Thursday, December 18, 2008

Preparing for Vet school: Veterinary Expierence Ideas

As I noted before, veterinary experience is the key to strong application and career. Now, I will supply some quick ideas how anyone, regardless of age, can get experience now.


Shadowing is an excellent way to get your feet wet in veterinary medicine. If you (or your child) is interested in vet med, then shadowing is usually the first step. Shadowing is in essence when you go to a vet clinic and you fallow around a veterinarian for the day. I did this when I was in elementary school, and if you’re meant to be a vet you will love it. Depending on your age/knowledge many vets will talk you show the various parts of the hospital, the staff, equipment, and of course the patients. Maybe they will demonstrate how shots are administered, illnesses are diagnosed, or a surgery if you’re lucky. This is great for more than just younger children, as high school students and undergrads can also learn a lot. The veterinarian will be able to more fully explain disease pathogenesis and diagnosis. Even, though I’m in vet school I still like to shadow vets because of all the useful information you can gain. Also, if you have never worked in a vet clinic before it you will get a real life taste of what it is like. Most vets are happy to allow you to shadow, just give them a call and set up a time for you to come. It’s a quick, easy, and fun way for anyone to get some veterinary experience.

Kennel or Ranch Hand

Many vet clinics also offer boarding facilities for clients and just need extra sets of hands to help restrain animals and keep a hospital clean. These needs present opportunities for employment for those that are seeking veterinarian experience. The jobs are not always the most “elegant” as you will be responsible for cleaning out dog cages, walking dogs, retraining dogs that are difficult, and basically doing stuff that no one else at the clinic wants to do. HOWEVER, I would bet that 99% of all veterinarians and vet students have all had jobs just like it at some point in time. I was once told by a vet, that it’s a kind of rite of passage that all veterinarians have done. Everyone has to start at the bottom. The good news is that you will LEARN both skills and medicine during your job. I had a job just like this where I was basically a janitor that got to walk dogs and clean up both animal and man-made messes. But I learned where vaccines where administered, medications, how to restrain aggressive dogs, and observed several surgeries. All of this experience has served me very well so far, and looks great on your application.

Veterinary Technician

The key to any great veterinary practice is simple, the technicians. Although it will the veterinarian that comes up with the treatment plans, it’s the technicians that actually administer many of them, and talk to the clients. Technicians talk with clients, monitor anesthesia, draw blood, place catheters, and really whatever a veterinarian prescribes for the patients. In my opinion, being a technician is the best way to prepare yourself for veterinary school, simple as that. In addition to learning technical skills, you will learn medicine as well. You will quickly learn how to treat various illnesses, what to do in emergencies, and other medical knowledge. As I mentioned earlier you can become a veterinary technician by being trained by the staff at a clinic, or receive formal veterinary technician training from various schools. Both have advantages, but in my experience technician with formal training have a better understanding and will get paid more if the attend a veterinary technician school.


If you schedule is too busy to work year round, a summer internships are excellent experiences to have. These internships vary greatly; some are with pharmaceutical companies, research facilities, zoos, or other veterinary clinics. These internships typically are available to undergrad students, but their may be some for high school students. If you have time in the summer, then look into doing an internship. You will likely have a unique and informative experience. These will look great on your vet school application as schools like students with unique and diverse backgrounds. Internships can be found online or perhaps easier though you advisor or career counselor.

Non-veterinary experiences

Outside of a veterinary medicine job or internship, what other types of jobs look good on your application? Well first off, you need experience in veterinary medicine, no ifs, ands, or buts. However, if you are unable to find a veterinary job one summer, other jobs look good too. The key is finding jobs that require some skills or attributes that veterinarians use as well. For example, working as a camp counselor or tour guide displays your ability to communicate. Working as a waitress in a busy restaurant proves you ca multi task and handle stress well. If you work to organize and plan events shows you are a leader and organized. This list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Again, you must of veterinary experience, but other experiences can enhance your resume as well.

A Quick Tip

To close, getting experience will not only improve you application, but will help you as a practicing veterinarian one day. Also, although these is nothing wrong in working for the same clinic for 6 years, then applying to vet school, some schools like their students to have diverse experiences. I know this sounds the opposite of what I have said, that its important to have strong and long work relationships in clinics, but hear me out. Personally, I worked for one small animal clinic growing up and my first two summers in college. Then, a veterinarian informed me that schools like their students to be familiar with animals both large and small. Therefore, I got a job the next summer working in a large animal veterinary clinic. The reason for this is that veterinarian schools want their students to be well rounded, complete veterinarians that are competent in both large and small animal medicine. Therefore, they like applicants that have experience in both. Also, I think veterinary schools really want more students that are interested or at least open to careers in biomedical research and academia. Thus, students with those types of experiences are looked well upon. In my case I spent many years working at a small animal clinic, one summer in a large animal clinic, and one summer doing a research internship. I think my length and diversity of experiences looked well on my resume.

