How to Become a Military Veterinarian

October 10, 2023


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 10/10/23

From nursing to dentistry, many healthcare professions deal with human patients; some practitioners tend to different clientele. 

Specifically, military veterinarians provide healthcare to an array of patients, from silky manes to stubby paws. Also known as army vets, these military personnel serve hardworking animals and pets of the military.

Students who adore animals and are exploring potential career options may want to consider an exciting profession as a military vet. Read this guide to learn more about how to become a military veterinarian and the average military veterinarian’s salary!

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Steps to Becoming a Military Veterinarian

There are several steps needed to be a military veterinarian. Usually, students earn a bachelor’s degree in programs related to veterinary medicine, such as zoology. Students may also want to consider enrolment in courses like nutrition, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, or business. 

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, prospective military vets attend veterinary school to obtain a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM). This degree usually takes four years to complete and requires prospective students to take the veterinary college admission test (VCAT).

American students who want to be military veterinarians can apply for the US Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). This scholarship program enables students studying health care to pursue their DVM with support from the military. 

The HPSP covers full tuition (for up to four years), including funding for books, school fees, monthly allowances, and other bonuses. Through the HPSP, students can complete their education prior to fulfilling their military commitments.

After earning their degree, prospective military vets can start their basic office training and an internship prior to active duty. 

For active duty, one must take the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam to earn their license and practice. Recruits must also be between the ages of 21 to 41 years old. Otherwise, practicing vets are required to have at least three years of service to join the Army Reserve. Veterinarians on reserve can maintain a civilian job, receive military training, and serve in the army on a part-time basis.

What Does a Military Vet Do?

Military veterinarians are identical to their civilian counterparts, with some considerable differences. On a wide scope, these health science professionals provide animal care in the military. 

Military vets perform tasks like surgical care, biomedical research, veterinary public health, and animal medicine. Thus, they are no strangers to practices such as taking x-rays, drawing blood samples, performing surgeries, prescribing medications, and tending to physical wounds.

These military professionals care for a range of animals, including Military Working Dogs, pets of soldiers (and their families), animals within the US Department of Homeland Security, and even ceremonial horses! 

Military veterinarians also work in diverse settings, from government agencies to academic research labs. These healthcare professionals may also work on ships or in food processing plants!

In this industry, outstanding professionals are not driven by the military veterinarian’s salary; instead, they are compelled to care for humanity’s four-legged companions!

What Skills Do You Need to be a Military Veterinarian?

Besides learning how to become a military veterinarian, identifying the required skills for a military veterinarian are also important to consider. 

First and foremost, you should have a keen interest in working with animals to thrive as a military vet. Unsurprisingly, extraordinary military veterinarians love what they do and are passionate about caring for all kinds of animals.

Furthermore, much like conventional veterinarians, their military counterparts have a strong background in subjects like chemistry, biology, medicine, mathematics, and zoology. 

Military veterinarians are not only checking heart rates and treating surface wounds. They also perform technical tasks like prescribing medication, taking blood samples, delivery, and performing procedures to improve an animal’s well-being.

Ultimately, a good military vet also has excellent bedside manners and is interested in helping animals in need. Veterinarians are “animal doctors,” providing furry companions with the care they require, whether it’s patching up wounds or giving them antibiotics for an infectious disease!

Military Veterinarian Salary

According to Today’s Military, the average military veterinarian’s salary in the US Army is about $92,839. Besides the adequate salary, there are other benefits as a military vet, including additional compensation. An army veterinarian officer can earn $5,000 job signing bonuses, which can accumulate to $20,000 over four years! The US Army also provides stipends to their soldiers for housing and food.

Military veterinarians in the US Army have access to perks that benefit themselves and their loved ones, especially accessible health care. Vets working as full-time soldiers may receive free healthcare for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, part-time soldiers may enjoy accessible healthcare with affordable, out-of-pocket pay. 

Besides a generous salary and amazing healthcare benefits, military veterinarians can also enjoy 30 days of paid vacation. Plus, the US Army will also pay for weekends, national holidays, and yearly sick days!

Initially, her first salary while working on an assignment in the US paid approximately $75,000 annually. Eventually, she received an assignment in Europe which now pays her about $100,000 a year! However, prospective military vets should consider that a person’s salary may vary depending on factors like location, rank, or years of service.

FAQs: Becoming a Military Veterinarian

Naturally, students interested in becoming military veterinarians have many questions, and we’ve got you covered! Check out these common questions related to this exciting profession.

1. How Much do Army Vets Get Paid?

On average, the military veterinarian salary (or army vet) in the US is around $92,800, according to Today’s Military.

With this said, a professional’s salary may fluctuate depending on factors like housing allowances, years of service, assignment, or rank. However, a military vet’s salary is on the higher end, with some professionals earning around $100,000 a year. 

2. How Long Does it Take to Become a Military Veterinarian?

Besides the challenges involved with becoming a military vet, the timeline to become a vet can be extensive. Overall, veterinary school education may take eight years, while military service may require an additional eight years.

First, students must earn a four-year bachelor’s degree before pursuing veterinary school. 

Much like medical school, vet school typically takes four years to complete. Afterward, military veterinarians pursuing the Health Professionals Scholarship Program (HPSP) with the US Army must complete at least three years of active duty and five years of reserve duty. 

3. Does the Military Pay for Vet School?

The military may fund students through the HPSP. This specialty scholarship program offers financial support to students pursuing a medical profession in exchange for their commitment to the Army Medical Team. 

The program is open to US citizens with a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with active duty status in the US Army. Additionally, the applicant must be a full-time student in an accredited graduate or medical school in the US or Puerto Rico.

The HPSP can financially support students with full tuition for up to four years, depending on their specialties. The HPSP also covers funding for books, equipment, and school fees. 

Students under the HPSP may also receive monthly stipends and allowances for food and housing, sign-on bonuses, and more. Alternatively, students who have already completed veterinary school may apply for the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program.

4. What are the Benefits of Being a Military Veterinarian?

The military veterinarian salary is a compelling benefit to interested students. However, there are other perks to consider.

Firstly, in exchange for their commitment to the military, students can pursue their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine without the financial burden if they are approved for the HPSP. 

Furthermore, veterinarians in the military can benefit from building a ton of on-the-job skills, such as leadership development, discipline, and teamwork. According to army vet Elliot Garber, travel may also be a part of the job. These healthcare professionals are subject to duty assignments across the US and around the world.

Most importantly, military vets have the benefit of serving their country while caring for animals in need!

Final Thoughts

While some healthcare professionals are called to care for the elderly or children, others are called to help four-legged companions. 

Military veterinarians pursue their medical interests while tending to a service dog’s wounds or performing a wellness exam on ceremonial horses. Like other healthcare professions, a military vet is a noble career that is perfect for compassionate and animal-loving individuals!

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