SPANA vet treating a horse in Morocco
SPANA vet treating a horse in Morocco

How to Become a Vet

Working with animals can be hugely rewarding, especially if you’re an animal lover. To be able to relieve an animal’s suffering and improve their health and welfare are just some of the reasons people consider becoming vets. But, before you consider a career as a licensed and practising veterinarian, there are a few things you need to know.
If you want to know how to become a vet, you’ve come to the right place, as we’ll take you through all the need-to-know questions you may have. After all, it’s always helpful to be prepared.

Frequently asked questions on how to become a vet

What qualifications do I need to be a vet?

In the UK, to become qualified and practice as a vet you need to complete a veterinary degree approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). A complete list of organisations offering Higher Education qualifications that are accredited can be found on the RCVS website . However, it’s important to note what type of accreditation a course receives, as this may impact whether you need to pass the RCVS Pre-registration exam.

Recognised veterinary qualifications include:

  • BVetMed – Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine
  • BVSc – Bachelor of Veterinary Science
  • BVM&S – Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery
  • DVM – Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
  • VetMB – Veterinary Medicine Degree

Options and routes to get into university can include:

  • A-levels, or Highers and Advanced Highers in Scotland – this is the most common route to university.
  • Access to Higher Education course – these qualifications are usually diplomas, but not all vet schools accept them, so check the entry requirements for the institution you wish to study at first.
  • Vocational qualifications (BTEC) – BTECs usually involve more practical work, but it’s worth double-checking the entry requirements for a university first.
Vet with stethoscope examining a donkey foal

How long does it take to become a vet?

According to the National Careers Service, completing a full-time veterinary degree usually takes about five to six years – unless you do an accelerated programme if you already have a previous tertiary education qualification (in a related subject that qualifies).
Some courses have the option of a foundation year, which can help students with alternative entry requirements. Doing a sandwich year, where you have a placement for one year, can also make your course longer, but you have the added bonus of getting some experience under your belt while you’re completing your degree.

Do I need experience working with animals?

Having the ability to show some work experience is always beneficial, particularly on personal statements when applying for your degree, although it can sometimes be difficult to secure.
Try volunteering, shadowing, or try and get a part-time job at a cattery, kennel, rehoming centre, farm, or stables. You could even try and contact local veterinary surgeries to see if they can accommodate you for some work experience.

Can you be a vet for specific animals?

Absolutely! There are many types of veterinarian specialisations to choose from, including:

  • Aquatic
  • Avian
  • Wildlife
  • Small animal
  • Feline
  • Large animal
  • Equine
  • Mixed Practice – perfect for those who want to work with all animals

You won’t be able to choose which animals you want to specialise in straight away though, as the course covers many species. Many vets take further courses after they’re officially qualified to increase their knowledge or specialise their expertise.

What opportunities can arise from becoming a vet?

In addition to being able to spend more time helping, treating and rehabilitating animals, some amazing opportunities that can arise from becoming a qualified vet include:

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Working in government
  • Developing new treatments for animals
  • Helping an endangered species
  • Working abroad
  • Working for animal charities, such as SPANA

Are there any volunteer programmes that I can do, or training I can help with?

Yes! Finding a suitable vet programme depends on the animal specialisation you want to pursue and what you want to gain.
At SPANA, we run a Vet Volunteer Programme, which enables some veterinary graduates to volunteer their time and skills to help working animals in Morocco, gaining valuable hands-on experience.
SPANA also provide training to veterinary professionals in many low-income countries. In 2021, across 23 countries, we trained 4,070 vets, vet students and technicians, as well as farriers, animal welfare teachers and other professionals involved in animal welfare. We also operate 12 clinical skills centres around the world. These centres are created within universities in low-income countries to improve the technical and practical skills of veterinary students.

Three vets caring for Horse with bandaged hoof in stables.

The SPANA Vet Volunteer Programme

For qualified vets, our Vet Volunteer Programme is hugely rewarding, as it provides an opportunity to make a significant difference to the lives of sick and injured working animals and the families who depend on them. This, combined with the idea of travelling abroad and experiencing life in a different country, is one reason why our vet volunteers choose to apply to our programme.
Volunteers typically spend between two weeks and four months working with us, starting in Marrakech, and accommodation is provided throughout the stay.
The programme is a great way to gain additional training between obtaining qualification and starting a full-time job. It can also help graduates to gain experience in treating equines, which can be very beneficial for individuals who would like to specialise in this practice or pursue a career in mixed practice.

If you love animals, are passionate about animal welfare or want to spend time with animals every day, then becoming a veterinarian is a career you should strongly consider. And, there are also many ways you can show your support, and help our veterinary teams provide vital veterinary care to working animals in need across the world.

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