Equine Veterinarian: Career Summary, Job Outlook and Education Requirements

Equine veterinarians need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, and they may complete a postgraduate internship in equine care. Read on to find out more about training programs, licensing, job duties and employment outlook. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Education Do I Need to Become an Equine Veterinarian?

Some professional veterinary programs will admit students that do not have bachelor's degrees, but if you have not earned a bachelor's degree, you may struggle to be admitted. All programs require students to complete at least two to three years of pre-veterinary coursework from an undergraduate program. Undergrad classes should include animal and general biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, genetics and physics.

To become an equine veterinarian, you must obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from a college or university accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). A DVM program takes four years to complete. Generally, the first three years of the program involve coursework useful for all types of veterinary practice, such as anatomy, histology, veterinary neurobiology and reproductive physiology. The fourth year is dedicated to clinical rotations through several areas of veterinary care like large animal medicine, surgery, critical care and ambulatory care.

Many graduates of a DVM program opt to pursue a 1-year internship to gain further hands-on experience before entering practice. Organizations like the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians can connect you with an internship under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

After completion of your internship, you can specialize further by applying to a residency program for a subspecialty like sports medicine, radiology, theriogenology, large animal surgery or equine internal medicine. A residency program lasts 3-5 years and will prepare you to take a certification exam in your subspecialty.

What Licensing or Certification Do I Need?

Following graduation from a DVM program, you must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, which is provided by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. You're also required to obtain a license from the state in which you intend to practice. After you become a practicing veterinarian, you can become board certified in equine practice through the AMVA without a residency.

What Would My Job Duties Include?

As an equine veterinarian, you might provide assistance with reproduction and birthing, as well as medical care, including vaccinations, wound dressing, surgeries and procedures to repair mild bone breaks. You could care for all types of equines, like farm, ranch, race, performance or reproductive horses.

Equine veterinarians often travel to farms or ranches to perform their duties. You might also consult with ranchers and farmers regarding the feeding, housing and breeding of horses. You could also opt to work in a veterinary teaching hospital, where you would research new methods used to prevent and treat equine illnesses.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for all veterinarians was expected to increase at a rate much faster than average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). From 2008-2018, employment for all veterinarians was expected to grow by 33%. Around six percent of veterinarians in private practice worked solely with horses.

The need for vets who work with farm animals, like equine veterinarians, was expected to grow more slowly overall. However, you might find more job opportunities in rural settings for this specialty since the wages were lower in those environments.

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