I Want to Be a Vet

By Steven Galvin - Last update

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I Want to Be a Vet – is that something you dream about? If it is, read on as we look at the steps you need to take to make your dream of becoming a Vet come true, starting in secondary school and working your way through to graduating college.

A veterinarian, also known as a veterinary surgeon or veterinary physician, is a professional who practices veterinary medicine by treating diseases, disorders and injuries in animals.

Anyone who has had a pet knows the debt of gratitude we owe to the Vet for how they have helped our animals in so many different ways and have been there for every situation on their life’s journey. 

Many young children dream of one day becoming a Vet. Of course that dream stems from their love of animals and while loving animals is by its very nature an important aspect of becoming a Vet, there is also the reality of hitting the highest standards in secondary school, getting the best grades in the right subjects and being able to take the next step up at third-level, being highly-motivated, determined and working hard through 5 college years in order to achieve your dream. It’s not easy. But like most things, if you can match your passion with hard work and focus you can do it.

First, let’s take a look at a few of the reasons to become a vet. The number one reason people do it is that they want to help animals. They want to cure their illness, heal their pain and relieve their suffering. At its core, a vet’s life is one of care. 

With the job comes a good salary. The average annual salary is €44,547 and that can often rise to 60+K. Also there is the attraction of becoming an important member of the community. People come to you for help and often for advice and information. People trust you and you play an important part in the community you work in. The variety of the work is another lure for many as everyday brings with it different challenges. 

The nature of the career means that you are always learning and for many vets this provides the opportunity to branch off and pursue careers in more specialised veterinarian roles. Also if you become a Vet, you can be sure that you will forever be surrounded by people who are as passionate about animals and their job as you are!

So how do you make sure you are on the right track to becoming a Vet. Let’s start in secondary school. If you’re in secondary school and you want to become a Vet, you need to be targeting chemistry and higher maths. Biology at Leaving Certificate is not required but is strongly recommended and will benefit your undergraduate study. The official requirements are

  • H5 Chemistry
  • O6/H7 in English, Irish, Mathematics, a third language and one other recognised subject

As for the overall points, in 2020 you needed 589 points to study Veterinary Medicine in Ireland.

Currently the only Veterinary School on the island of Ireland is the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine. It is accredited by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and the School is one of only seven veterinary schools currently accredited by the AVMA in Europe.   

The UCD School of Veterinary Medicine provides excellent facilities for the care of animals and training opportunities for Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Nursing students.

CAO Applicants must normally have at least 60 hours practical experience relevant to animal handling. This must include experience with at least two of the following four animal categories: Pets, Horses, Farm Animals, Wildlife/Zoos. However, due to the difficulties applicants are experiencing in getting placements as a result of the pandemic, the requirement has been reduced to 15 hours and it will only be necessary to have experience in one animal category. Even though this is the case, you should still try to get as much experience as possible across all categories.

The practical experience must have been undertaken between in the last three years i.e. for 2021 entry between 1 February 2018 and 6 July 2021 and all details must be submitted by 6 July 2021 at 5pm to be taken into consideration. UCD School of Veterinary Medicine provides an opportunity itself for relevant experience in the form of a Summer School.

The course itself consists of 5 years training and will prepare you for entry into any branch of the profession (source qualifax.ie).

First & Second Year

Normal Animal Structure & Function • Animal Husbandry & Welfare • Animal Handling & Animal Experience • Professionalism

Third & Fourth Year

Pathobiological Sciences • Medicine • Surgery • Therapeutics • Herd Health & Population Medicine • Veterinary Public Health • Professionalism

Fifth Year

Clinical rotations in the UCD Veterinary Hospital (see year five in model opposite) • Elective studies • Clinical experience • Professionalism

During the first four years, students spend an average of 40 hours per week attending lectures, tutorials and practical classes, with some practical classes taking place at UCD Lyons Farm. During the final year, clinical rotations take place mainly in the UCD Veterinary Hospital and can involve early mornings and some late-night work. Students are also expected to undertake independent study.

A combination of end-of-trimester written, practical and competency examinations, along with in-trimester continuous assessment, is used throughout the programme.

Students are also required to complete 36 weeks of work placements (preclinical extramural studies and clinical extramural studies) as part of the programme requirements.

There is also the option to pursue veterinary medical degree programmes abroad. It is becoming more common for Irish Vets practicing in Ireland to have returned home after successfully completing their veterinary studies overseas. Indeed as the Irish Independent recently reported, of the 197 new practitioners to have joined the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) register in 2019, only 71 were graduates of UCD, with 118 from other EU countries and eight from outside the EU. Of these 118 EU entrants, 35 came from Budapest, with 13 from Warsaw and 15 from the UK.

eunicas.ie is a great place to start that particular journey!

Finally, dont panic if UCD or studying abroad doesn’t work for you – there are other paths into the industry beyond becoming a fully qualified Vet. Take a look at these courses that might be of interest.

Veterinary Nurse 

Veterinary Care Assistant

Veterinary Support Assistant




Steven Galvin

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  1. Manish Kumar 28/08/2021 at 13:08

    I am looking for Bachelors in veterinary science. Kindly share potential links in Scotland and Ireland. Also let me know what is the best place in the world to do this

  2. Milon Leon 15/08/2022 at 13:45

    I need a school

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