I try to maintain a positive tone of this blog, but I also feel responsible for helping you understand reality. Veterinary medicine has been a great profession for me, but not everyone should go to vet school. Here are some reasons that another profession and training experience might be the right fit for you.
Bad Reason #1) You love animals! I mean, I get it. Animals are pretty great. I’m sure there are animals in your life which have meant the world to you. I’m sure you want to help animals. Unfortunately, helping animals is a fraction of what a veterinarian does. If the reason you want to go to vet school was, “I want to work with people!” that would be great, because that’s what we do. Just because you love animals doesn’t mean you should go to vet school. Loving animals isn’t enough to make being a vet the right option for you. You could go into wildlife biology, be a veterinary nurse, get a PhD and do research to help animals, work for a shelter, go into social work and help homeless people who own animals, be a dog walker, work at a doggy daycare, or any of a hundred other things.
Bad Reason #2) You have to borrow for all your expenses and you can’t get into an inexpensive school. I can’t emphasize this enough: if you take out >$200k in loans, this will adversely affect your entire life. You probably won’t be able to buy a house. You may put off having kids. You may need to work hours you hate and jobs you hate. You probably won’t be able to retire before 65 or 70. Your entire life flexibility and choices will be dramatically narrowed. Please don’t go into horrifically crippling debt just to go to vet school.
Bad Reason #3) You don’t know what to do with your life. Vet school is a commitment, and an expensive one at that. Unless you are from a 1% family, you probably shouldn’t spend so much money figuring out what you want to do. Instead, go to a Master’s or PhD degree program, especially in a science field, where most programs will pay you a stipend.
Bad Reason #4) It’s what you’ve always wanted to do. I hear so many stories of “I’ve wanted to be a vet since I was 5!” Can you really make an informed, adult decision at 5 years of age? I sincerely doubt it. I see a lot of people trying to go to vet school who would probably be happier pursuing some other (possibly related) degree, but they never consider it because of this laser-like focus on Getting In To Vet School. Think about some other careers you may enjoy! On a fundamental level, the PEOPLE you work with matter far more than the WORK you do when it comes to what makes people happy.
Bad Reason #5) You don’t want to be a leader, don’t like people, don’t like school, or aren’t curious. OK, a lot of these are the inverse of the Top 5 Reasons to Go to Vet School. But, seriously, why do 4 more years of school IF YOU DON’T LIKE SCHOOL? Please don’t subject yourself and your teachers to a miserable 4 years. I know some people want to go to vet school because they don’t want to work with people (as in, do human medicine). Well, I have news for you: veterinary medicine is a people business. Our patients happen to be animals, but we need to talk to clients, work with staff, work with peers, listen to bosses, and all the rest. If any of these items don’t appeal to you, vet school may not be a good fit for you.
I don’t want to be all doom-and-gloom about vet school. I want to make sure you want to go to vet school _for the right reasons_. Otherwise, I’m afraid you won’t have a very good 4 years and possibly not a very happy professional life.