How To Become a Veterinarian in California

Veterinarians are trained medical professionals capable of taking care of animals, diagnosing diseases, prescribing medications, and keeping the public safe by encouraging healthy livestock practices that prevent infectious diseases.

While the field entails more education than most, being a veterinarian offers an incredible salary and the fulfillment that comes from saving the lives of animals and bringing joy to numerous pet owners every day.

For aspiring veterinarians in California, the resource below is a guide we created to help you get started by helping you become familiar with the critical steps and considerations to expect on the journey right from the start.

Steps To Become a Veterinarian in California

The following are the steps required to become a veterinarian in California:

Step 1: Start from High school and Choose the Right College

Preparation right from high school is essential for any aspiring veterinarian. In high school, they are to take prerequisite courses in animal science, laboratory science, English, and mathematics.

They must also maintain a high grade Point Average to help secure admission into respectable colleges. In college, the goal is to earn a Bachelor of Science degree focusing on courses such as physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, and anatomy.

Step 2: Enroll in Veterinary School

The competition for securing admission into veterinary schools is relatively high. There are numerous prospective veterinary students and only slightly more than 30 AVMA-approved vet schools.

Having a Bachelor of Science Degree helps, as does processing knowledge in the abovementioned prerequisite courses. In addition, candidates may also take business and communication courses in college and volunteer at veterinary clinics, shelters, and practices.

Most vet schools also have their forms of Graduate Record Exam. The higher your score in these exams, the higher your chances of securing admission.

Step 3: Mandatory Veterinary Licensing

Unlike the state license, all veterinarians in California must obtain a universal veterinary permit known as the North American Veterinary License. And they must do so before they graduate from veterinary school.

To obtain this license, veterinary students must pass a 360-question, computer-based, multiple-choice exam called the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE).

Step 4: Additional Considerations - Specialization, Residency & Professional Organizations

The above steps are undoubtedly the most important in any aspiring veterinarian’s journey to becoming a professional. Choosing a specialty field between small animals, large animals, zoo animals, equine, research, and mixed practice veterinarians is also advisable.

To specialize, veterinarians must undergo residency programs that may last between 3 to 4 years.

Joining a professional organization is also another optional step to consider.

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California State Requirements: Licensure & Certification

The state body responsible for licensing veterinarians in California is the California Veterinary Medical Board. Candidates are expected to have passed the NAVLE and graduated from an approved college of veterinary medicine.

They must then pay an application fee of $350 and an initial license fee of $500, after which they must sit for and pass a state board exam and a veterinary law exam.

California veterinary licenses are valid for two years, after which 36 hours of continuing education is required for renewal.

Candidates must also pass through a background check and verification of active practice check.

Top Veterinary Schools in California

The critical thing when choosing a veterinary school in California is to attend one accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Currently, there are two such colleges in the state:

1. University of California Davis

The University of California Davis has been ranked as the best veterinary medicine program in the country thanks to its team of excellent instructors and world-class teaching facilities.

The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at UC Davis lasts for 4 years and offers opportunities in various specializations.

2. Western University of Health Sciences

Another option to become a veterinarian in California is to study at the Western University of Health Sciences, home to another AVMA-accredited program offering a straightforward route to licensing and employment.

Explore nearby states for education:

California Veterinarian Salary & Job Outlook

As an aspiring veterinarian in California, you can look forward to earning an annual average salary of $131,708, which is 7% above the national average. Of course, you will only get to this figure once you reach the middle point in your career.

Starting you should start with the entry-level average salary of $86,524. But in the end, it is possible to scale as high as $200,488 annual average salary with more experience and other optimizable factors.

Speaking of optimizable factors, location is another vital point to remember. The highest paying cities for veterinarians in California include Victorville, with an annual average salary of $142,467; Elk Grove, with $142,322; Los Angeles, with $130,849; San Francisco, with $128,459, and Oakland, with $127,082.