Veterinarians provide care for animals of all types. These professionals treat illnesses and injuries, perform surgeries, and advise owners on best practices for animal care. Many veterinarians also play an important role in public health, working to ensure the safety of farm animals that serve as food sources and applying veterinary research to human and animal health issues.
Veterinarians earn competitive salaries, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects careers in the field to grow 16% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the national average for all occupations. Veterinarians need a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) to enter licensed practice. DVM programs take four years to complete and require knowledge in biology , along with strong clinical and communication skills.
This page highlights the nation's best veterinary schools and programs. In addition to a ranking of the top programs, this guide explores career paths, earning potential, licensure requirements, and scholarships for veterinary students.
Veterinary Students Ask These Questions
How long does it take to complete a veterinary program?
While completion time varies among schools and programs, most full-time students complete DVM programs in four years.
Do I need a license to be a veterinarian?
Veterinarians in all states need a license to practice. All veterinarians must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). Individual states may set additional licensing requirements.
What is the difference between a DVM and a veterinariae medicinae doctoris (VMD)?
The DVM and VMD are interchangable. Both degrees qualify holders for veterinary practice. Only the University of Pennsylvania offers a VMD.
How does a veterinary program compare to a zoology program?
Veterinary programs typically prepare learners to treat animals in clinical contexts, while zoology programs focus on understanding animals in their natural habitats.
Career and Salary Outlook for Veterinarians
Occupations in the veterinary field include veterinarian, vet tech, vet assistant, and laboratory animal caretaker. The BLS projects strong growth for most veterinary occupations, likely due to factors including a growing and aging pet population and expanded treatment options for pets.
Education level significantly impacts the earning potential of veterinary professionals. For example, veterinarians, who need a doctorate, typically earn higher salaries than vet techs and lab assistants, who need only a high school diploma or associate degree.
This section details common career paths for graduates of the best veterinary schools, along with the salary potential and projected growth rate for each occupation.
Veterinary Technologists and TechniciansCommonly known as vet techs, these professionals assist veterinarians and perform a variety of clinical tasks. Vet techs prepare animals for surgery, administer vaccinations, and perform laboratory and diagnostic tests. While the two positions are similar, veterinary technologists often work in research and lab-based roles, while veterinary technicians commonly work in private clinical practices.
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal CaretakersThese professionals assist veterinarians and care for animals in clinical and research settings. They may feed and bathe animals, maintain surgical instruments, clean cages and operating rooms, and monitor animals before and after clinical procedures. The responsibilities of veterinary assistants and lab animal caretakers are similar to those of vet techs. However, vet techs are more specialized and typically earn higher salaries.
VeterinariansVeterinarians diagnose and treat medical conditions in animals of all types, including pets and livestock. Tasks often include treating wounds, performing surgery, prescribing medication, and advising animal owners about medical conditions and general care practices. While many veterinarians treat pets in private clinical practices, they may also work with farm animals. Other veterinarians secure research positions and work to improve public health and animal welfare.
|Career||Median Annual Salary||Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||$35,320||16%|
|Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers||$28,590||16%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accreditation for Veterinary Programs
Regardless of program level or specialization area, all veterinary students should choose an accredited school. Accreditation demonstrates that a school or program meets set standards of academic quality, ensuring that learners receive adequate academic and professional preparation. Institutions can receive regional or national accreditation , and programs can earn accreditation from field-specific agencies.
Most veterinary schools, and all schools offering DVM programs, should hold regional accreditation . The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes six regional accreditation agencies. Without exception, all DVM programs should hold programmatic accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education .
Licensing requirements for veterinarians vary by state. Learners considering DVM programs should consult their state licensing board for details. Veterinarians cannot typically transfer their license between states. However, certain states maintain reciprocity agreements. Regardless of state, candidates for veterinarian licensure need a DVM degree from an AVMA-accredited program.
