Careers in Equine Health: What's the Best Vet School? How Do You Get Advice on Colleges?

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This is the time of year when students are thinking very hard about the next steps in their education. High school and college students who are hoping to find a rewarding career in veterinary medicine need to do a lot of research to pick between the programs (equine science or equine studies?) (is an associate's degree a good way to get started?) (pre-vet or bio major?) and, especially, to zero in on the vet school of their choice, if they want to pursue a DVM degree.

Choosing any career with animals does not begin with blindly signing up for a few courses at your local community college. You need a plan. Before taking any course at any school, a prospective student needs the help of a professional career adviser to avoid wasting time and money--and risking great disappointment when you apply for a job or further study.

With all the talk about careers in the horse industry, and all the schools that offer programs, there is very little talk about how to find a professional adviser who can sift through the available choices with a student to find the best investment of time and money. I hope that someone will leave a comment on this post and let us know that there is a national network of equine career advisers and how to access the services of its members.

More and more, vet school classes in the USA are divided between bright young straight-from-undergrad students who have a lock on study skills and back-to-school older students who are perhaps techs or from other fields who finally have the finances or the time or the motivation to finish their education.

The older students may be wiser about the real world out there and, if they have been working in the field, the reality of their chosen profession. Bu they also may have children at home, need to work while in school, or find that their study skills are a bit rusty compared to the ultra-sharp 22 year olds who are their lab partners.

It's great that the two types of students can learn from each other, and that vet school classes are so much more diverse than ever before.

US News and World Report kindly ranks graduate schools for every degree. I have yet to find a ranking of vet tech programs (I hope there is one; please post a link or resource!) but I know of several books that can be helpful.

A good place to start is with the book Horse Schools by Angelia Almos. It lists everything from farrier schools or masters' programs and contains all sorts of contact and "drill deeper" information.

Prospective students should watch for career days at colleges and universities and for programs like open houses at vet clinics and hospitals. When the top vets and techs have a day off from surgery and procedures, they can take the time to really talk to you, and that's exactly why those open days are held.

In case you are wondering, here's the 2007 ranking of vet schools by US News and World Report:

1. Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine
2. (tie) Colorado State University and the University of California-Davis
4. University of Pennsylvania
5. (tie) North Carolina State University, The Ohio State University, Texas A&M University-College Station and the University of Wisconsin-Madison
9. Michigan State University
10. University of Minnesota.

Before you panic that your chosen university or alma mater didn't make the list, please note that this ranking is for the entire vet school, covering all species. Schools have great disparity when it comes to equine services and the expertise connected to it. We all know that some schools are very strong in dairy and swine, or cats and dogs, and you only have to read the posts in this blog to know which ones are leading the way with research and surgical/treatment advances in equine veterinary medicine.

There is no such thing as a "bad" vet school, since all undergo very careful scrutiny in order to be accredited. If a school loses its accreditation or is on probation, prospective students should be aware of that, and a professional career adviser should know those facts.

A great resource for anyone considering applying to vet school is to study the information on the web site of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). Learn the lingo. Learn the names. Memorize the dates and deadlines.

Always aim for the best possible program you can afford, and look into financial aid, work-study and scholarship opportunities that may be available. You can live your dream, as long as you know the process and what to expect. Go for it!

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