10 things to consider when applying for vet school abroad
Updated: Nov 16
For some of us, we know exactly what we want to be when we "grow up," and many veterinarians out there likely knew they wanted to go into this profession at an early age, too.
In fact, I had once thought to become a veterinarian myself as a fellow dog lover (current dog mom to two silly golden retrievers) - until I learned that being a vet wasn't just about saving animals - and that my squeamishness around blood did not really mesh with the whole medical side of things.
But one thing future vets may not know about is about the possibility of doing the entire veterinary program abroad - and just how beneficial this can be.
So if you're one of those people who already knows that becoming a veterinarian is your calling, here are some things to consider when applying for your vet program overseas.
Vet school abroad - program length
Did you know you can apply for vet school abroad straight out of high school?
Veterinary degrees abroad range in duration between five and six years.
That's a significant savings in time and tuition considering the typical path in the U.S. is a 4-year undergraduate degree followed by a 4-year DVM.
Overseas veterinary degrees
Students studying vet medicine overseas typically graduate with either a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine, Bachelor of Veterinary Science or Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
It's worth noting that all are equivalent and recognizable diplomas in the U.S., but some students just prefer having the title of "Doctor."
And in some cases, there are programs that award both the bachelor's and doctorate.
Wondering how to find the right vet programs abroad? Check out my services.
Study what you (hopefully) love
There's nothing worse than being forced to fulfil general education requirements over the first couple years of college when you really want to be studying what interests you most.
When you enrol in a vet program abroad, you're jumping straight into the subjects that matter for your future career.
Keep in mind this also means there is less flexibility should you decide you don't really love it.
School, or a 9-5 job?
Becoming a veterinarian takes commitment, and nothing is more evident of this than the fact that your coursework in college may start to look like more of a 9-5 job than the usual college experience.
This is because you'll spend time in lectures, labs, most likely a local/campus animal clinic and in rotations.
And then you'll have to keep up with the readings, papers and exams - all the while watching your friend studying politics enjoy having much more free time.
It's important to have a realistic understanding of not only the profession but also the university experience.
Sara was honestly so helpful, and I would recommend her to anybody. Having regular check-ins to stay on top of upcoming due dates made it much less stressful, and having someone who was experienced in what successful applications looked like gave a me a lot of confidence. Thank you so much Sara! I owe so much of it to you and all you did for me! - Max
It takes people skills, too
For those that are going into the profession because they prefer to work with animals over humans - think again.
Veterinarians have to be a special breed because not only do they have to have a way with animals, but maybe more importantly, they also have to have a way with people - even if people aren't exactly the patients being treated.
How else are you going to communicate with someone going through the process of losing their pet?
Competitive entry - but no entrance exams
Let's face it; it's not an easy path to become a veterinarian, let alone get admitted to a vet school abroad.
But it's not impossible.
And one of the interesting aspects is that most direct entry vet programs abroad do not require an entrance exam (except some schools in continental Europe), such as the GRE or MCAT that would be required here.
As far as grades go, admissions is based on the SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement exams and/or SAT subject tests, and often times, GPA isn't even considered.
But in most cases, students need to demonstrate high scores in Biology and Chemistry and plan this in advance.
Did you know? When I worked at The University of Edinburgh, I also assisted with the multiple mini interviews for North American students applying to Veterinary Medicine. This means I have an unparalleled perspective about what goes on behind the scenes and what makes a competitive applicant.
Other admissions requirements
The two other main factors when it comes to getting admitted to vet school abroad are the interview and relevant animal-handling experience.
These two factors changed amidst the pandemic, but in a typical year, students would go through an interview process (some are mandatory in-person) and have to demonstrate a certain number of hours volunteering in animal clinics or vet practices.
Many universities that lifted or eased the animal handling experience requirements because of the pandemic are now coming back to this requirement.
They also want to know how you've been able to engage with the subject area and whether your understanding of the profession is realistic.
Good news: vet programs are one of the most straightforward degrees you can do overseas when it comes to bringing the degree back for accreditation in North America.
A number of programs actually already have the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accreditation, which means if you graduate from an AVMA-accredited degree abroad, it is the exact same process to become licensed here as it is for graduates of North American vet programs.
Prep for the NAVLE
The North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE) is the main step for becoming licensed in North America, and when you're looking at vet schools abroad, it's worth asking them if they support students in preparing for this exam.
The University of Glasgow in Scotland, for example, is one AVMA-accredited school abroad that does provide this support for students.
Where do you ultimately wish to practice?
When talking about accreditation, it's also worth knowing that programs can be accredited by multiple veterinary governing bodies.
For example, The University of Sydney is accredited by the AVMA, the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council Inc. (AVBC Inc.) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (UK), and this makes it easier for someone planning an international move later on.
However, a number of countries do offer post-study work visas for graduates, so if working and practicing abroad is of interest, it's worth looking into which countries would allow you to stay on after you graduate there.
Although there really are so many benefits to doing a veterinary medicine degree overseas, the application process requires much thought, consideration and planning.
So my top tip and most important piece of advice?
Invest in yourself, and work with a trusted counselor who knows exactly what vet schools abroad are looking for and how to best prepare for the interview!