Veterinary/Zoology Degree Programs – Information and Resources
Overview of Veterinary/Zoology Degree Programs
Veterinary medicine and zoology are related fields that both focus on the study and care of animals. While zoologists spend most of their time researching animals, professionals in the field of veterinary medicine primarily provide animal care. If you decide to pursue a career in one of these two fields, you will have a number of roles to choose from, including zoologist, veterinarian, veterinary assistant and veterinary technician. Both zoologists and veterinarians also have the option to specialize in a certain type of research or animal care, such as the study of marine life or the care of exotic pets. All of these careers vary according to their salary, work environment and other characteristics.
Salaries for Veterinarians and Zoologists
The salaries for professionals working in the fields of zoology or veterinary medicine vary based on the individual’s experience, location, level of education and position. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual salaries for various careers in this industry are as follows:
Work Environment for Veterinarians and Zoologists
As with your salary, your work environment may also vary based on the specifics of the veterinary or zoology position you choose. According to the BLS, zoologists may work in offices, laboratories or even outdoors, depending on the position. Veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians usually work in private practices or animal hospitals. Veterinarians typically work in private practices or animal hospitals as well, although some may travel to farms, zoos or other locations where animals are kept. Whether you choose zoology or veterinary medicine, you can expect to work full-time. Your schedule may also include long or irregular hours, and you may be required to work on weekends and/or holidays.
Job Outlook for Veterinarians and Zoologists
The demand for professionals in the fields of zoology and veterinary medicine is variable based on the position. While job openings for some positions are increasing at a faster-than-average rate, other positions are not seeing as much of an increase. According to the BLS, the average rate of expected increase in job openings for all professions in the United States over the next decade is 11 percent. The rates of expected increase for positions in zoology or veterinary medicine are as follows:
Zoology and Veterinary Medicine Degrees by Level
High School Diploma/Certificate – Veterinary Assistant
A veterinary assistant is a professional who is responsible for providing basic care to animals kept in animal hospitals or private practices. Common responsibilities include feeding, bathing, restraining and monitoring animals under the direction of a veterinary technician or veterinarian.
To become a veterinary assistant, you typically need only a high school diploma. However, most employers will expect you to either have previous experience working with animals and/or complete on-the-job training. You can also become a veterinary assistant by completing a short training program.
Certification is not required for veterinary assistants. However, obtaining certification may increase your opportunities for employment. You can become certified as an Approved Veterinary Assistant through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America by completing an approved training program and passing the Approved Veterinary Assistant examination.
If you decide to complete a veterinary assisting training program, you can expect to study the following topics:
•Clinical Lab Procedures
•Animal Life Stages
•Principles of Anesthesia
Associate’s Degree – Veterinary Technician
Veterinary technicians are professionals who perform tests and provide treatment to animals under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Typical duties include collecting laboratory samples, administering anesthesia, administering medication and preparing animals for surgical procedures.
To become a veterinary technician, you need at least an associate’s degree in veterinary technology. However, if you want a more competitive resume, you can also prepare for this career by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Regulations vary by state, but most states also require veterinary technicians to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam.
If you decide to complete an associate’s degree program in veterinary technology, you can expect to finish with about two years of full-time study. Bachelor’s degree programs, on the other hand, require approximately four years of full-time study for completion.
Curricula vary by program. However, most veterinary technology programs will include the following courses:
•Intro to Veterinary Technology
•Vet Nursing Techniques
•Intro to Pharmacology
•Large Animal Nursing
•Small Animal Nursing
•Principles of Anesthesia
Keep in mind that all the above courses focus on animals, as opposed to humans. Bachelor’s degree programs tend to have longer curricula and cover each topic in more depth.
Bachelor’s Degree/Master’s Degree – Zoologist
Zoologists work in a variety of environments studying animals and the way they interact with their environment. They may collect data, perform experiments, write research papers and teach others about animals.
To qualify for an entry-level position in this field, you typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in zoology. However, to advance into a leadership position, you may need a master’s degree in zoology. It takes approximately four years of full-time study to complete a bachelor’s degree program and another two years of full-time study to earn a master’s degree. Zoology degree programs often include the following courses:
You may also have to complete general education requirements in order to obtain a bachelor’s degree in zoology. No licensure or certification is required for zoologists.
Doctor of Philosophy – Independent Zoology Research or Faculty Position
If you want to run your own zoology lab or hold a position as a professor of zoology, you will need to earn a Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D., in Zoology. Most doctoral programs will require you to have either a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree before you can qualify for entry.
If you already have a master’s degree, earning your doctorate will require approximately two more years of full-time study. However, if you have only a bachelor’s degree, you will need to complete approximately three to four more years of full-time study in order to complete a doctorate. Doctoral programs in zoology typically involve a combination of advanced coursework and research.
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – Veterinarian
Veterinarians are professionals who prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries affecting animals. Their responsibilities typically include examining animals, prescribing medication, treating injuries and performing surgical procedures.
To become a veterinarian, you must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. A bachelor’s degree is not required for admission to a veterinary school. However, the BLS reports that admission to these programs can be very competitive, so a large number of students earn a four-year bachelor’s degree before applying. Most schools will also require applicants to meet other qualifications, such as a strong educational background in science.
After you are admitted to a doctoral program, you can expect to complete four years of full-time study before earning your degree. Although programs vary, most Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programs will include the following courses:
All of the courses above focus on veterinary medicine and animals, as opposed to human medicine. After completing your doctoral program, you will also need to become licensed by your state before you can begin practicing. Licensing requirements vary, but most states require veterinarians to complete an approved program and pass North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. Depending on your state’s laws, you may also need to pass a state-based examination.
Choosing a Program
Whether you decide to pursue a degree in zoology or veterinary medicine, choosing the right program is essential to the success of your career. Before you select any program, consider the following characteristics:
If your desired profession requires a license or certification, make sure that the program you choose is approved by the agency or organization that will issue your credentials.
Another important characteristic to consider when choosing a program is accreditation. Professional organizations grant accreditations to programs that meet certain standards for quality and effectiveness. Programs that earn accreditation may offer a better education than those that do not. However, it’s important to remember that programs that are accredited may not be approved by your state, and vice versa.
Before choosing a program, be sure to compare graduation rates, Programs with lower graduation rates may provide less support to students who are struggling.
Examination Pass Rate
If you must pass a licensing or certification examination before you can work, it’s important to inquire about your program’s pass rate. The pass rate will tell you how well the program prepares its students for the test.
Finding employment after graduating may be easier with certain programs on your resume. Before you make your choice, ask about the employment rate among previous students who have graduated from each program you are considering.
Lower faculty-to-student ratios indicate that you will receive more one-on-one attention as a student. If possible, choose a program with a low faculty-to-student ratio.
Some programs offer more scheduling flexibility than others do. For example, while some programs may allow students to enroll part-time, others may not. Likewise, while some programs may allow students to take courses online, others may require classroom attendance. Be sure that the program you choose will accommodate your scheduling needs. However, keep in mind that you must typically enroll full-time in order to complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.
Tuition and Fees
The tuition and fees required for enrollment in various programs often differ. Before you enroll, make sure you can afford to pay these expenses. If you cannot afford to pay everything on your own, ask about financial aid options. Some schools may also offer payment plans to students who cannot afford to pay all costs upfront.
Before you apply to any program, make sure that you meet all of its prerequisites and entry requirements. Likewise, if your career requires certification or licensure, make sure that you will meet all of the other requirements for credentialing before you spend your time and money completing a degree program.