Veterinarians in all states must pass the NAVLE, a 360-question multiple-choice exam administered by the International Council for Veterinary Assessment . Veterinary candidates typically complete the NAVLE during their final year of study. The council offers testing twice each year, during a four-week period in the fall and a two-week period in the spring.
Some states set additional licensure requirements. For example, in Washington State, veterinarians must pass the Washington State Jurisprudence Examination and complete four hours of HIV/AIDS training.
Courses in a Veterinary Program
While learners can pursue various degrees through the best veterinary schools, the field's highest degree is the doctor of veterinary medicine. Learners earning a DVM develop broad clinical skills, focusing on the assessment and treatment of various animal species. Doctoral students often specialize in a certain area, such as small or large animals.
The classes below comprise a representative sample of typical DVM courses. Course titles may vary, and not every school offers these courses. However, most of the best doctor of veterinary medicine programs cover the following topics.
Introduction to Veterinary Anatomy
Small Animal Physical Examination Skills
Companion Animal Behavior
Clinical and Professional Communication
Best Veterinary Schools and Programs 2021
This ranking highlights 25 of the nation's best veterinary schools. These programs deliver strong education, research, and clinical services to prepare learners to succeed in the field. In addition to other degrees, the following schools offer some of the best doctor of veterinary medicine programs for aspiring veterinarians.
University of PennsylvaniaLocation
A renowned Ivy League college based in Philadelphia, Penn ranks among the nation's top veterinary schools. Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine offers veterinary programs at the master's and doctoral level , training students for careers in veterinary medicine, public health, research, and public policy. Penn is also a center of veterinary research, with students and faculty researching areas including neuroscience, immunology, and stem cell biology.
Penn's veterinary offerings include a veterinariae medicinae doctoris (VMD) program, a master of science in animal welfare and behavior, and a graduate certificate in animal welfare and behavior. The school also hosts several dual-degree programs that combine the VMD with complementary graduate programs in areas including business, public health, social work, and environmental studies.
Along with its main campus in Philadelphia, Penn operates New Bolton Center, a 700-acre rural campus in Kennett Square. The New Bolton Center campus hosts a large animal hospital and several research centers.
Based in Ithaca, New York, Cornell is an Ivy League college that contains one of the nation's top veterinary schools. The College of Veterinary Medicine encompasses five academic departments: biomedical sciences, clinical sciences, microbiology and immunology, molecular medicine, and population medicine and diagnostic sciences. The college also hosts seven teaching hospitals and four research centers.
Cornell offers veterinary programs at the master's and doctoral level. Master's candidates can pursue a master of public health or a master of professional studies in parasitology. At the doctoral level, candidates can pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical and biological sciences or a doctor of veterinary medicine.
Candidates can complete a variety of internships and residencies. Internships typically last one year, while residencies last 2-3 years. An internship is usually a prerequisite for a residency.
Purdue University-Main CampusLocation
West Lafayette, IN
One of Indiana's top-ranked public colleges, Purdue serves more than 45,000 students annually. The school's College of Veterinary Medicine ranks among the best in the country, encompassing three academic departments: comparative pathobiology, basic medical sciences, and veterinary clinical sciences.
Purdue hosts veterinary programs at all academic levels. At the undergraduate level, students can pursue associate and bachelor's degrees in veterinary nursing (also commonly known as veterinary technician). At the graduate level, candidates can pursue clinical specialties such as anesthesiology, animal behavior, comparative oncology, and equine sports medicine. Purdue also offers a traditional doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) program.
DVM graduates can pursue opportunities in various clinical areas, such as cardiology, comparative ophthalmology, emergency and critical care, and small animal surgery.
A private research college based in Medford, Massachusetts, Tufts serves more than 11,000 students annually. The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is New England's only veterinary school. The school encompasses four academic departments: biomedical sciences, clinical sciences, environmental and population health, and infectious diseases and global health.
Tufts offers both master's and doctoral veterinary programs , including the traditional doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM). At the master's level, candidates can pursue programs in animals and public policy, conservation medicine, and infectious diseases and global health. The school also offers a doctoral program in biomedical sciences.
