How Much Will School Cost to Become a Veterinarian?

If you love animals (and their owners), you could be a purrfect candidate to study veterinary medicine. But just like at any other medical school, veterinary school costs can be high.  

Become a Veterinarian
In order to become a veterinarian, you’ll need to earn a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM). Many DVM programs do not require a bachelor’s degree, but all require a specified number of undergraduate credits (usually between 45 and 90) for entrance. Since admission to veterinary medical school is so competitive – only about one in three applicants was accepted in 2007 – most candidates do have a bachelor’s degree.

After you earn your DVM, you’ll need to obtain a license before you can practice veterinary medicine. Graduation from a veterinary school that has been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education is a prerequisite for licensure in most states. There are 28 AVMA-accredited veterinary schools in 26 states in the U.S. (two in California and in Alabama). Visit the American Association of Veterinary State Boards to learn about your state’s requirements for licensure

Veterinary School Costs
According to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), in 2006-2007, average annual veterinary school tuition was $15,676 for first-year state residents and $28,861 for first-year nonresidents (out-of-state and international students). If you live in one of the 24 states that doesn’t have an accredited veterinary school (e.g., Arizona, Connecticut, and New Jersey), you will have to pay nonresident veterinary school tuition and fees. However, some schools have established contracts with other states to offer a specified number of “resident” positions for admission. Find out about accredited veterinary schools in your state.

Of course, there’s more to consider when it comes to the cost of veterinary school. In 2006-2007, average annual school fees were $3,482 for residents and $4,452 for nonresidents. Average transportation costs were $1,487 for residents and $1,512 for nonresidents, and miscellaneous expenses averaged $1,306 for residents and $3,042 for nonresidents. Some veterinary school costs are the same for residents and nonresidents: room and board averages $8,964; books and equipment, $2,043; health insurance, $1,304; and personal expenses, $2,653.

As you can see, it’s critical to budget for expenses beyond veterinary school tuition – total annual expenses averaged $36,914 for residents and $52,831 for nonresidents. Total expenses for a four-year DVM program would therefore average $147,656 for residents and $211,324 for nonresidents.

Offsetting the Cost of Veterinary School
Fortunately, veterinary school scholarships are available to qualified students. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation, AAVMC, and other national organizations offer veterinary school scholarships based on criteria such as academic excellence and financial need. School and state-specific scholarships are also available, as are opportunities through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Plus, your salary will help you recover from the aftermath of veterinary school tuition in no time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average starting veterinarian salaries are between $40,000 and $65,000, depending on the type of practice. In 2008, median annual earnings of more established veterinarians were $79,050.

Veterinary school tuition may be pricey, but consider the payoff – an in-demand, well-paying career in creature care.