This one is pretty simple: there ARE no bad vet schools. I genuinely believe that. The AVMA maintains fairly high standards for accreditation. If a school is accredited by the AVMA, I think it is a fine place to get an education to prepare you for life as a veterinarian. So what is this post about? Well, I think there are some school programs that may not be bad, per se, but less than ideal. Let’s look at those characteristics.
#1: Cost. Oh boy, this is so huge, and I wish more people thinking about becoming vets thought about it. Being in debt to the tune of 2-3x your starting salary will dramatically impact EVERY DECISION OF YOUR LIFE for the rest of your life. As such, I think schools that are very expensive should be avoided if at all possible.
#2: Faculty. I don’t actually think that a vet school needs a faculty of hundreds with all the possible subspecialties to be successful. But I DO think they need faculty in core clinical disciplines: equine medicine and surgery, food animal, and small animal medicine, surgery, community practice, anesthesia, and emergency. Schools that don’t have these core faculty, or are very thin on those faculty (e.g. one member in the discipline) are just borderline. What happens if they lose that one faculty member? If the school can’t attract these basic faculty, that may reflect systematic problems.
#3: Accreditation. Remember when I said in the intro that if a school if AVMA accredited, it’s probably OK? The accreditation process will give schools minor and major deficiencies. If a school has several minor deficiencies or a single major deficiency, it is at risk of losing accreditation. If you matriculate, you will still be guaranteed to graduate from a then-accredited school. But it indicates some potentially significant problems with the program.
#4: Metrics. If a school’s pass rate on the NAVLE is relatively low, or their graduation rate is relatively low, these may be markers of a less-than-ideal program. YOU may not suffer from these fates, but the fact that the program numbers aren’t great suggests a systematic problem.
At the end of the day, if you’re a good student, and you work hard, and you don’t incur too much debt, you’ll be fine in spite of where you go. But if you need more support or help, if you can’t afford the school, or if you have grand ambitions to be a specific type of world-famous scientist, then keep an eye out for these variables when selecting a vet school. As I have mentioned before: just go to your state school, or the least expensive one you can find.