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Study Veterinary Medicine, why & how to study

Studying for a Veterinary Medicine degree is stimulating, challenging and rewarding. If you’re passionate about improving the lives of animals, you should consider this subject area.

Veterinary medicine at the farm

CONTENTS

  1. What’s Veterinary Medicine?

  2. What Veterinary Medicine degrees can you study?

  3. What do you need to get onto a Veterinary Medicine degree?

  4. What topics does a Veterinary Medicine degree cover?

  5. How will you be assessed?

  6. Why study Veterinary Medicine?

  7. What do Veterinary Medicine graduates earn?

  8. What jobs can you get as a Veterinary Medicine graduate?

  9. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  10. Similar subjects to Veterinary Medicine

  11. Have any questions?

What’s Veterinary Medicine?

Veterinary Medicine – or Veterinary Science – is the branch of medicine concerned with disease, disorders and injury in animals. You’ll learn a range of clinical skills along with animal husbandry (how to look after animals). Degrees differ between universities, but in general, the earlier years focus on the structure and function of the healthy animal. In later years you’ll learn more about the diagnosis, treatment and control of diseases that affect animals.

Most degrees leading to registration as a veterinary surgeon take five years. Other degrees in this subject area focus on animal behaviour, therapy or vet nursing.

What Veterinary Medicine degrees can you study?

The range of undergraduate degrees in Veterinary Medicine may include: 

  • Animal Behaviour BSc
  • Veterinary Biosciences BSc
  • Veterinary Medicine BVetMed or BVMS
  • Veterinary Nursing & Companion Animal Behaviour BSc 

During degrees, experience of working with animals may include placements and field trips. Overseas study may be available. Options may include a foundation or gateway year and January start dates.

What do you need to get onto a Veterinary Medicine degree?

Most undergraduate courses in Veterinary Medicine ask for 112–169 UCAS points. Not every university bases its offer on UCAS points. Qualifications may include:

  • A Levels: AAA–BCC
  • BTECs: D*D*D*–DMM (sometimes with A Levels)
  • Scottish Highers: BBBB–AAABB (Advanced Highers: AAB–AA)
  • International Baccalaureate: 36–24
  • Universities will usually ask that you have studied: biology and one other science (often chemistry) at an advanced or higher level

Other good subjects to have studied include:

  • Psychology, physics, applied science, human biology, mathematics
  • A science may be required as a third subject
  • General subjects are unlikely to be considered (general studies or critical thinking)

Experience that would look good on your application:

  • Work experience is usually expected of trainee vets, to include animal husbandry and shadowing in a vet practice; this may need to be arranged some time in advance
  • Volunteering at an animal shelter, cattery or kennel, wildlife sanctuary or at a stables
  • Lambing work experience on a farm (check the National Sheep Association website)
  • Virtual work experience MOOC (where work experience hasn’t been possible)
  • Summer schools such as pre-vet summer school (these won’t count as work experience)

Other requirements for this subject include:

  • Pass in the practical element of sciences
  • Some universities may set their own admissions tests, such as the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA)
  • Interview

What topics does a Veterinary Medicine degree cover?

Modules in a range of Veterinary Medicine degrees could include:

  • Cells and genes in context 
  • General pathology and concepts of infectious disease 
  • Veterinary research and evidence-based veterinary medicine 
  • Emerging diseases, public health and sustainability 
  • Zoological medicine 
  • Animal physiology and behaviour
  • Principles of biology
  • Practical skills for animal behaviour
  • Population ecology and wildlife management

How will you be assessed?

Courses are assessed in a variety of ways, depending on the module:

  • Coursework
  • Clinical observations
  • Exams (written and practical)
  • Portfolio or workbook
  • Poster presentation
  • Practical assessments during clinical rotations
  • Reports and written assignments
  • Research project

Why study Veterinary Medicine?

Whether you’re intent on becoming a veterinary surgeon or nurse, or plan to work with animals in another career, you’ll gain plenty of useful skills: 

Career-specific skills: 

  • Animal handling and care
  • Clinical science or veterinary skills
  • Practical biological skills

Transferable skills: 

  • Analysing and assessing information
  • Decision making
  • Communication
  • IT literacy
  • Presentation
  • Problem-solving
  • Research skills
  • Self-care and stress management
  • Team working

Professional accreditation: 

  • Successfully complete a Veterinary Medicine degree and you’ll have the academic requirements to register as a veterinary surgeon with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and possibly similar bodies overseas
  • Degrees in Animal Behaviour may give you the foundation to work towards registration as a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB)
  • Biological Science degrees may be accredited by the Royal Society of Biology

What do Veterinary Medicine graduates earn?

Veterinary Medicine graduates can command some of the highest entry salaries of all graduates, at around £31,000. However, salaries remain fairly static for veterinary surgeons, rising to an average of £46,400 for those working in small animal practices.

Veterinary nurses may earn from £18,000–£37,500, with average salaries around £28,000.

What jobs can you get as a Veterinary Medicine graduate?

While you may study a Veterinary Medicine degree with the intention of becoming a surgeon or nurse in a vet practice, these aren’t your only career options.

  • Animal behaviourist
  • Clinical content manager
  • Equine nutritionist 
  • Government vet (public health and policy)
  • Lecturer
  • Research scientist
  • Royal Army Veterinary Corps vet
  • Technical advisor for veterinary pharmaceutical products
  • Veterinary pathologist

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

If you want to become a veterinary surgeon after a first degree, graduate entry Vet Medicine degrees are available at the undergraduate level. Postgraduate courses offer specialisation, and include:

  • Advanced Veterinary Nursing (Anaesthesia) PgC/PgD/MSc
  • Veterinary Medicine MPhil/PhD
  • Animal Behaviour and Welfare MSc
  • Infection and Global Health (Veterinary) MD

Similar subjects to Veterinary Medicine

Other subject areas that might appeal to you include:

Have any questions?

If you’ve got a question to ask about studying Veterinary Medicine, get in touch with our experts by emailing ask@thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk. We’ll be happy to hear from you!

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