Should I get my master’s degree before veterinary school?

If you had asked me during my junior or most of my senior year if I wanted to get my master’s degree before starting veterinary school, you probably would have received a severely judgmental eyebrow raise. All I could think about was finishing my last semester of chemistry and making sure the registrar signed the transcript for my double major in blood. But now I have such whimsical perspective!

paige studying
The joy of learning! (Photo credit: Anh-Viet Dinh, Trinity University)

The answer to this question is not a straightforward one. For many people – read: those with solid GPA’s, finished prerequisites, little to no doubt about their professional goals and adequate time to complete an application during their junior year – going straight into vet school makes a good deal of sense. There is certainly something to be said for heading straight into professional school rather than worrying about how to fill the limbo years between college and, well, more college.

But this post isn’t geared toward such respectable and organized undergrads; it’s geared toward people like me who had a slightly less linear route. See, I was not 100 percent sure about vet school by the time I got to senior year. My ego had been knocked around in some challenging science classes and by an overcommitted schedule.

I was afraid of the advice that undergrads are too scared of the real world so they blindly apply to graduate or doctoral programs because that’s all they know. I also, frankly, feared rejection and figured I should play to my strengths so I started applying to jobs.

Employment out of undergrad was not a pretty prospect and one day, in April (yes you read that right), I saw an advertisement outside my research lab for a professional science master’s program. The program was flexible but challenging, at a credible institution with lots of professional networking opportunities, and it would allow me to take Ph.D.-level science classes in addition to some business classes to boost my GPA, confidence and business sense. I applied the next day.

I am unusual in that I only applied to one program, I applied late and I got in. But I can tell you, it’s been well worth it. I should add that I do have a full time job on the side, where I have gained important professional perspective, but this grad program has done wonders for my confidence and renewed my enthusiasm for science.

I have talked to several career advisors who echo the sentiment that completion of a master’s program can significantly improve your chances of admission, especially for borderline undergraduate candidates. Essentially, vet schools see that you can handle the rigor of graduate coursework, are (hopefully) performing at a higher level in your classes and that you are truly driven to get to vet school.

Even if you aren’t sure you want to apply to veterinary school after graduate school, it’s a great way to network and gain marketable skills while you sort out your professional interests.

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