We question the commonly held belief that it is harder to get into veterinary school than medical school

The commonly held belief that it is harder to get into vet school than med school (or, conversely, it is easier to get into med school than vet school) is, in our opinion, likely untrue.

Question: Where does this notion come from anyway? Our guess is that it is the mantra (er…excuse) repeated by vet school applicants who get rejected from vet school. We do not know of a single human doctor (MD) who wanted to go to vet school but could not get in and decided to go to medical school instead. Do you?  Perhaps it is just a statistical analysis given that there are only 28 veterinary colleges in the USA. Those statistics may dictate that there is a high percentage of applicants to slots,  however, that analysis does not support the conclusion that rejected applicants could get into medical school. All they say is that there are more applicants when compared to open positions.

One must ask whether these applicants (regardless of how many there are) were even competitive in the first place?  Just because someone applies to vet school and gets rejected does not mean they ever had a chance at actually getting in. In my experience with pre-vet students, friends, and family, if an applicant has excellent grades, an outgoing personality, and that special something that tells the admissions folks they will give a veterinary career the respect it deserves, they invariably get into vet school.

Conversely, I have met dozens of applicants working in veterinary hospitals as kennel help, technical staff, front desk personnel, etc. that, in my opinion, do not have the skills, educational background, or the personality to make them successful as a veterinarian.  Just because they like animals, were in 4H, and clean kennels does not mean they are a competitive candidate. When these uncompetitive candidates got rejected fro, vet school they all repeated the mantra that vet school is harder to get into than medical school even though they had no chance getting into either veterinary school or medical school.

Unfortunately getting into vet school will be getting easier – you sure you want to be a vet?
Contrary to popular belief, the profession of veterinary medicine is in an upheaval. Salaries are down, the cost to obtain a veterinary degree is up, and many potentially good applicants are deciding that a future in veterinary medicine is not worth their time or effort. These trends were recently summarized by the economist Malcolm Getz, who ruffled the feathers of many veterinary academics. The only problem we have with the content of his talk is that he talked about trends in the future tense. He should have been using the present tense. In our experience, what he is saying is happening today and has been happening for several years.

Mr. Getz claims that prospective students will stop seeing veterinary medicine as a good career investment due to the mismatch between the cost of earning a DVM degree and income generated in practice. My position is that this is already happening and I feel that veterinary medicine is not attracting students who will maintain the standards of veterinary medicine that we have become accustomed to.With the quality of applicants declining it should be easier for marginal candidates to get into vet school.

This trend will lead to greater inequality between veterinary specialists and general practitioners

Upon completion of veterinary school, recently minted veterinarians have two options. They can go directly into practice or they can do a residency (an additional three or four years of school) and earn a degree as a veterinary specialist such as a radiologist, surgeon, or oncologist.

Given the disparity between educational debt and the salary of a veterinary general practitioner, many veterinary students realize that the only way to make a comfortable living as a veterinarian is to obtain a specialty degree. Competition for these degrees is fierce and, in our experience, the vast majority of applicants applying for these positions can be characterized as excellent. I theorize that that getting a position at a veterinary medicine residency is harder than getting into medical school.

If the economic environment in veterinary medicine dictates that the cream of the crop of each veterinary class are going on to do specialty residencies the “below the cream of the crop” is,  therefore, left to do general veterinary medicine.  My worry is that the economic environment fostered on us by veterinary colleges who continue to raise tuition and increase enrollment, and the pressure put on general veterinary practitioners by big box stores and online pharmacies will widen the disparity in quality and salaries between general veterinary practitioners and specialists.

Bottom line: although the commonly held belief is that it is harder to get into veterinary school than medical school, it is time to challenge this assertion. We theorize that the applicant pool applying to veterinary college might not be what it used to be because of the economic woes afflicting the veterinary profession and if a candidate has excellent grades, a great personality, and they aim to start a career rather than just “play with animals” they should not have difficulty getting a position at a veterinary college.  These applicants, however, need to be in for the long haul because if they want to have a secure and financially sound future they might have to do a residency and getting a residency is probably harder than getting in to medical school.