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Study abroad : Subject Guides

What to expect when studying veterinary science

If you have an interest in working with animals and safeguarding their welfare, pursuing a degree in veterinary science might be the right fit for you. We explore what you can expect when studying in the field.

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Some people describe studying veterinary science as a calling rather than simply a degree or career. Studying veterinary medicine definitely requires a distinct set of skills, interests and abilities. A pre-requisite is having an interest in the natural world and particularly in animals and their welfare. While the common perception of a veterinarian is of someone who treats domestic pets, there is so much more to the field than meets the eye. We delve into the details of what you need to know if you want to study to become a veterinarian and pursue a degree in veterinary science.


What is veterinary science?


Veterinary science, or veterinary medicine as it is sometimes called, is focused on the health and welfare of animals. This includes the diagnosis and treatment of disease, assessment of injuries, disease prevention, animal husbandry and conservation. Critically, it also focuses on how human beings interact with and live alongside animals, both domestically and in the wild.  Veterinary science covers a wide range of areas and topics related to animals that include:


  • Physiology
  • Epidemiology
  • Anatomy
  • Animal behaviour
  • Zoology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathology
  • Public health
  • Disease management


You do need to have a natural ability for science, as a veterinary medicine degree draws heavily on related subject areas. In some ways it is similar to a medical degree in the modules and topics covered, requiring similar levels of dedication, knowledge and application.


Have a look at some of the top institutions offering veterinary science in the UK:



What are the entry requirements for a veterinary science degree?


For a degree in veterinary science, there are key foundations that you will need to have in place to qualify to study for the degree. The academic entry requirements are generally very high and admission to courses are extremely competitive. It’s best to get started on your application as soon as you can and double-check the exact requirements with your prospective universities.


To study veterinary science you will need to have a qualification that includes either biology or chemistry, with mathematics, physics and science helping your chances significantly.  You will need an A level equivalent result of three A’s if you intend to study in the UK.  If you want to study in the U.S. you will need:


  • GPA high school equivalent score of no lower than 3.74 to 4.00
  • SAT score of no lower than 1,350
  • ACT score of 29 or higher


Remember that these are guideline scores and may differ slightly between institutions, but your marks will need to be high.


Studying abroad will also necessitate that you can demonstrate your English language ability. This can be done by either holding a university qualification from an institution where the language of instruction was in English or through the presentation of the required English language test scores.


To qualify to study veterinary science your IELTS score, or equivalent will need to be a minimum of 6.5 and in some cases 7.0, with no band dropping below 6.0. You may have the option of taking up a pre-sessional English course to reach the required level for admission or you can also apply for a pathway programme or course.


Be sure to consult our guide to IELTS and how to interpret English language test scores.


How long does a degree in veterinary science take?


If you want to become a vet, then you need to be prepared to put in some long hours. A degree in veterinary science takes between four and five years to complete if you are studying in the UK or Australia. Often the schedule that you will be given is very full and can be up to 35 hours a week.


There is also the added element of specialising in a particular area, which can add two to three years to your study. In the UK, as with many countries, you will need to make sure that the institution you study at is accredited with the relevant regulatory body that certifies qualifications.


In the case of the UK, this is the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. In Australia, you will need to be certified by the registration board of the state you study in, which is endorsed by the Australian Veterinary Association.


When studying in the U.S. and Canada it will take a bit longer to qualify as a veterinarian. You will first have to study a four-year undergraduate BSc qualification in a related field, before applying to a veterinary school for a further four years of study. Don’t forget that once you have qualified you will also need to undertake an internship or practical placement and sit an examination to obtain your license to practice.


Check out some of the universities you can study veterinary science at in the U.S. and Canada:



What will I study during a veterinary science degree?


Over the course of your veterinary science degree, you will cover several essential topics which change and develop as your progress through the course of your studies. These include:


  • Pathology, parasitology and toxicology
  • Clinical skills
  • Infectious disease
  • Public health and management
  • Epidemiology
  • Animal anatomy, biology and physiology
  • Animal husbandry


There is also likely to be a research component on a selected and specific topic, as well as practical skills development and fieldwork. If you choose to specialise further you may focus on areas such as:


  • Dentistry
  • Radiology
  • Anaesthesiology
  • Surgery
  • Pharmacology
  • Wildlife zoology medicine
  • Animal specific medicine
  • Dermatology
  • Microbiology


Explore some of the institutions where you can study veterinary science in Australia:



What are the career options for a veterinary science graduate?


If you study veterinary science you will be prepared to take on a role as a professional veterinarian in various capacities. Depending on your area of interest or specialisation, you could end up working anywhere from a national wildlife park to a company that develops dog food. You may have a clinical field that piques your interest such as surgery or radiology, which you can use in a variety of settings. There are numerous paths open to you once you have qualified including:


  • Public health management
  • Academia
  • Research
  • Private practice
  • Charity sector
  • Government services
  • Conservation


The graduate employment rate for veterinary students sits at over 90 per cent in the UK, so the career prospects and progression are very positive. Your earnings will naturally depend on experience and your area of expertise, so this is a point to consider when approaching further studies.


Armed with your new knowledge of what life as a veterinary science student may be like and what it takes to gain admission to a veterinary science degree you are much better placed to make an informed decision. If you’re ready for some further research be sure to use our course matcher tool and have a look at our comprehensive guide to preparing to study abroad.

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