The Tufts campus houses the Cummings School Farm, a 200-acre facility for farming, teaching, and research. The farm raises a variety of animals and figures into many core and elective courses for the DVM and veterinary technician programs.
University of Wisconsin-MadisonLocation
Wisconsin's largest and oldest college, UW serves more than 45,000 students annually. UW's School of Veterinary Medicine emphasizes veterinary medical education, clinical practice, research, and service, maintaining a reputation for top veterinary programs . The school comprises six academic departments, including comparative biosciences, medical sciences, surgical sciences, and food animal production medicine.
UW offers a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) program along with several dual-degree options. Candidates can combine the DVM with relevant master's programs in areas including biomedical sciences, public health, and global health. The school also hosts a combination DVM/Ph.D. that encompasses both research and clinical practice.
UW does not offer veterinary programs at the undergraduate level, but exceptionally gifted first-year students can enroll in the Food Animal Veterinary Medical Scholars program, which provides mentorship and academic opportunities. These students can gain conditional acceptance to the DVM program after three years of undergraduate study.
University of GeorgiaLocation
A major public college based in Athens, UGA hosts Georgia's only veterinary school. The College of Veterinary Medicine has explored animal and human health issues for more than 75 years, maintaining a reputation for topnotch clinical care, education, and research. The college is home to seven academic departments, including infectious diseases, large animal medicine, physiology and pharmacology, and small animal medicine and surgery.
UGA hosts veterinary programs at the master's and doctoral level, with several dual-degree options also available. At the master's level, the school offers programs in avian medicine, avian health and medicine, and food animal medicine.
UGA offers doctoral programs in integrative physiology and pharmacology and infectious diseases in addition to the traditional doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM). Candidates can also pursue dual-degree programs, such as a DVM/Ph.D., a DVM/master of public health, or a master of science/Ph.D. in biomedical sciences.
North Carolina State University at RaleighLocation
Home to more than 34,000 students, NCSU is the largest college in the Carolinas. The school's College of Veterinary Medicine ranks among the best in the country. Occupying a 250-acre campus, the college serves as a center of clinical veterinary practice, seeing around 35,000 cases each year. The college encompasses three academic departments: clinical sciences, population health and pathology, and molecular biomedical sciences.
NCSU offers two academic veterinary programs : a traditional doctor of veterinary medicine and a combination master of science/Ph.D. in comparative biomedical sciences. The biomedical sciences program enables candidates to specialize in many areas of study, including cell biology, immunology, infectious diseases, and neuroscience.
As a top-tier veterinary college, NCSU offers a robust selection of internship and residency opportunities. Candidates can often pursue these experiences as part of their master's or Ph.D. program.
University of FloridaLocation
Florida's only veterinary school, UF's College of Veterinary Medicine ranks among the best in the country. The college emphasizes human, animal, and environmental health through five academic departments: small animal clinical sciences; large animal clinical sciences; infectious diseases and immunology; physiological sciences; and comparative, diagnostic, and population medicine.
UF offers veterinary programs exclusively at the graduate level. At the master's level, the school hosts a master of science in veterinary medical science with several concentrations, including shelter medicine, veterinary forensic science, and toxicology. At the doctoral level, candidates can pursue a traditional research-based biomedical sciences Ph.D. or a doctor of veterinary medicine program.
As a well-funded state college, UF offers many opportunities for clinical and basic science research. Some of the school's major research topics include cardiovascular and respiratory physiology, integrative medicine, pain and anesthesia, and wildlife diseases.
University of Maryland-College ParkLocation
College Park, MD
The flagship campus of the University of Maryland system, UMD serves more than 40,000 students each year. The school's Department of Veterinary Medicine operates in partnership with Virginia Tech, serving as a leading center of research and education. UMD is home to major research initiatives in areas including bacteriology, epidemiology, immunology, parasitology, and virology.