Now don’t stress too much because I know many, if not most veterinary students DO NOT has very diverse veterinary backgrounds. Some could tell you everything you ever wanted to know about horses, but nothing about dogs. Others are the exact opposite. Therefore, I don’t think getting diverse experiences is a must, but I just wanted to throw this tip out there for students that are looking for any little edge they can get. Also, remember that in vet school you will have to learn to treat everything form dog, horses, cattle, to lab mice. Every experience you get now will benefit you in the future.

Ok, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about work experience now, so I will go onto a new subject in my next post. Every serious pre-vet student stresses over it. Grades.


John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kim said...

Any tips on getting a job with a large animal vet. I'm having trouble finding anyone willing to take on an intern.

jonp21 said...

Honestly, not really. Just keep hunting. If your not already, be willing to start at the bottom, cleaning and such, and eventually you will work your way up to help with more of the medicine.

Good luck, I wish I could give you a better answer.

Carmen said...

Hi I'm having trouble getting experience with a vet. The animal clinics that I have asked if they allow volunteers for a student interested in becoming a vet have either said they don't accept volunteers or they don't need volunteers. I feel that maybe my approach is wrong? I was wondering if you have advice on how to approach them. I just finished my first year of undergrad and I feel like my time is running up to get this experience in time to apply for vet school.

Anonymous said...

There are many ways to get animal experience large and small. Vet experience is essential, but many people have no livestock/horse experience and trust me, the schools are looking for people that have this in their background. Here are some ideas: also note that connections lead to other things too:
1) contact a farrier and ask if you can ride with them to see what that job is.
2) call up the zoo and ask to vollunteer
3) animal rescues/shelters need help
4)Some dairys have need for student level labor. There is a giant need for dairy vets
5) Take a course in dog or horse training
6) Contact the local 4-H extension. I think many programs nationwide allow membership until you are 21. If you are still in that age group. Ask the county extention agent for ideas evne if you are older. They deal with farm things.
8)Locate a poultry or hog farm. Learn what goes on there. Swine and poultry vets are in demand so they tell us.
I hope these ideas help. Being well rounded is an imprtant thing. We take an oath to care for all the critters large and small, as well as the mangement of them. A background in a few things are advantageous when you go to your interviews and may help them overlook some of the "less exciting things" on your transcripts.
Last note of advise..never think about putting the GRE on the back burner.

Julia said...

I cannot find a job! How much experience is really necessary? For example, will I get into vet school with only a years worth of vet clinic experience?

Anonymous said...

At my high school you can take a vet class and vet adv (you have to take the animal class first). You learn how to give shots ect. Would that acount for exsperience on your application?

jonp21 said...

I would assume so. But you may want to contact the vet school your applying to (when you are planning to apply)and ask them. However, I would definitely consider it very valuable experience. Most applications have a spot for "animal experience" or "veterinary experience", and sometimes the deciding factor for vet experience is if you're under the supervision/direction of a veterinarian. So, if your class is taught by a vet, I would consider it vet experience for sure. Hope that helps

Anonymous said...

Thanks yeah its taught by a vet.

Anonymous said...

very nice information


Anonymous said...

For being a Vet Technician, are you saying that we can pursue both an undergraduate degree and a job as a vet technician?

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Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for taking the time write and post this information. It is extrememly helpful to have all the basics in one place. I have a friend whose high-school daughter is interested in being a vet and I think this will be a tremendous help to her.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to write these posts! I am a senior in high school and this is all so helpful.
Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information, I wish my daughter had this available years ago!
She graduates this spring with a B.S. in Health Science (Biology), and some internship and job experience. She has applied to several Veterinary Schools- two of which declined her entrance. She is bit discouraged, but far from quitting! I will pass along your words of advice! Thank you.

Jamie said...

I have a few questions- I work for a vet that I couldn't really admire more. I would LOVE to be like him someday. He's really big on loyalty though, so I don't know what to do about diversity. I don't want to offend him by asking to go work with other vets in town. I actually need it because I don't know what I'm most interested in but this is the best job I've ever had and I don't want to ruin it. Advice?

jessicashew said...


