Qualifications needed to become a vet

To become a vet, one needs more than a profound love of animals, although its importance cannot be discounted. After all, a vet spends most of his career caring for our four-legged (and some two-legged) friends. However, just affection won’t help serve animals when their health or lives are at stake. After all, a vet is responsible for the prevention of disease and for the medical and surgical treatment of animals, and it requires a lot of training and hard work to gain this expertise.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the governing body of vets in the country. Under the provisions of the Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1966, with certain minor exceptions, only a registered veterinary surgeon is permitted to diagnose and treat injuries and ailments of animals. In order to be granted membership of the RCVS, an aspiring vet will have to go to university and take a veterinary degree. The UK universities offering veterinary degrees approved by the RCVS are Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cambridge, Edinburgh and London (the Royal Veterinary College).

The courses are usually five years in length (six years at some schools). The Nottingham University has also started a new veterinary school. Applications are made through the Universities & College Admissions Service (UCAS). There are also a number of overseas degrees from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa which are approved by RCVS. Graduates from North American schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association can also apply for membership to the RCVS. Holders of many European degrees are also eligible to register with RCVS if they are EU citizens.

Seats at the veterinary degree courses are highly sought after and have stringent requirements for admission. These include a strong academic record as represented by the following:

A Levels

Biology must usually be offered at A level. The requirement for other subjects varies a little from university to university, but either one or two subjects from Chemistry, Physics or Mathematics should be offered. Some universities may accept a third A level in a non-science subject, but it must be an academically sound subject. The minimum grades generally expected are two A’s and a B, though some schools will require three grade A’s.

AS Levels
Some universities accept AS levels, but specific requirements can vary. Sometimes, two AS levels will be accepted instead of one A level, except in Chemistry where a full A level is usually required.

SCE Highers
Chemistry must be offered as well as two subjects from Biology, Physics or Mathematics. The grades generally expected are AAABB.

Advanced Highers
Applicants are normally advised to proceed to the Sixth Year and include CSYS Chemistry and Biology or Physics in their subjects.

GCSE
The applicant must meet the general entrance requirements of the university. Most universities require an applicant to have at least a grade C pass in English Language, Mathematics and Science, and many will expect A grades at GCSE. Where A level Biology or Physics is not offered, the candidate must have a good pass in that subject at GCSE level.

Vocational Qualifications
Applicants with certain vocational qualifications relevant to the study area, such as the BTEC Diploma in Animal Science, with distinction grades, may be considered by certain schools.

In addition to academic excellence, the admission committees lay great stress on practical work experience. The applicant must show his interest in this field by prior work at a veterinary practice or a similar establishment, handling pets and farm animals. However, work experience cannot substitute academic credentials but can add to them.

Once the applicant receives his degree and registers with the RCVS, he can practise in the country as a qualified vet. If he wants to specialise in any particular field, further study is required to gain an additional diploma.

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