UMD offers multiple veterinary programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level. Undergraduates can pursue a bachelor of science in animal and avian science, while graduate students can pursue either a master of science or Ph.D. in comparative biomedical sciences. UMD also hosts a traditional doctor of veterinary medicine program.
UMD is home to the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, which emphasizes the role of veterinarians outside of private practice. The center maintains facilities on both the UMD and Virginia Tech campuses, training veterinary students for careers in the public and corporate sectors.
University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesLocation
One of the Midwest's top public colleges, UMN serves more than 52,000 students annually. UMN's College of Veterinary Medicine is Minnesota's only veterinary school. The college maintains an international reputation for the quality of its education and research. The veterinary college comprises three academic departments: veterinary and biomedical sciences, veterinary clinical sciences, and veterinary population medicine.
UMN offers a traditional doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) program and master's and Ph.D. programs in both veterinary medicine and comparative and molecular biosciences. UMN also hosts dual-degree programs, including DVM/Ph.D., DVM/master of science, and DVM/master of public health programs.
Research serves as an integral component of all of UMN's veterinary programs. The college is home to research clusters focused on diverse subjects including chronic disease biology, ecosystem health, and food safety and security.
Michigan State UniversityLocation
East Lansing, MI
A major public college based in East Lansing, MSU ranks among the nation's largest colleges, serving more than 49,000 students annually. The MSU College of Veterinary Medicine is home to six academic departments, including molecular genetics, pharmacology and toxicology, pathobiology and diagnostic investigation, large animal sciences, and small animal sciences.
MSU offers veterinary programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level. At the undergraduate level, candidates can choose from a bachelor of science in veterinary nursing, a certificate of completion in veterinary nursing, and a pre-veterinary nursing pathway.
Along with a traditional doctor of veterinary medicine program, the school offers master's and Ph.D. options in areas such as comparative medicine and integrative biology, microbiology and molecular genetics, and environmental and integrative toxicological sciences.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityLocation
One of Virginia's largest public colleges, Virginia Tech serves more than 36,000 students annually. The school operates its College of Veterinary Medicine in conjunction with the University of Maryland (located about 4.5 hours northeast in College Park). Virginia Tech enrolls around 700 veterinary students annually, and its hospitals treat more than 79,000 animals each year.
Virginia Tech's veterinary school comprises four academic departments: biomedical science and pathobiology, population health sciences, small animal clinical sciences, and large animal clinical sciences. Students can pursue a variety of veterinary programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Program offerings include a doctor of veterinary medicine, a master's/Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, and a master of public health program.
Washington State UniversityLocation
Home to more than 20,000 students, WSU ranks among the largest colleges in Washington State. Based in Pullman, the school hosts one of the state's top-rated veterinary schools. The College of Veterinary Medicine encompasses five academic departments, including global animal health, molecular biosciences, and veterinary clinical sciences. WSU is also home to the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, one of the Pacific Northwest's major vet testing labs.
WSU hosts several veterinary programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level. Undergraduates can pursue majors including biochemistry, genetics and cell biology, microbiology, and neuroscience. Candidates can also pursue a top-ranked doctor of veterinary medicine program. WSU emphasizes international veterinary education, and candidates can complete up to two elective courses in this field.
A private college affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Otterbein enrolls students of all religious backgrounds, offering a liberal arts education from its campus in Westerville, Ohio. The school's Department of Equine Science provides a unique educational experience that focuses on the study of horses. Otterbein's academic model centers on experiential learning and individualized study.
Unlike most veterinary schools, Otterbeing offers veterinary programs exclusively at the undergraduate level. Candidates can choose from three bachelor's programs, including a bachelor of science in equine veterinary technology, a bachelor of science in equine pre-veterinary/pre-graduate studies, and a bachelor of arts in equine business management. Candidates can also pursue undergraduate minors in equine business and equine-assisted activities and therapy.
The equine veterinary technology program prepares candidates for careers as registered veterinary technicians with an emphasis on treating horses. The pre-veterinary program enrolls candidates interested in pursuing a doctor of veterinary medicine, serving those interested in working with horses and other animal species.
