Q&A: I’m Changing Careers! How Do I Get Experience & Fulfill Pre-Requisites?

Hi Sharon!

I too am strongly considering taking the plunge into the world of veterinary medicine after obtaining a bachelors degree in Sociology (of all majors) and a Masters degree in education. I am simply not satisfied with where my education has taken me, and do not see myself happily teaching history several years down the road. I had always had dreams of becoming a vet but confidence was a major issue at the time, and, like you, I strayed off that path.

Anyways…..I am 28 years old (ugh) and feel terribly old to be considering making this enormous, costly, and time consuming switch. As an individual with a sociology and education background, I feel overwhelmed by the prerequisite coursework. While math has not always been my strong suit, I am confident in my science abilities… Yet, I’m still unsure how to tackle these prerequisites while considering the fact that time is not on my side and I’d like to get them over with!

Do you have any advice or suggestions in terms of completing prerequisites? I believe you mentioned that you were accepted to UC Davis before actually completing all of yours.

Also , did you get a job in a vet clinic before having any experience, or did a volunteer stint turn into something more?

I understand that you will not likely get back to me, but I would appreciate any advice! It’s nice to know there are other people who have made the switch!

Best of Luck,


Date: 1/10/11


Hi SML —

First of all – you are not too old to make the switch to veterinary medicine. I just responded to an email from a woman in her 50s who is considering making the switch, so if you consider that I encouraged her to follow her heart and do what will make her happy in the long term, you can imagine what I am going to tell you! 😉

As for completing prerequisites – since you already have degrees, I would suggest you try to complete your pre-reqs either post-bac or at a local community college. That is what I did. All coursework that was not required to be from a 4-year college I took at a local community college for a minimal cost and the courses that were needed from a 4-year institution I took via distance education through Colorado State, University of New England, and UC Berkeley. When I applied to UC Davis I had 5 prerequisite science courses completed and when I was accepted I had 5 left to complete. It was a crazy spring/summer completing coursework, but you do what you have to, right?

As for getting experience. Most of my experience was at a local animal shelter where I had been volunteering for years before making the switch to veterinary medicine. I simply changed the type of volunteer work I was doing to focus on working with the clinic staff. That volunteer work led to a summer internship before my application was due, so I managed to squeeze in 500-600 hours in the 9-10 months between switching careers and applying to vet school. I also volunteered at the local zoo but not in a veterinary capacity. Overall, what you need is experience – hours matter but you also want to get a variety of experience, so don’t just volunteer at only cat clinics – try to get exposure to other species as well.

Thanks for reading the blog and thanks for writing! Let me know if you have any additional questions.

Life In Vet School & Tips On Getting In

2 thoughts on “Q&A: I’m Changing Careers! How Do I Get Experience & Fulfill Pre-Requisites?”

  1. Thanks for the Q&A!

    I’m in a very similar situation. I am a current physics undergrad, but I’ve realized I went to be a veterinarian. I just got a job as a general lackey at a local vet clinic, and I’m about to go through orientation for volunteering at an animal shelter and a children’s horse ranch. I’ll be taking my pre-reqs at a local community college since my undergrad school (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) doesn’t do life science courses.

    I’ve been looking at vet school admission statistics, and it seems like I’m going to need a higher GPA to get into. UC-Davis is my dream school, fyi :). I have a 3.1 in my physics/math classes, but I’ve got all A’s in the pre-reqs (so far). It seems that admitted students have higher GPAs, and there isn’t much I can do to change mine. Do you think admissions committees consider the degree of intensity of the courses when evaluating an applicant’s GPA?

    Any advice is really appreciated! I have 3.5 semesters left in undergrad, so I will be able to raise my GPA to some extent!

    1. Hi CL –

      First I will say that it is difficult to predict exactly how each application is judged by each admissions committee. Most admissions committees don’t seem to have a very rigid system in place to review applications where they simply throw out applicants with GPA’s lower than X. For the most part an entire application is considered. However, if a person’s cumulative GPA is under 2.0, I honestly would be surprised if they were considered once that number was noted. However a GPA under 3.5 or even 3.0 I wouldn’t say that about. I know I attended a top 5 liberal arts school and I would hope that my GPA there would be weighted a little more than my GPA at a community college. But there’s no guarantee (especially since the school I attended is so tiny that not everyone has even heard of it to know that it is highly ranked).

      To answer your question, though, I would say that the best way to have your grades considered with respect to intensity of coursework and all of the other things you had going on at the same time is to mention it in your application – specifically the explanation section (that I seem to be always talking about on here!). Explain your viewpoint and the admissions committee can take that into consideration. Other than that, I would consider you to be a unique applicant, so definitely emphasize your uniqueness in your application as schools are always looking to build diversity in their student body.

      Good luck with everything and let me know if you have any other questions!

      Life In Vet School & Tips On Getting In

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