Guide to Studying Veterinary Medicine

By Dr Argyle, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and Associate Dean and Director of Admissions at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh.

Vet med at Edinburgh 2
University of Edinburgh

What is Veterinary Medicine?

  • A degree in Veterinary Medicine generally involves 5 years of undergraduate study. 
  • As would be expected from this type of course, a wide variety of teaching methods and correspondingly assessment types are used throughout the programme.
  • The curriculum will vary between universities, but generally speaking the earlier years of the course will focus on structure and function of the healthy animal. This will include topics such as anatomy and physiology and involves learning about structure and function of cells, body tissues, body systems and the whole animal.
  • At the same time you will learn about animal husbandry (how to look after animals including how they should be housed and fed) and begin to learn the foundation clinical skills.
  • Professional and communication skills are also introduced from an early stage and continue throughout the five years.
  • In the later years the curriculum begins to focus more on disease of animals and addresses diagnosis, treatment and control of disease.
  • Generally the final year is lecture free and students are able to concentrate on clinical application by rotating through a range of clinical disciplines.
  • At Edinburgh, extra-mural studies (EMS) also form an essential and important part of the veterinary curriculum. Students are required to spend a minimum of 38 weeks on external placements. Generally 12 weeks will consist of pre-clinical EMS and 26 weeks on clinical EMS. This provides a valuable opportunity for students to build on and practice their skills and be exposed to the everyday life of a veterinary surgeon.

Specific or general skills developed

  • This degree is designed to train and prepare you for a career as a veterinary practitioner either in general practice or in a more specialised field such as small animal, farm animal, equine or exotic animal practice.
  • It also prepares you for further training in a specialised clinical field. Examples of these would include orthopaedic surgery, cardiology, dentistry and soft tissue surgery.
Vet med at Edinburgh 3
University of Edinburgh

What degree can I get? 

  • Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc), Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine (BVetMed or VETMB), Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (BVM&S) or BVMS).
  • Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Nursing.

What qualifications do I need?

  • Undertaking a veterinary degree is stimulating, challenging and extremely rewarding. The workload is substantial and the pressure at times can be quite intense; so motivation and dedication for your chosen career is very important.
  • Securing a place is highly competitive. Academic requirements are high but you will also be expected to demonstrate practical relevant work experience. Due to the high competition for places, attainment of the minimum academic grades cannot guarantee that you will be called for interview or offered a place.
  • Academic requirements vary between the UK Veterinary Schools.
Vet med at Edinburgh 1
University of Edinburgh

What grades do I need?

As an example the requirements for Edinburgh are:

  • Requirements for Veterinary Medicine at degree level regularly asks for previous study in a mixture of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics.
  • Different universities ask for different things. Make sure you check with your chosen institution.

Use our Course Chooser to filter results to find Veterinary Medicine courses.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  • Research and taught postgraduate programmes are available.
  • As well as furthering their veterinary skills in clinical and diagnostic practices, and surgery, students can go on to study in such areas as wildlife health and conservation, immunology, infection and global health, parasitology, pharmacy, or specialise in livestock, aquatic or small animals, for example.

Graduate job prospects



*Professional employment refers to a job or occupation which normally requires a degree.
**Non-professional employment refers to a job or occupation which doesn't normally require a degree.

What are the job opportunities?

  • As well as private veterinary practice, graduates may choose to pursue research, industry (such as pharmaceutical companies), veterinary charities at home or abroad, and academia.