University of KentuckyLocation
Located in Lexington, UK ranks among Kentucky's largest public colleges, enrolling more than 30,000 students each year. As part of UK's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, the Department of Veterinary Science emphasizes animal agriculture, with a focus on teaching, research, discovery, and service. The department is home to three distinct units: the Gluck Equine Research Center, the Genetic Testing at Gluck laboratory, and the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
UK offers veterinary programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. The Department of Veterinary Science does not offer bachelor's degrees, but faculty often mentor students enrolled in related undergraduate programs, such as animal science, agricultural and medical biotechnology, and equine science and management. Undergraduates of all majors can also participate in a pre-veterinary program that prepares them for graduate study in veterinary science and medicine.
At the graduate level, UK offers master's and doctoral programs in veterinary science. Candidates can choose from nine specializations, including pathology, virology, genetics, and immunology.
University of IdahoLocation
One of Idaho's major public colleges, U of I serves more than 10,000 students annually. The school's Department of Animal, Veterinary, and Food Science emphasizes studies in animal agriculture and food science. The department integrates research, teaching, and hands-on learning.
U of I offers veterinary programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level. Undergraduates can choose from a variety of majors, including dairy foods management, pre-veterinary, fermentation science, and food science. At the master's level, the school hosts programs in animal science and food science, while doctoral candidates can pursue Ph.D. programs in animal physiology and food science.
U of I's status as a major center of research offers varied opportunities for students at all levels. Candidates can participate in a variety of research programs in areas such as beef cattle production, dairy production, milk and meat quality, and sheep production.
Ohio State University-Main CampusLocation
Home to more than 61,000 students, OSU ranks among the nation's largest colleges. The OSU College of Veterinary Medicine was established 1885 and has graduated more than 9,100 veterinarians since its founding. The college produces around 85% of all practicing veterinarians in Ohio and serves more than 72,000 animal patients annually. The veterinary school hosts three academic departments: veterinary biosciences, veterinary clinical sciences, and veterinary preventive medicine.
OSU offers veterinary programs at the master's and doctoral level. Along with the traditional doctor of veterinary medicine, candidates can pursue master's and Ph.D. programs in comparative biomedical sciences and a master's in veterinary public health program.
Graduate students can pursue a small animal medicine and surgery internship along with several residencies in areas including clinical pathology and lab animal medicine.
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignLocation
A major public college located about 140 miles south of Chicago, U of I enrolls more than 50,000 students annually. The school's College of Veterinary Medicine focuses on the intersection of human health, agriculture, and the environment, exploring biomedical applications to improve animal and human health outcomes. The college comprises three departments: comparative biosciences, pathobiology, and veterinary clinical medicine.
U of I hosts a highly respected four-year doctor of veterinary medicine program . The veterinary school also offers master's and doctoral programs through each of its three academic departments.
Veterinary candidates can pursue internships and residencies in several areas of study, such as anatomic pathology, ophthalmology, and small animal medicine. The school is also home to three service units offering clinical care and experiential learning opportunities for students: the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and the Medical District Veterinary Clinic (based in Chicago).
University of California-DavisLocation
One of the largest members of the University of California system, UC Davis enrolls more than 39,000 students annually from its Northern California campus. The college hosts some of California's top veterinary programs through its School of Veterinary Medicine. The school is home to six academic departments, including medicine and epidemiology, population health and reproduction, and surgical and radiological sciences.
UC Davis' veterinary school offers programs exclusively at the graduate level. Along with a prestigious doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) program, the school hosts several master's and Ph.D. programs in areas including comparative pathology, immunology, epidemiology, and preventive vet medicine. UC Davis also hosts a dual-degree DVM/Ph.D. program, which trains students to serve as both clinical practitioners and expert researchers.
University of Nebraska-LincolnLocation
One of Nebraska's major public colleges, UNL enrolls more than 25,000 students annually. The UNL School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science ranks as the state's leading institution for veterinary education and research. The school offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in several areas of veterinary study.
