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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Does Major Matter?

Ashley sent this in...

I am interested in becoming a vet and am wondering if i should major in Biology or Zoology?  Many people have given me different answers to this question, but i don;t know what to believe.  Which one is a better Undergraduate course for someone who wants to become a Veterinarin?

First just a few caveats and disclaimers.  I am only familiar with US veterinary colleges and even with the 28 we have there can be differences in the entrance requirements for one over another.  The best thing to do is to check with the school or schools that you are considering and see what their specific needs are.  Also, search back through my blog (search box on the top left) and you can see other responses to questions about getting into veterinary school that might help with any other questions you have.

I honestly don't think your major matters in the least.  In my experience the vet schools don't actually look at your major itself.  They have specific courses that they require, many of which may not be obviously applicable, such as calculus.  The admissions office looks at whether or not you have those courses, as well as your GPA in them, rather than looking at your major.  Most vets I know had a Biology, Zoology, or Animal Science undergraduate degree.  But I've known people with majors in teaching, computers, chemistry, English, media/publishing, and so on.  From everything I've seen it really doesn't matter what your major is as long as you have the appropriate classes.  For the record, I have a Bachelor's in Biology.

When you're getting to something as small as a difference between Biology or Zoology, look at what each major requires and how many classes for vet school you can get in each.  I would recommend picking whichever major already includes the most pre-vet classes.  If it's pretty much the same, pick whichever you find more interesting, which in the case of someone going into veterinary medicine would probably be Zoology.  Personally I've always been bored by botany and much of ecology, so you may be able to avoid some of those classes with a Zoology  major.  But in the end the decision is up to you, and I really don't feel that one of these majors is going to be "better" for getting into vet school than another.

I hope this helps, Ashley.  Best of luck!


  1. Do what you want to do Ashely, Vet school doesn't care as long as you fulfill the prereqs, do what you like and what comes easiest to you. I picked animal biology (used to be called zoology) at my college because I like it a lot, but I have a classmate who majored in English literature. You just would probably have to take longer to finish the prereqs for vet school or have a science type minor. I have a couple blog posts on this issue.

  2. I agree that your major doesn't matter when you're just comparing one major against another in the application process (and mine was actually theology....), but I would encourage people to think more broadly.

    One of the things vet schools are looking for is depth of experience. A 'science' major (particularly biology, zoology, etc.) may give you the opportunity to be more involved in research, and perhaps specifically veterinary-based research.

    Another benefit could be exposure in your undergraduate work beyond the minimum pre-reqs. I'm suffering through physiological chemistry right now because I had the bare minimum of a semester of biochem. Some of my classmates don't bother studying because their backgrounds make the class easy.

    So I believe the right way to look at it is that other majors won't HURT you, but the right science background will HELP you.

  3. I'm not a vet, but I did a lot of academic advising as a dean's assistant in undergrad. I majored in Animal Science but eventually decided to take time off before going to vet school. While I was a freshman in college I was really interested in math but opted not to minor in it because I thought it would be useless in my future endeavors as a vet. Where I work now as a tech in a biomedical engineering lab, a stronger math background would be really helpful in understanding the data analysis much faster and easier! Seek out a pre-vet advisor to help you make sure you get all the prerequisites, but ultimately choose a major that you're interested in because you'll do better in those classes you like, and you never know when it will give you an edge somewhere down the line.

  4. I majored in Spanish, which I use every time I go to the racetrack, and many days when I'm interacting with grooms or other barn help at large training barns. Being conversant in Spanish is a handy skill for an equine veterinarian.

    Like most veterinary students, I was strong in certain subjects but had to work harder at others. I graduated with honors, so I don't think my lack of a biology or animal science major caused much harm.

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