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The Path to Becoming a Veterinarian in California

A career as a veterinarian is one of the most rewarding careers you can choose, but it also requires a lot of hard work and preparation. If you’re considering becoming a veterinarian in California, here are some things to know before you start your journey!

What is a Veterinarian

A veterinarian is someone who practices veterinary medicine on animals. Often times when people think of a veterinarian, they picture someone working in a traditional veterinary hospital setting. However, there are many different aspects of the field that you can specialize in and work in!

Veterinary medicine is broken into three main categories:

Private practice - This includes any place that offers services directly to pets or pet owners. There are many different types of practices that fall into this category including traditional veterinary hospitals, emergency clinics, spay/neuter clinics, mobile clinics, the ASPCA, etc.

Academic - This includes teaching or research positions in an educational setting tat is supervised by a college or university. Veterinary school faculty are included in this category.

Government/Public health - This includes any government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that work to maintain public health solely.

The Education and Training Required to Become a Veterinarian in California

There are many steps to becoming a veterinarian in California. If you're interested, I recommend starting with reading the Animal Welfare Division's Guide for California Admissions. This guide will outline the coursework you'll need for your education, certification exams you'll have to take, and other prerequisites.

After obtaining your degree, the next step is to take the veterinary licensing exam in California. The exam consists of two parts: One hundred multiple choice questions that are taken on the computer and one essay question that's taken over three hours. You must also submit an application for licensure after passing your exam.

The Animal Welfare Division requires applicants who do not have a DVM degree to complete 18 months of post-doctoral internship experience before they can be licensed.

The Animal Welfare Division does not recognize any of the following:

  • American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) AAHA-accredited internships or residencies  (These are accredited by a third party).

  • The Options for Training in California (OTC) program, which is offered through UC Davis and requires you to take courses at the school in order to be eligible.

  • The American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) or AVMA-accredited schools.

After you're licensed, you must also contact your county board for licensure verification before you can work in California. This is required every time you move to a new county in the state.

How Much do Vets Make in California

There are a lot of factors that determine how much a veterinarian makes in California. For starters, vets make more where there is a need. In areas where there is a shortage of veterinarians, vets can typically charge higher rates.

Competition for veterinary practices also plays a big role in salaries. It's also important to know how much a vet provides care to animals and services. For instance, vets who perform high-risk surgery may have a higher salary than those who don't provide these types of services.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinarians in California can make anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 per year. The average salary for a veterinarian in California was $147,080 as of May 2011.


If you're interested in being a vet but don't know where to start, take some time out of your day today to read through this article on what it takes to become one! We've covered all the steps from getting started with education requirements up until licensure verification - you won't want to miss any step along the way!


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