Q: I'm 15 and seriously considering becoming a veterinarian. What classes do you recommend I take in high school and college?
-- D.C., Hartford, Conn.
A: Dr. Jack Walther, of Elko, Nev., past president of the Schaumburg, Ill.-based American Veterinary Medical Association, has been a vet for about 50 years.
"When in high school, take lots of science and math, and whatever classes might help you communicate with people," he advises. "And all throughout high school and into college, those good grades do make a difference."
Getting into veterinary school is competitive; in fact, many suggest it's more difficult than being accepted for medical school, partly because there are so few veterinary schools. It might help to attend a college or university with a veterinary school.
Walther adds, "You'll want to take the pre-vet courses already outlined, which will include biology, embryology, physiology and all the 'ologies," Aside from good grades, vet schools will consider your work record and hands-on experience. A job at a veterinary clinic, or volunteer work at an animal shelter might give you a leg up.
"What's more, you'll determine for yourself what being a veterinarian is all about by seeing what we do firsthand," Walther notes.
The trend at the moment is to work with dogs, cats and other pets, or to pursue more schooling as a small-animal specialist. However, expressing a desire to work with farm animals, zoo animals or in government -- where there are greater needs -- may enhance your chances.