Lifelong learning and professional development is a cornerstone of the work of our world-class veterinary schools. To keep pace with the rapidly changing veterinary profession, vets develop their skills continuously throughout their careers. This begins with a degree in veterinary medicine which sets students on the path to becoming a registered veterinary surgeon.
The veterinary medicine degree can be referred to in different ways, such as ‘veterinary science’ and ‘veterinary medicine and surgery’. Veterinary medicine degrees have different names, but they fit into five types.
Five years’ duration, except at Cambridge, where a six-year course incorporates the award of the equivalent of an intercalated degree after the first three years.
Designed for those who already have a biology-related degree. Successful applicants are permitted to begin in the second year of the standard degree, making the graduate accelerated degree four years long (or five years at Cambridge).
For applicants who have achieved highly in their qualifications but who have not taken the required science subjects. An additional year at the start of the degree provides the required tuition, making it six years in total. Not available at all veterinary schools.
For applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds. An additional year at the beginning brings these students to the level of others. It is six years in total. Not available at all veterinary schools.
These can vary between veterinary schools, but often they are for applicants taking a standard degree who wish to take a year out of the course to study an area of interest in depth, including a research project, leading to the award of an intercalated degree on graduation.
As a professional qualification, veterinary degrees prepare students to safeguard the health and welfare of animals, which means theory must be strongly allied with veterinary practice. For this reason, placements called extra-mural studies (EMS) are taken throughout the veterinary medicine degree to prepare students to work in a clinical environment. Students must complete a minimum of 38 weeks of EMS during their course, which should normally consist of 12 weeks pre-clinical and 26 weeks of clinical placements.
Following qualification, veterinary graduates starting work will complete the Professional Development Phase, or PDP. This provides a structure whereby new graduates, with the support of their employer and colleagues, can continue to develop their professional and clinical skills, reflect on their progress and plan their future professional development.
Throughout their careers, practising veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses will continually maintain, improve and develop their skills and knowledge to ensure that they remain professionally competent. This process, called Continuing Professional Development (CPD), is mandatory for all veterinary surgeons and nurses listed on the RCVS Register.
There are a variety of options in veterinary science for postgraduate study depending on the route that an applicant wishes to take. These can be broadly divided into three areas: research programmes; taught programmes; and clinical training scholarships. There may be variation in the duration and naming of the qualification themselves, as well as the final qualification obtained.
Following qualification, veterinary graduates can pursue a variety of rewarding careers in a number of different sectors, including, but not limited to, general practice, public health, private industry, policy development, teaching and academia. Find your career path with My Vet Future’s database of expert careers advice.