A career in veterinary medicine is where the love of animals meets the love of science. Though passion in those areas is an essential ingredient, it is not sufficient for success in the field. This is where great schools come in. The number of veterinary schools in the US is tiny compared to the number of medical schools in general. However, this is bound to change. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for veterinarians will grow in the near future, with a projected job growth rate of 16% or more.
Most veterinarians work in private clinics or hospitals, earning a median salary of $99k a year. However, some schools do not train veterinarians exclusively for private practice or at a hospital. Some programs train more broadly, preparing students for careers in research or for work with local, state, and federal stakeholders. The path to becoming a veterinarian can begin as early as high school and as late as the junior year of college.
The undergraduate course of study does not necessarily make or break anyone’s chances of getting into a vet med program as long as the prerequisite coursework in the basic sciences and math is completed. With that said, a bachelor’s degree in English or Philosophy should not deter anyone from preparing for or applying to veterinary medicine programs.
With the number of veterinary schools being so small, it should not be a shock that Texas only has two veterinary schools, despite being home to a plethora of educational institutions. According to Wikipedia, Texas has the most farms and the highest revenue earned from livestock and livestock products, making it an ideal state for aspiring veterinarians looking to work with food animals or in providing veterinary services to rural areas.
Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (College Station, TX)
The Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences is one of the top veterinary schools in the country, consistently ranking among the top ten programs on the US News & World Report each year. It is one of the most prestigious and established veterinary medicine programs in the country. Located in the Bryan-College Station metro area, one of the largest in Texas, the college is ideally situated to help bridge laboratory instruction with professional and educational opportunities in the world beyond the campus.
The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences offers a strong curriculum, designed to train the best veterinarians in Texas and throughout the country. The first three years are focused on providing vet students foundational knowledge in the relevant sciences, such as animal physiology and histology.
Education in the sciences is interspersed with courses in professional and clinical skills that prepare students for the experiential component of their education and training. Beginning in the third year, students begin to specialize in specific career tracks in treating companion animals, horses, or food animals. The years of preclinical coursework culminate into clinical rotations within each training track in the fourth year.
At Texas A&M, training does not end at clinical rotations; newly graduated veterinarians can opt for one-year internships where they work alongside experts in their chosen discipline. Interns can specialize in internal medicine, small animals, large animals, and zoological medicine and are assigned substantial primary care responsibilities and receive intensive, hands-on training.
The Small Animal Internship program has a notably high residency placement rate of 60-100% each year. Another program that stands out is the Underserved Communities Internship. In this program, interns receive comprehensive and intensive clinical training focusing on communicating and engaging with diverse and underserved communities while caring for their small animals.
Residencies are another critical component of veterinary medical training, and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences offers ample opportunities in this area. The main disciplines are Veterinary Pathobiology, Small Animals, and Large Animals, which subdivide into such specialties as Radiology, Surgery, Comparative Medicine, Oncology, Anesthesia, and more.
The college’s suite of professional and educational opportunities includes externships, private practices, and programs in Texas as well as across other states. While the college encourages employers and organizations to post their externships on the college’s platform, students interested in externship opportunities must individually and proactively secure them.
Whether working in an internship or as part of one of the outstanding residency programs, veterinary students are integrated as part of the primary care team at the renowned Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The hospital handles over 24,000 cases each year, employing over 400 veterinarians and staff. Generating over $15 million each year, VMTH is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and provides the most comprehensive, quality care for all species of animals in the region and the nation.
With all of this said, what does it take to get into such a high-caliber program? The College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences receives applications from hundreds of highly qualified candidates from all over the country. The average overall GPA of resident and non-resident candidates for the entering class in Fall 2020 was between 3.77 and 3.86. The average overall GPA for science courses falls within the same range, making the applicant pool quite competitive. While the average GRE score is not published on the college’s admission stats page, submission of GRE scores is required, along with 53 hours of prerequisite coursework. The admissions committee looks for candidates with a demonstrable passion for the health and welfare of animals, so every hour spent volunteering at a clinic or working in the care of animals goes a long way.
Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine (Lubbock, TX)
Being the second school on this list does not mean being last or least in quality and excellence. Even the newest programs can be promising. The Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine is perhaps the latest addition to the country’s growing list of veterinary medicine programs. The school is set to admit its second class in Fall 2021.
The school received Provisional Accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education (COE). This status is granted to vet med programs in their incipient stages. Programs must demonstrate progress over five years.
Unlike most veterinary schools, TTUSVM only accepts applicants from Texas and New Mexico. Initial applications must be submitted via the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS) and, upon invitation, must subsequently submit a Secondary Application. Applicants are more than their grades, so an applicant’s unique qualities and potential contributions must be gleaned from materials submitted as part of the Secondary Application, the interview, and the results of the CASPer test, which applicants are required to submit as part of the application process. Like most veterinary medicine schools, the school requires prerequisite coursework in basic sciences such as General Biology, Genetics, and Chemistry.
No profile of the entering class of Fall 2020 has been published, so we cannot vouch for the selectivity of the Admissions Committee. In 2020, 60 students were admitted to the inaugural group.
Nevertheless, the Texas and New Mexico residency requirement narrow the applicant pool quite a bit, ensuring smaller class sizes and, in turn, effective training and education for current and future TTUSVM students. Limiting admissions to Texas and New Mexico residents also ensures that the fledgling school can focus on its mission to bring high-quality and compassionate veterinary services to rural and regional communities. One of the attributes the Admissions Committee looks for is the likelihood of committing to service of rural and regional communities throughout Texas.
Last but not least, applicants are required to come in with some exposure to the field. While there is no minimum number of hours needed, the Admissions Committee recommends that applicants gain some experience in a veterinary or clinical setting. It is not enough to simply state interest in veterinary medicine; it is essential to demonstrate said interest. As the saying goes: show, don’t tell.
The school employs faculty who are experts in their field. TTUSVM faculty represent a broad range of specialties and interests, from physiology and theriogenology to food animal medicine and surgery. Many received their education and training from some of the top veterinary medicine programs in the country.
One of the newest additions to the faculty roster, Jennifer Koziol, Associate Professor of Food Animal Medicine and Surgery, spent five years as a clinical assistant professor of theriogenology and production medicine in the Purdue University College of Medicine’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.
The curriculum at TTUSVM follows a traditional, four-year structure. For the first three years, students gain the foundational knowledge and skills needed for success in a clinical setting. Coursework in the first three years includes microbiology, systemic pathology, and theriogenology. Courses on clinical skills and presentations are interspersed with introductory science courses. The three years of foundational training and instruction culminate into the Clinical Year, in which students partake in 4-week clinical rotations in the major areas of veterinary medicine.
TTUSVM, despite being a very young school, has already set the foundations for a successful program that will train the next generation of veterinarians.