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How Do I Become an Avian Veterinarian?

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  • Written By: John Markley
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2018
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An avian veterinarian is a professional who specializes in providing medical treatment to birds. This requires specialized knowledge and expertise due to the important anatomical and physiological differences between birds and animals such as mammals or reptiles. The process to become an avian veterinarian takes a number of years and requires college training in veterinary medicine, additional postgraduate training and experience, and certification by an accredited school or organization related to that specialty. The precise details of the requirements to become an avian veterinarian vary by jurisdiction.

Someone who seeks to become an avian veterinarian is required to go to college for a degree in veterinary medicine. This is a bachelor's degree, though in the United States it is called a doctor of veterinary medicine degree for historical reasons. The equivalent in the United Kingdom and some other areas is called a bachelor of veterinary science degree, though depending on the school awarding the degree similar names, such as bachelor of veterinary medicine or bachelor of veterinary medicine and surgery may also be used. In the United States, veterinary schools are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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The precise requirements for entering a veterinary program vary from one school to the next. Many people entering a veterinary program already hold a bachelor's degree in a scientific field, though in many schools a certain number of hours of undergraduate college credit in relevant fields such as biology and chemistry is enough. Competition for spots in veterinary programs can be very intense due to the large number of applicants and relatively small number of accredited veterinary schools, so an applicant's prior grades and test scores are very important. Prior experience working with animals can also be an asset during the application process.

A degree in veterinary medicine commonly takes four years, though it can vary from three to six. Students are instructed in the sciences relevant to the field, such as the anatomy and physiology of animals and other health-related subjects, such as toxicology and bacteriology. The last year is usually spent receiving training in a clinical setting.

After graduation, the graduate must pass a certification exam in order to be certified as a veterinarian. In the United States, this is the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, overseen by the American Veterinary Medical Association. He or she must also pass whatever licensing tests are required by his or her particular jurisdiction.

Certification to become an avian veterinarian requires further training and experience, which lasts at least three years. The veterinarian spends a period of several years in a residency, receiving further training and gaining experience treating birds under the supervision of a certified avian veterinarian. During this time, the prospective specialist must also publish research in journals relevant to the field. Once these requirements are complete, he or she takes an extensive certification exam for their specialty to demonstrate his or her qualifications.

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