Q&A: Changing Careers – How To Complete Science Pre-Requesites

I recently discovered your blog and cannot describe how grateful I am to you for doing this! I am currently going through a very similar transition to yours (I’m a UC Berkeley Psychology graduate, working in the psych field for 2 years now and now thinking seriously about a switch into veterinary science), and so your blog is very relevant. My biggest question right now is how to get all my pre-requisites completed. I’ve taken no science classes at Cal so I’d be starting from scratch, and I’m looking for reasonable (both time-wise and financially) ways to complete my pre-requisites. The fact that different schools seem to have different requirements in terms of hours, units, and labs make this very confusing. Also a lot of schools seem to require that classes should be taken at a 4-year institution and NOT a community college, but you mentioned in your blog that you took your pre-requisites at community colleges and also distance-learning, which I’ve read that schools also do not like. However community colleges are far cheaper than taking Open University classes, and finances are fairly important to me, especially when I’m trying to save money for vet-school! How did you manage to complete all your classes in the time that you did? Did you take classes full-time or did you work on top of that too? I know people who have enrolled in post-bacc programs to take their pre-requisites – are there ways around this without enrolling in a post-bacc?

Thank you so much, I really appreciate this!


Though I also heard that vet schools prefer coursework to be completed at a 4-year institution, I know many people who did some or all of their pre-requisite coursework at a community college. The most important thing for you to do before starting classes is contact the schools you are really interested in and figure out what their requirements are and which courses must be taken at a 4-year college. I know that Davis has certain classes that were required from a 4-year school, so I completed those via distance learning through UC Berkeley, University of Colorado, and University of New England. None of the schools I applied to had an issue with this, and clearly I was accepted to 2 out of the 3 schools I applied to, so it wasn’t just a fluke that I got in.

As far as timeline, I definitely already had most if not all of my non-science classes completed, so I just focused on the science classes. I was a full-time student for 1.5 years including winter breaks and summers, so I completed 4 terms per year as the community college I attended had an intensive winter session during what would be everyone else’s winter break. I also was volunteering as many free hours of my time at an animal shelter and zoo, but did not work for the most part as I had (fortunately) saved up enough from my post-college job to live off for that period of time. I did, however, work full-time during a summer at the animal shelter to give me some extra money and boost my experience hours before applying. When I applied I only had 5 science courses completed and barely 500 hours of vet experience to my name. It was definitely a long  shot, but I made sure to follow up with the schools about my progress in coursework and experience so they could see that I would, in fact, finish in time to start vet school in the Fall of 2009.

Though I don’t know much about enrolling officially as a post-bac (as that clearly wasn’t going to work for me) I can say I know of some students who enrolled at schools saying they were pursuing a second bachelor’s and that gave them priority for enrollment in classes that may have otherwise been too competitive to get in to. I will say that I experienced that competitiveness first hand as one course that was full could have prevented me from finishing in time. Fortunately I was able to speak to the professor and explain my situation and he let me into the class.

Overall, I can say that, like you, finances were important to me as I was living off of savings alone and didn’t really have money to throw away. Community college courses were the only financially feasible option for me as they were $20 per unit. That allowed for me to pay for more costly distance learning classes, which were around $1,000 per class. I explained my choices in the explanation section of VMCAS hoping that schools would not frown upon my community college courses. Fortunately I got straight A’s in all my post-bac classes (both distance and community college classes) which combined with my solid GPA from a top 5 liberal arts college probably alleviated any doubts they may have had about my ability to handle vet school.

I hope that helps answer your questions. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions.

Good luck!

-Sharon Ostermann
Life In Vet School & Tips On Getting In