How Long Is Vet School? An Average Timeline

June 11, 2024
10 min read


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 10/11/23

Find out everything you need to know about the vet school timeline in this guide.

A vet caring for a dog

Vet school is no easy feat. A successful veterinarian needs more than just a love of animals and a passion for care-taking. This career path takes dedication and hard work, but if you’ve made it this far, you already know that. 

You know what it takes to be a successful veterinarian. You’ve probably dreamed of this moment for a while. You’ve decided you’re capable enough to tackle the challenge, but there’s just one question. How long is vet school? Any medical career requires extensive knowledge and you can’t learn everything you need to know in a short amount of time. 

The process seems daunting, but don’t let that keep you from following your dreams! We’ve compiled this timeline to show you how long vet school takes so you know exactly what to expect when you begin your vet school journey.

image of dots background

How Long Is Vet School? Typical Vet School Timeline

A vet student looking at photos of an animals scan

Vet school requires an additional four years of education. As with medical school, vet school becomes increasingly more difficult as you advance through the years. 

Vet school teaches its students about varying animal species so you can determine what field of veterinary medicine you want to specialize in. 

Below you’ll find a complete breakdown of what you can expect each year of vet school: 

First Year

The first year of vet school consists of the basics. You’ll spend most of your time in labs or lectures learning the building blocks of subjects like anatomy and physiology. 

You’ll spend a lot of your time learning general knowledge that you should carry with you throughout your career, so you should develop good study habits as well. Be an active learner and don’t aim to retain information long enough to just pass an exam. Stay on top of your work and ensure you understand it. 

If you have any time to spare between classes and studying, you should also consider joining some clubs. Cornell offers a wide variety of vet school clubs and associations. These clubs give students a chance to discover possible specialties and provide more exposure to the world of veterinary medicine.

Second Year

The second year of vet school expands on your existing knowledge of veterinary medicine while also diving deeper into pathology. You’ll learn all about diseases and treatments, as well as what these diseases look like in your furry patients. 

Your labs will continue in your second year, but you’ll get more hands-on experience. This is where joining clubs comes in handy. The clubs give you outside experience that differs from what you do in class and it’s a great way to get more practice. 

Third Year

The third year of vet school introduces your technical skills, such as diagnosis and treatment, while also giving you the opportunity to develop surgical skills. You can also pursue different electives during this time to explore your interests and help determine if you would like to pursue a specialty in your veterinary career.

Fourth Year

The fourth and final year of vet school fully immerses you in the life of a veterinarian. You work in clinical rotations, where you get to meet patients and start learning the process of diagnosing and treating them. These are your final steps in the transformation from student to doctor. 

When you’re not working in your clinical, you need to devote a substantial amount of time preparing for the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). You must pass this exam in order to practice veterinary medicine. You cannot move on with your career in veterinary medicine until you pass this exam. 

This exam consists of two parts that are continuously updated. The first portion of the exam is the competencies in which students are tested on things relating to daily operations as a veterinarian. This section includes subjects like communication and professionalism. 

The second portion of the exam tests students on diagnosis, and this portion of the exam deals with different species of animals to test the full extent of your knowledge. 

If you’re nervous at the thought of this exam looming over your career, don’t fret. Make use of your free time to study the topics you struggle with while also honing the areas you excel in. 

Once you’ve received a passing score and have met all state requirements, you’re ready to begin your career as a veterinarian!

Bachelor’s Degree

A diploma

It may be surprising to learn how many years of college you need to become a veterinarian. Earning a bachelor’s degree will boost your likelihood of acceptance into vet school, but students have been accepted with only having finished the prerequisites for vet school. 

For example, Cornell requires that applicants complete a total of sixty semester credits before applying to the DVM program, and you can achieve this without earning a bachelor’s degree by only taking the prerequisite courses. However, most applicants accepted into vet school earned a bachelor’s, so if you have the ability to earn one it definitely improves your chances.

You don’t have to choose a major that is relevant to a career in veterinary medicine. The admissions team heavily focuses on your grades, so just choose a major you’re interested in. 

Bachelor’s degrees take an average of four years to complete, but the timeline varies. Those who wish to just complete their prereqs can typically finish them within three years.

Online Vet School Programs

We understand the draw of online education and the ability to earn a degree from the comfort of your home, working at your own pace. Unfortunately, a degree in veterinary medicine cannot be fully obtained online due to its hands-on requirements. 

Some schools might allow hybrid courses, where part of the class is done online while the other half occurs on campus. If you’re unable to commit to on-campus education, you can earn a degree as a veterinary technician online. 

Through Penn Foster, you can get an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Technology. Ashworth College also offers a veterinary technician online program. Understand that a veterinary technician is different from a veterinarian. You’ll get a lot of experience, but you’re essentially assisting the veterinarian like a nurse assists a doctor.


Two vets caring for a dog

As we answer the inquiry “how long does vet school take?”, it’s essential to discuss internships. Internships are not a requirement for vet school graduates, but they do give you more practice as a veterinarian before you get a job in a clinic or animal hospital. 

Internships help ease you into the transition from student to doctor, allowing you a small reprieve before you’re thrust into the responsibilities of a full-fledged veterinarian. 

If you decide an internship is the next step for you, you’ll find a list of schools and the internships they offer on the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program (VIRMP) website. Here are two examples.

  • The University of Georgia: Offers a variety of internships and residency programs to improve your veterinary skills, ranging from programs focusing on large animals to programs dealing with pathology. 
  • Cornell University: Offers one-year internships that are typically necessary when pursuing a residency. This school offers an internship dedicated to the medical care of exotic animals and would be a great experience if you were interested in that specialty. 

