• Question: what qualifications do you have to have to be an equine vet?

    Asked by kaylab28 on 10 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 10 Jun 2019:


      Thanks for the question.

      As it stands in the UK currently, you would need to train as a general vet first (obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medicine or Veterinary Science); this degree is 5 years at most vet schools (and 6 years at Cambridge where there is compulsory intercalated year to focus on one of the basic sciences e.g. physiology or zoology). It is also possible to intercalate at other vet schools if you want to explore something further (and there is usually the option to do a research project so you could potentially do one related to equine science if that interests you most).

      Getting into vet school remains very competitive, but the key A-levels requirements are similar across the board (i.e. top grades in biology, chemistry and either maths or physics (or both)). That said, if you don’t get your predicted A-level grades, it is still possible to do another basic science degree first (e.g. I did physiology) and go to vet school as a post-grad. This route is more expensive but there are advantages – as a more mature student you might be better prepared for the vet course (how to get the most out of it, and well-versed in how to pass uni exams). I think it also helps to teach you how to be a scientist first (since there is little opportunity to think for yourself in a standard vet degree because you have to absorb so much information – the intercalation year can help make you think more critically though and is definitely worth doing if you have any interest in research later on).

      All vet courses (I think) still require you do do a special elective in the final year – which is your chance to train in a particular area more ‘in depth’ and perhaps do a small research project – I actually did an equine elective on respiratory airway disease and loved it! This does not make you a ‘specialist’ in that area (but it might help get you onto specialist training placements – see below).

      Once you have your general vet degree (which enables you to work with any species), you can then choose to specialise. Most vets do this by first doing a one year equine internship (intensive training just with horses), followed by a 3-year residency programme in either Equine Internal Medicine or Equine Surgery (whichever you prefer). Be warned that getting onto these placements is also competitive. If you want to go down more of an academic route than a clinical one, you could for instance, do a postgraduate MSc in equine science +/- a PhD on something equine-focused. These sorts of opportunities are expanding all the time.

      So all in all, it’s 5-6 years of general vet training followed by 3-4 years of specialty training and board exams to obtain ‘specialty’ status. The route is generally similar if you want to specialise in other areas of veterinary medicine e.g. anaesthesia or imaging (for both of these you get to work with all species). I chose neurology because it was the only specialty where you still get to see small and large animal species, and see both medical and surgical cases (and ultimately because I love the brain!)

      Hope that helps. Definitely consider getting as much work experience as you can before applying for vet school – and not just work with horses – variety is more attractive at the stage of applying to vet school. The other thing to bear in mind, is that whilst it’s great to have an idea of what kind of vet you might want to be, most vet students end up changing their minds several times during the course! Just follow what interests you most and enjoy!

    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 10 Jun 2019:


      Looks like nina, who is our resident veterinary science expert, has already given you a full answer on that one. Good luck x

    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 10 Jun 2019:


      I think the most common route is to get a Bachelor’s degree in something scientific such as Biology or even Mathematics. Or you can go into University to study Veterinary Sciences and start to specialize in equine veterinary science. If you want more information though, Nina has answered very comprehensively!!

    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 11 Jun 2019:


      Nina is definitely the expert on this one! 🙂 Vet courses sound amazing though – one of my oldest friends somehow managed to live in the US and the Caribbean whilst doing hers. She now lives and works in New York as a vet. No, I’m not jealous… 🙂

    • Photo: Shobhana Nagraj

      Shobhana Nagraj answered on 11 Jun 2019:


      I think Nina has answered this one! Good luck with your career! 🙂

    • Photo: David Wilson

      David Wilson answered on 11 Jun 2019:


      Great answer Nina 👍👍👍

    • Photo: Kate Timms

      Kate Timms answered on 11 Jun 2019:


      Yeo, Nina definitely has this covered! Good luck!

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 21 Jun 2019:


      Nina’s pretty much covered all the cases on this one!

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