In the United States, the path to a degree in veterinary medicine begins for some in high school. Many students start making the decisions that lead them to vet school when they are in high school and begin taking higher level courses like chemistry and physics. This usually prepares them well for the next step, which is at least three years of an undergraduate education in some variety of science.
Most students who are pursuing veterinary medicine as a long-term goal choose animal science as an undergraduate major. Occasionally students will go the route of biology or even chemistry as there is a serious amount of chemistry that is required for any of our nation’s veterinary schools. Of course, as long as the pre-requisite courses are taken, it doesn’t really matter what the undergraduate major is. After completing at least three years of undergraduate education, one can apply to vet school. Vet school in the United States is four years of work at the end of which you are awarded a DVM: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
Some other countries have a nearly identical manner of obtaining this degree, such as Canada and a number of Middle Eastern countries (e.g. Iran). Yet other countries involve a rather enhanced version of a bachelor’s degree (five or six years instead of the more traditional four). These degrees, awarded in countries like Britain, are bachelor’s degrees in veterinary science (BVSc). There are countries that do not recognize other countries’ degrees, however, because not all education systems are considered to be equivalent. For example, although students from Ethiopia can obtain a DVM, many western countries do not recognize it as a degree equivalent to their own veterinary medicine degrees. This doesn’t mean that people with veterinary degrees cannot practice in their own countries, it just means that more education would be required of them in order to practice their trade in certain other countries.
Within the United States, an exam must be passed in order to legally practice veterinary medicine, even after having been conferred a DVM. The same is true of other countries around the world although some countries consider a degree from particular schools to be good enough to waive that particular requirement. In the United States, veterinarians of foreign origin must pass a special certification exam which is given by a board known as the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates.
Getting into vet school is difficult just about anywhere you want to go to school. The standards are high because it is a medical field and even though many people consider animals to be lesser beings than humans, there is much more variety in body types and internal workings among animals as compared to humans. The cost is somewhat indicative of the national standard for medical school in general, although it is sometimes more expensive because many countries do not place as high a priority on animals as they do on humans, regardless of whether the animals are companion animals or food animals.
The bottom line is that while most countries give out some form of veterinary degree not all degrees cover the same information and the basis for overall education in the country tends to set the standard for how well-respected a vet degree from that country will be. When in doubt, it never hurts to do more and learn more.