You can also try to find internships through local vet clinics or animal hospitals. Some offices will post a listing that specifically targets vet school students or recent vet school graduates. Just make sure you meet all of their application requirements! 

Certification and Examinations

A person studying

In order to become a practicing veterinarian, you must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE). In order to pass this exam, you must get at least 55% correct on the exam, with a score of 425 being the minimum passing score. 

If you fail your first testing attempt, you’re allowed to take another test during a different testing window. Check with the licensing board to see how many times you can retake the exam and when. 

You also need to make sure you meet the requirements of the state in which you wish to practice veterinary medicine, such as the licensing period and continuing education requirements.

For example, the state of Florida has a licensing period of 2 years and requires their vets to complete 30 hours of continuing education every two-year period. New York has a licensing period of 3 years and requires their vets to complete 45 hours of continuing education every 3 years. 

Also understand that if you decide to move to a different state, you’ll have to complete that state’s requirements in order to practice veterinary medicine.

Think of certifications like a master’s degree or PhD. Certifications are not required, but they can open more doors for you. There are many different specialties and certifications you can pursue, ranging from epidemiology to oncology and even dental certifications. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) lists all the different specialties you can delve into.

Is Vet School Worth It?

Now that you know the answer to the question, “how long is vet school?”, your next question may be if vet school is truly worth it. 

You know you have a deep love for animals and you want to dedicate your life to helping animals in need. But after reading about the long and arduous process of vet school, you might find yourself wondering if vet school is really worth the challenge. 

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), vet school students graduate with an average of $150,000 in student loan debt. However, there are ways to cut costs, such as choosing schools with cheaper tuition and applying for scholarships and grants. 

If money motivates you, veterinarians earn an average salary of $84,982. These earnings will help you pay your student debt, while also providing financial security. However, your pay depends on your experience as well as the area you work in. The average salary in smaller, rural areas is lower than in heavily-populated urban areas.

It’s important to understand that veterinarians experience a substantial amount of stress. You will deal with life-or-death situations constantly which can end up taking a toll on your mental health. Depending on the clinic you work at, you might also have to work long hours. Long hours affect personal relationships, so consider the sacrifices you might face in this career. 

Ultimately, you decide if vet school is worth it. Just ensure you thoroughly consider all of your options before traveling down this path!


For any remaining questions on how long vet school is, read on!

1. How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Veterinarian?

If you decide to earn a bachelor’s degree before pursuing vet school, it will take about eight years in total for you to become a vet. Experiences vary from person to person. 

2. Is There an Age Limit for Vet School?

It’s never too late to pursue your dream. There are pros and cons to applying later in life. Older students have the benefit of gaining real-world experience and might even have the financial stability to afford tuition without the use of student loans. However, older students typically also have more familial obligations and this career path can put a strain on personal relationships. 

Regardless, you shouldn’t let your age stop you from achieving great things! 

3. How Much Do Vets Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for veterinarians is $103,260 per year, while the average is $100,000. However, salary ranges will vary from state to state. 

As an example, Hawaii ranks the highest salary with $198,340 per year, while Arkansas ranks the lowest with a salary of $69,130 per year. 

As with any life-changing decision, consider the listed salaries of the states you want to practice veterinary medicine. Money isn’t everything, but it certainly helps. 

4. Can I Take a Gap Year After My Undergraduate Degree?

Absolutely! An undergraduate degree can be draining, especially if you had to work a job while attending school. Take some time away from school to relax and catch your breath if you need to. 

Vet school requires a lot of dedication and you don’t want to feel burnt out before you’ve even started. Use this time to travel, spend time with friends, or get experience working at an animal shelter before you apply to vet school. 

5. How Long Are My Vet School Prerequisites Valid?

The answer to this question varies from school to school. According to UC Davis, as long as you’ve completed the prerequisites, it doesn’t matter how much time passed since you took them. However, if you wait too long, you may forget important information. 

Check the requirements for the schools to which you apply to see if your prerequisites have an expiration date. Most vet schools like to see the work completed within the last five years.

6. Why Is the Process For Becoming a Vet So Long?

Vet school requires a long process because you learn a lot of information dealing with varying species of animals. You can’t learn how to diagnose and treat multiple illnesses overnight. Until you determine a specialty, you have to learn how to treat all animals. 

7. How Long Is Vet Tech School?

How long it takes to complete vet tech school depends on whether you seek to become a veterinary technologist or a veterinary technician

Veterinary technologists earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Technology which takes about four years to complete, while veterinary technicians earn an Associate’s Degree in Veterinary Technology which takes about two years to complete. 

8. How Long is Vet Assistant School?

Vet assistant school takes as little as 9 months to complete. This career choice is best for people who want to start a vet career as quickly as possible and begin gaining experience. 

9. Is Vet School Longer Than Med School?

While med school and vet school both take four years to complete, MD students must also complete residencies to become doctors, which can take anywhere from three to seven years. Vet students are not required to pursue residencies, although they are available. 

Final Thoughts

The road to veterinary medicine is paved with long hours and hard work. It requires dedication and tenacity. Don’t take this decision lightly. Understand the sacrifices you’ll make when pursuing vet school. It won’t always be easy, but if you truly want this career, the pain is worth it. 

Remember that you can also pursue a career that still helps animals that doesn’t lead to becoming a veterinarian. You can always consider the path to becoming a veterinary assistant or technician if the thought of enduring 8 years of school seems too difficult. Don’t let your worries hold you back from following your dreams!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
Get Free Consultation
image of dots background

You May Also Like