Experience essential to becoming a vet

There are many questions asked in the consulting room, generally relating to the animal, but not always. One such question is: ‘My [insert relative] wants to be a vet, have you got any advice?’

It’s a profession many consider, but it requires serious thought and research. A-level choices have to be tailored and GSCEs before that, with plenty of extracurricular activities needed on the university application too.

I was fortunate to get my first placement at a vets when I was 14. TV programmes and books give a very idealised view of a vet’s life. The days are long and definitely lacking in glamour; even bringing your own pet to the vets doesn’t give much of an insight into the rest of the vet’s day. An early placement is essential to help make that decision before you tailor your academic choices to focus on the wrong career.

Once you have decided it’s the vocation for you, pick the right subjects. There are eight universities currently offering a veterinary degree, and they all require at least two science subjects at A-level at grade A* or A.

The next thing is to focus on work experience – at least ten weeks made up of veterinary practices and volunteering at kennels, stables and farms, especially during lambing and dairy. The more you have, the stronger your application will be and the better prepared for interviews.

You also need a variety of extracurricular activities, ideally showing teamwork, commitment and leadership.

Then there is the application process. Pick the universities by their websites, open days and speaking to vets and students. Everyone will tell you theirs was the best, which shows you will be happy wherever you go. Some universities also require you to sit an admissions test (BMAT).

The next stage is an interview, which usually includes questions about yourself, academic ones and veterinary-based, such as interesting cases you have seen or your opinion on a ‘hot topic’ in the veterinary news.

After that, it’s a case of waiting for offers. The course is highly competitive so it’s not unusual to only get one or two offers, or none. Most universities will accept a second application the following year.

It’s a long and tough five (or six) year course and the job is anything but easy, but we’ve all chosen it for a reason and it’s those moments which make it worthwhile.

If you still think this job is for you, I wish you all the best and look forward to welcoming you to the profession.

By Amy Chapman