schools have an accelerated veterinary program where you graduate from vet school in 3 years. They pair you with a rotating internship through one of the  US veterinary schools.

General Internship

One 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 and extensive training can be invaluable.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Veterinarian?

Specialty Residency or Internship (a few examples below)

Specialty residencies occur 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 given by the specific specialty organization. Likewise, the AVMA will recognize the organization. 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 six years before sitting for the specialty avian board exam. 

Cardiologist: three to five-year residency.

Dermatologist: three-year residency

Neurologist: three to five-year residency.

We participate in the Amazon affiliate program. Any pennies earned by using our affiliate link will go directly into our yearly scholarship fund. 

Handbook of Veterinary Neurology
  • Hardcover Book
  • Lorenz BS DVM DACVIM, Michael D. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 560 Pages - 12/28/2010 (Publication Date) - Saunders (Publisher)

Small animal internal medicine specialist: three-year residency.

Surgeon: three-year residency.

Veterinary Surgery: Small Animal Expert Consult
  • Hardcover Book
  • Johnston VMD DACVS, Spencer A. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 2600 Pages - 07/13/2017 (Publication Date) - Saunders (Publisher)

Veterinary Behaviorist:  Residency happens when the DVM achieves a certain number of clinical caseloads. Each caseload is under a supervised veterinary behaviorist. Publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed journal based on your 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, some veterinary disciplines 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. A few programs that don’t have a specific residency program are holistic veterinarian, acupuncture, & forensic veterinarian.

While gaining your Bachelor’s Degree, it is wise to work or volunteer at a vet clinic. You need experience working under a veterinarian to get into most vet schools. Don’t forget about the most crucial essential requirement, the letters of recommendation. In addition, most vet schools want there to be two letters of recommendation from veterinarians. 

Keep in mind that it is essential 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 could 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.

Not having to apply to multiple VMCAS cycles 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 you can shorten the time spent applying year after year by getting in on your first try.

Final Thoughts On How Long It Takes To Get a DVM

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 chose their specialty during their one-year veterinary internship after vet school. Another way to explore the avenues available to you is to join a few clubs and organizations 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!

So if you have a new vet school grad in your life, check out our list of awesome veterinary graduation gifts!

Do you wonder how long it takes to be a vet tech? Our article will help you figure that out!