Veterinary Medicine

Overview of Field

While we often think of veterinarians as those who conduct our pets’ check-ups, veterinary medicine encompasses a broad range of practice areas. Veterinarians possess not only medical expertise but also embrace a comprehensive perspective on human well-being, animal welfare and their intersections. Their strong communication and problem-solving abilities equip them to excel in diverse roles. While many veterinarians do primarily serve companion animals through private practices, they also actively promote the health and welfare of farm animals, exotic species, working animals (such as those in the equine industry). As with any healthcare field, veterinary medicine includes both patient care (including specialty practice areas) and research.

Career Exploration

Non-exhaustive list of careers where veterinary doctors can apply their degrees (

  • Private practice, either general practice or (with advanced training and experience) a specialty field, such as ophthalmology, orthopedics, aquatic animal medicine, marine biology, wildlife animal medicine, or emergency animal medicine.
  • Corporate veterinary medicine, for example, with corporations that provide veterinary care, test human drugs for safety, or produce animal-related products.
  • The Federal Government employs veterinarians through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) working on biosecurity, environmental quality, public health, meat inspection, regulatory medicine, and agricultural animal health, or the investigation of disease outbreaks.
  • The U.S. Army Corps and U.S. Air Force offer career opportunities in areas such food safety and military working dog veterinary medicine. The military also provides advanced training in specialty areas for those who commit to service.
  • Research, either in a university setting or with companies that produce animal-related products or pharmaceuticals.
  • Teaching, either in academia or non-professionals schools. With 40 percent of aging faculty in academia eligible for retirement over the next 10 years, projections indicate an increasing need for qualified academics to teach in all disciplines of veterinary medicine.
  • Public Health, particularly with governmental agencies such as the United State Public Health Service, which works to control the transmission of animal-to-human (zoonotic) diseases.
  • Food supply medicine, with either the government or a food animal company.
  • Global Veterinary Medicine, in private practice or with international agencies working in areas such as food production and safety or emerging diseases.
  • Public Policy, working for governments on animal and zoonotic diseases, animal welfare, public health issues, or as consultants with non-governmental agencies.
  • Shelter medicine, working with communities and private or public agencies to ensure the health and well being of animal populations housed in shelters.

Applying to Veterinary Medicine Programs

The American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) manages the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS), a centralized application service used by most US veterinary schools. For the small number of schools that do not use VMCAS, you should check individual school websites for information on their application processes.

Most veterinary medical schools require look at number of factors in evaluating applications:

  • Grades/GPA
  • Prerequisite courses
  • Animal experience (shadowing professionals, volunteering with animal organizations, working, etc.)
  • Standardized test scores – most veterinary medicine schools require the GRE
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Leadership & communication skills

The AAVMC maintains a directory of veterinary schools where you can learn more about schools and compare their prerequisites and costs.

While there are no veterinary schools in Kentucky, the state has agreements with Auburn University and Tuskegee University in Alabama to provide in-state tuition to a select number of Kentucky residents attending Kentucky public undergraduate institutions. Application information is available on Auburn’s website.

Pre-requisite Completion

The University of Louisville wants to support you with your career goals! Many of your required pre-requisites for your pre-health path can be completed right here at UofL in conjunction with your current academic program plan. Meet with your academic advisor for more information. In addition, consult the specific program you are applying to for pre-requisite requirements.

A few UofL courses that might be helpful in your veterinary school preparation are:

  • PLAN 305 – Dogs & Society
  • BIOL 308 – Vertebrate Zoology
  • BIOL 310 – Animal Behavior
  • BIOL 347 – Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
  • BIOL 390 – Intro to Vet Sciences (occasionally offered)

Entrance Exam

Most veterinary schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). UofL partners with the Princeton Review to offer free test prep seminars each year. You can find more details, as well as a free practice exam, on REACH’s website.

You may also access test prep resources such as courses, practice tests, and study guides (for a fee) directly from the Princeton Review or Kaplan.

Getting Involved

UofL has a few student organizations that might be of interest to pre-veterinary students:

These student organizations are active as of Fall 2023. You can find all active student organizations by visiting engage.

National Organizations & Resources