Best Veterinary Schools and Programs 2021

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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.

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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.

Top 10 Best Veterinary Schools and Programs 2021

Rank School Location
1 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
2 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
3 Purdue University-Main Campus West Lafayette, IN
4 Tufts University Medford, MA
5 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
6 University of Georgia Athens, GA
7 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC
8 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
9 University of Maryland-College Park College Park, MD
10 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN

FAQ


  • 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 Technicians

    Commonly 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 Caretakers

    These 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.


  • Veterinarians

    Veterinarians 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%
Veterinarians $95,460 16%

Source: BLS

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.

Veterinarian Licensing

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
All veterinary programs cover animal anatomy, with most dividing the subject into multiple courses. Students typically complete an introductory anatomy course, which often focuses on gross anatomy and neuroanatomy of dogs and cats. Learners often perform dissections and prosections, and they may examine slides, models, and living animals.
Small Animal Physical Examination Skills
Veterinarians must understand how to examine various types of animals, and many programs focus on both large and small animals. This course introduces key skills for examining small animals, such as cats and dogs. Course topics may include laboratory sample collection, patient management, and medication administration.
Companion Animal Behavior
Veterinary programs examine animal behavior in various contexts, including the behavior of companion animals. This course highlights humane handling practices, prevention of behavior problems, and animal behavior as a health indicator. Degree-seekers may also explore the ethical dimensions of human-animal interactions.
Veterinary Ethics
Veterinarians frequently confront ethical issues while treating animals, conducting research, and interacting with clients. This course highlights the ethical dimensions of biomedical science, veterinary medicine, and animal welfare. Students may explore legal and institutional positions, along with ethical problems they observe in veterinary case studies.
Clinical and Professional Communication
In addition to treating animals, veterinarians must also communicate effectively with clients. Professionals need strong communication skills to maintain high standards of care. Enrollees develop the verbal and nonverbal skills necessary to effectively interact with clients in a variety of situations.

Scholarships for Veterinary Students

Even learners at the most affordable veterinary schools may need assistance funding their studies. Scholarships can help students minimize debt. Veterinary students can apply for general scholarships and awards reserved for degree-seekers with specific backgrounds or career goals. The following list highlights five popular scholarships for veterinary students.

American Veterinary Medical Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: AVMF offers scholarships for veterinary students at all levels. Depending on the scholarship, requirements may include financial need, academic excellence, and leadership potential.
Amount: Varies

A Voice for Animals Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Humane Education Network offers this scholarship to high school students planning to pursue a postsecondary veterinary medicine program. Applicants must submit a video, photograph, or essay on an assigned topic related to animal welfare.
Amount: Varies

Race for Education Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The Race for Education offers several scholarships for college students. Applicants must be enrolled or planning to enroll in a veterinary or pre-veterinary program and must focus on equine science.
Amount: $500-$5,000

American Association of Bovine Practitioners Amstutz Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The AABP offers this scholarship to college students enrolled in AVMA-accredited veterinary schools. Applicants must be AABP members.
Amount: $7,500

Embrace Vet Tech Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Embrace Pet Insurance offers this scholarship to students enrolled in AVMA-accredited veterinary technician programs. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay detailing their professional goals.
Amount: $1,000

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.

  1. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    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.

  2. Cornell University
    Location

    Ithaca, NY

    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.

  3. Purdue University-Main Campus
    Location

    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.

  4. Tufts University
    Location

    Medford, MA

    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.

  5. University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Location

    Madison, WI

    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.

  6. University of Georgia
    Location

    Athens, GA

    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.

  7. North Carolina State University at Raleigh
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    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.

  8. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    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.

  9. University of Maryland-College Park
    Location

    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.

  10. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
    Location

    Minneapolis, MN

    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.

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