UNL undergraduates can choose from bachelor's degrees in veterinary science and veterinary technology . The school also offers a non-degree major in pre-veterinary medicine, which prepares candidates to enter any graduate veterinary school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
At the graduate level, UNL offers a master's degree in veterinary sciences, a Ph.D. in integrative biomedical science, and a traditional doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) for practicing veterinarians. DVM candidates complete their first two years of courses at UNL before transferring to Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine to complete the remainder of the degree.
The University of Tennessee-KnoxvilleLocation
The flagship institution of the University of Tennessee system, UT Knoxville serves more than 30,000 students annually. The UT College of Veterinary Medicine works to advance human, animal, and environmental health, serving the livestock industry, pet owners, and the public health community at large. The college hosts three academic departments: biomedical and diagnostic sciences, large animal clinical sciences, and small animal clinical sciences.
UT Knoxville offers degrees and certificates primarily at the graduate level. Candidates can pursue a traditional doctor of veterinary medicine or a master of science or Ph.D. in comparative and experimental medicine. Students can also pursue certificates in canine rehab, equine rehab, and graduate veterinary social work.
Texas A & M University-College StationLocation
College Station, TX
The flagship campus of the A&M system, Texas A&M enrolls more than 71,000 students annually, ranking the school among the largest in the country. Based in College Station, the college hosts some of Texas' top veterinary programs. The College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences comprises five academic departments: large animal clinical sciences, small animal clinical sciences, veterinary integrative sciences, veterinary pathobiology, and veterinary physiology and pharmacology.
Texas A&M offers veterinary degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level, including bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs. Undergraduates can pursue a bachelor's in biomedical science. Graduate students can pursue master of science programs in epidemiology and public health, toxicology, and biomedical sciences. The school also offers a doctor of veterinary medicine program and several Ph.D. programs.
University of Missouri-ColumbiaLocation
Missouri's largest public college, Mizzou serves around 30,00 students annually. The College of Veterinary Medicine ranks among the Midwest's top veterinary schools, providing community health services to both the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas and surrounding regions. Mizzou holds a national reputation as a center of research and innovation.
Veterinary students can enroll in veterinary programs at all academic levels. At the undergraduate level, Mizzou offers bachelor's degrees in animal sciences and microbiology. Master's candidates can select from a variety of programs, with options including pathobiology, medicine and surgery, public health, and biomedical sciences. Mizzou also offers a doctor of veterinary medicine program that includes a dual-degree option, combining the doctoral program with a master's in public health.
Siena Heights UniversityLocation
A private Catholic college founded by the Adrian Dominican Sisters, SHU serves around 2,300 students annually. SHU offers a non-degree pre-veterinary program that prepares students to enroll in graduate veterinary programs after earning their bachelor's degree. The program is not an academic major, but it offers an undergraduate designation and advising services that prepare candidates for graduate veterinary study.
The pre-veterinary program requires all participants to declare an undergraduate major. Given the academic prerequisites for most graduate veterinary programs, students typically major in biology. Regardless of their undergraduate major, SHU recommends that pre-veterinary students connect with an academic advisor as quickly as possible to determine an effective course of study. Pre-veterinary graduates report a 95% acceptance rate into professional veterinary programs.
Oklahoma State University-Main CampusLocation
The flagship campus of the Oklahoma State University system, OSU enrolls more than 24,000 students annually. The OSU College of Veterinary Medicine ranks among the nation's top veterinary schools. Recent graduates report a 100% pass rate on the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination.
OSU offers veterinary programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Undergraduates can enroll in an associate of applied science in veterinary technology, preparing to serve as vet techs in clinical settings. At the graduate level, the school offers a comparative biomedical science program with both master's and Ph.D. options. Graduate candidates can also enroll in a traditional doctor of veterinary medicine program.
As a major public research college, OSU offers ample opportunities for graduate student research. Some of the school's major areas of veterinary research include lung diseases, toxicology, infectious diseases, and exercise physiology.