I recently took on the job of a student assistant at the cat colony at my university. They're affiliated with the vet school, and there are a few vet students who do research on the cats. However, my supervisor is a vet technician and sometimes I get to watch some medical procedures. I'm pretty much paid to clean cages and it doesn't seem like I'll advance beyond that, though.

I'm wondering if this counts as "vet experience".

jonp21 said...

Sorry for my late replies, but here would be my advice.

Jamie- I think it's difficult to say what to do, I think it really depends on what your relationship is with the vet. If you love your job and feel like its the place for you, I don't think you absolutely need additional experience. However, if you want to look at other clinics or types of practices I think it could be beneficial. I've worked at several practices, and the variety of quality is very profound, no two clinics practice the same way. So it might be nice to at least get a feel of other places to truly determine how much you like your current practice. Likely you will see how great your current job/clinic is and appreciate it all the more. But you will never know if yo don't venture out a little. Best of luck hope that helps.

Jessica- I would doubt it counts as "vet experience" as you typically need to be supervised by a vet to count it towards that category, but check with the schools you apply to in order to be sure. However, I think there is a "research experience" category as well on some applications. This also looks great on application because schools like students interested in research.
So, although it may not be "vet experience" it sounds like you have a position that would look good. Best of luck

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon,

I graduated from college a year ago, and have been working in an unrelated field. I recently decided I wanted to go to vet school, and just started working as a kennel technician. My freshman year of college was 5 years ago, and I have read online that your prerequisite classes must have been completed within the past 6 years. However, I asked an alum from my school who is now in vet school, and she said that the experience is more important than how long it has been since your last class, and that some schools may overlook this. I was wondering if you had any insight on this, and if you agree it is still possible to get in if it has been more than 6 years since taking the prerequisites? I know lots of people even older than myself apply and are accepted, so it seems like maybe it is possible to get in despite a gap between prerequisite courses and the time of applying, but I'm not sure.

Thank you so much for this blog!

Emma said...

I can't find any of the suggested jobs and was wondering if animal fostering was considered 'experience working with animals'?

Michelle said...

Hello! First of all, I am so thankful for this blog. I want to thank you for posting tips and advice for people who dream of becoming vets. :) I am currently 13 years old and I'm about to be an 8th grader. I know it might be too early for me to worry about getting into vet school, but I need as much help as I can get so that I can cultivate experience at an early age. My dream is to get accepted into Texas A&M and specialize in small animals. I was wondering if veterinary clinics accepted 13 year old volunteers. My dad said I was too young to become a volunteer at a veterinary clinic or an animal shelter. Do I have a chance volunteering at a veterinary clinic or an animal shelter? I would greatly appreciate your advice. :) Thank you so much for taking time to read this! I know you're busy recently, but I would love listening to your advice for me. :) Thank you!

James Wilkes said...

Hello and thank you for your blog! I am 14 years old and am being expected to think about my work experience placement. I really want to get involved with a vets and I know there are some near me, but I don't know how to approach them.

Ingrid Desmarais said...

This message is for Michelle:

I think 13 is about the right age to start volunteering in a vet hospital. I've heard of volunteers as young as 10! But 14-15 seems to be the starting point.

Contact the local volunteering center for a potential placement in a vet clinic or shelter, or you could always cobtact the clinics directly.

Good luck!

Jessica Rice said...

Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation is looking for a Vet Tech Intern for January 2013. Our VTIs have a perfect record of being accepted into vet school. The internship is 1 year long and interns live onsite. They work with a variety of native, and non-native animals and work along side our vet and vet tech. If you are interested, please email

Blossom said...

Ok, so maybe this is a bit early to start job hunting considering im only in a sixth form collage but me and my dad want me to be a vet but i dont know were to start. Is it because im so young or is it because i've got so little experience?

James Clarkson said...

Experience is essential to providing quality care to animals. The more you work in the industry, the better prepared you will be to make an impact on other's pets. Gaining the right experience can help you gain the needed skills to treat animals properly.

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Sunset Boulevard Animal Clinic is a full service veterinary hospital located in the Rice University/Medical Center area of Houston. what do vets do

Veronica Radican said...

so i am 10 and in 5th grade at lincoln elementary in olimpia and my dream is and i am going to try my hardest on is have a huge i do mean huge piece of land build a vet and have a dog park for little and young a place for training one sheltered if it is cold or to hot and one out doors if the tempeture is just right then a place for disability people to play and have fun so they feel left in it kills me when people abuse an animal and think pit bulls are mean i have 2 of them they are not mean it is just how people raise them to be and i really want to shadow to make shure this is what i want if you have any ideas about vets letting kids shadow in olimpia on saterdays then let me know all fenced in is what i want my vet to be also

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