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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Alternatives To Veterinary Career

Here's a recent email from Michelle....
Here is some background about me, I graduated from computer engineering back in 2004 and proceeded to work for 6 years in the field. About 8 years ago, I decided to change my career because I was unsatisfied with my job.
I went back to school 4 years ago to get my pre-req for vet med (btw, I live in Canada). Since I came back to school, I aced all my classes (~ 93% GPA) but I still failed to get into WCVM. I just got my second rejection letter yesterday, and I was told the reason that I was rejected is because of low GPA. WCVM calculated the cumulative GPA from all undergraduate courses, so my engineering degree is dragging my current GPA way down. I love the idea of working with veterinary medicine and I felt like if I just gave up now I will regret it forever. With my age and financial reason, I also felt like I shouldn't try again (I attempted twice and both times I missed by couple spots).
My question for you is for someone like me, what other veterinary medicine related fields I can consider? I am thinking to finish my last year in animal science and do a master in pathology. My heart is terribly saddened by the idea of giving up vet med, I know it's something that I would be happy to do (my fiancé is a cattle guy so able to work around cattle all the times reaffirm my passion). He doesn't like the idea of vet med (agreed with everything you said) but I still really want to working in this field.
First, I want to say that Michelle illustrates the incredibly competitive nature of veterinary college admission.  I often say that veterinarians are very much of above average intelligence just by the selection process requiring such high grades in science and math.  Even if someone is very studious and intelligent they are competing against people who may be just as much so.  This is why for every slot in vet school there are 3-5 (or more!) applicants.  Someone who makes it into vet school is already a smart, driven person. 
Though intelligence doesn't equate with common sense!  I've known plenty of vets who were highly book-smart but had the personality of a turnip and less common sense than an old tire.
But back to Michelle's question.....
Have you looked at applying to other colleges?  I'm not as familiar with the Canadian system as I am with the American one, but I know that there are at total of five veterinary schools in Canada.  You are in a huge country so the idea of leaving Saskatchewan and going to Prince Edward Island may be daunting and unappealing.  In the US each college has their own entry requirements, so there are variations and a different school may allow you in.  I've also known people who don't get in until their 4th or 5th try, so it may be continued persistence will help.  And getting a Master's degree actually weighs heavily in your favor.  I know that my own Master's was one of the things that gave me a decided edge when I applied for vet school.
But let's assume that you just can't get into vet school.  There are certainly other options, though it depends on what about veterinary medicine interests you.  If you like the science of it you may go the route you described and work towards a pathology degree.  You will still be in biological science and can still help diagnose diseases and illnesses.  Other options would be epidemiology or a PhD program related to animals.  Many people working in research in veterinary science ar PhDs rather than DVMs/VMDs.  With these careers you wouldn't be working day-to-day with client-owned pets, but you can still greatly contribute to animal welfare.
If you want the hands-on aspect of it you can work towards a veterinary technician certification.  That would have lower pay but also less school work and less competition for school.  If you just want to be around animals then go for the animal science degree and work with livestock.  There are a lot of options there in husbandry, breeding, and care, and you could even work for the provincial government with public health issues (assuming that Canada is set up similarly to the US, where we have a Federal Department of Agriculture and then a separate department in each state).  You already have a good contact with agriculture and livestock!
Lastly, I'd suggest asking for an appointment with the Dean of Admissions at WCVM.  Have a polite conversation about what you can do to make yourself more competitive and give you a better chance.  If the caliber of applicants is consistently higher than yourself, then the Dean might be able to give you other suggestions in related fields.
Good luck, Michelle!