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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Getting A Start

Caitlin emailed me the following....

I am 17 and a junior in high school. I have always had a love for animals and I've dreamed of becoming a veterinarian since I was in elementary school. I have shadowed at my local veterinary hospital and volunteered with animal rescue groups. What advice do you have for a high school student wanting to pursue a career in this field? I know that I still have another year before starting my undergrad in pre vet, but what can I be doing now to ensure I have the best chance possible to get accepted into veterinary school? Also, any idea what jobs are typically offered at animal hospitals for my age group?

Good questions, Caitlin.  Do a search on my blog, as over the years I've talked about various aspects of getting into vet school.  You can find the information here, as well as what life is like as a vet which may influence your decision.

The number one bit of advice that I would give is exactly what you're looking to do.  Get a job in a veterinary clinic.  There is simply no better way to get an idea of what it's like to be in the field than to work alongside a vet.  You get to see the often long hours, hard decisions, cases that go bad, and the rewards that can go along with the hardships.  You can also talk to the vets one-on-one about their specific paths and what they like and dislike about the job.  And you get to see if you can really handle the blood, pus, diarrhea, and other gross things.

Depending on where you live state laws limit what you can do as a minor.  You are limited to how many hours you can work and what kinds of things you can do.  For example, in my state you are not allowed to assist in taking x-rays if you are under 18 years old.  A veterinary clinic is also unlikely to hire an inexperienced teenager into an important or skilled position, which means you may start out as a receptionist or helping clean kennels.   And there's nothing wrong with these jobs!  My first job was working for my local vet as a kennel worker, cleaning cages and walking dogs.

Truthfully, any work you do prior to being in college isn't going to be looked at during the veterinary school admission process.  At this point you need to focus on whether or not this is really the career path you want.  You still have several years before you will even think about applying to vet school, so use this opportunity to explore the field and talk to vets about what career options you have within the various aspects of veterinary practice.

Again, do research, get ANY job in a veterinary clinic, and ask lots of questions to the vets around you.  Best of luck!