How to Become a Holistic Veterinarian
How to Become a Holistic Veterinarian
Holistic veterinarians combine conventional and alternative (or complementary) therapies for the animals in their care, such as acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, herbal medicine, behavior modification, and even massage therapy. While there is an increasing interest in holistic medicine among Westerners, the practice tends to be at odds with the modern veterinary world of evidence-based medicine. To become a holistic veterinarian, you will have to follow the traditional educational route to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DMV) which will offer little to no training in holistic medicine. You will then want to pursue a certification in veterinary homeopathy, which may take a few more years.
Start prepping in high school.Ideally, your journey towards becoming a holistic veterinarian should begin in high school. Start getting involved academically and otherwise early on as a student.
- Take science courses in high school like chemistry, anatomy, biology, and physics. If possible, try to enroll in AP courses. Having AP courses on a college application, especially if you score high on the AP exam, can set you aside from other applicants at the schools where you're applying.
- Study for your ACT or SATS, especially for the science and math portions. High scores can help impress an admissions board. You might want to consider enrolling in an ACT or SAT prep course.
- Volunteer at animal shelters, rescues, and veterinary clinics. Look for a holistic vet in your area and ask how you can be involved. Having experience working with animals can help bolster your application and give you the hands-on experience you'll need for your career down the road.
- Try to land a job or internship working with animals in high school. You can ask teachers or counselors where and how to apply. There might also be volunteer programs for animal rescue activities, and you may even get the opportunity to travel or go overseas to aid in a rescue.
Work towards vet school in college.Once you've completed high school, you need to get an appropriate college degree that will help you get a spot in vet school once you graduate.
- You should choose a major that gives you a strong grounding in the biological and physical sciences. Ask your college adviser about the best major or combination of majors if your ultimate goal is to enroll in vet school.
- Keep your GPA high. Your GPA should be a 3.5 or higher if you want to get into a solid vet school after college. This is especially important later in college, while you're taking more advanced courses, as most vet schools pay close attention to your GPA during the last three to four semesters.
- You should be gaining clinical experience while an undergraduate. Volunteer at a veterinary clinic and seek internships that involve veterinary science during your summers.
- Take the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) sometime before you graduate. Most veterinary school require a high GRE score for admittance, so study hard. You may even want to enroll in a GRE prep course the summer before your senior year to assure a high score.
- Most vet schools ask for two to three Letters of Recommendation from professors or people who you worked with professionally during your time as an undergraduate. Some schools actually require 2 letters from a veterinarian, so staying in touch with those you worked with during your clinical training is also important. You should also strive to make good impressions on any professors you have classes with so you'll have someone to ask for a recommendation down the road.
Explore holistic medicine during college.If your ultimate goal is to work in holistic medicine, find ways to explore this interest while an undergraduate student.
Attend veterinary school.Once you've completed your undergraduate degree, you'll need to attend a veterinary school. In the United States, vet programs are typically four years long. Look for a program that seems open to holistic medicine, such as through a club or courses on holistic practices.
- You should aim to apply to around five or seven schools. You will probably not be admitted everywhere, as vet programs are competitive, so apply to some back ups and safety schools. You also will probably need some kind of funding for vet school and different programs will offer you differing amounts of money. You want to keep your options open and choose a program that makes the most sense for you regarding your goals and financial situation.
- Veterinary school is an intensive four year experience. Not only will you learn the basics of animal health and anatomy in a classroom setting you will have a good deal of clinical, hands-on experience.
- You will have to select a speciality sometime in vet school, depending on what type of animals you want to work with and the kind of medicine you want to practice. Make sure the program you choose has professor who are studied in holistic medicine.
- Understand that you will likely run into some issues trying to pursue holistic medicine while in school. Currently, holistic practices are not well regarded by most of the veterinary community. Do not expect to get much training in holistic medicine while in veterinary school.
Developing Your Skills
Pass the licensing exam.In order to become a licensed veterinarian in the US, you must take the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam upon completing your studies in veterinary school.
- You have to apply to take the exam, which can be done online or through mail. There is a 5 application fee and if you're an overseas student there will be an additional 2 fee. There are testing windows during fall and spring each year during which you can take the exam.
- Testing centers are found throughout the country and you can select a testing center near you when you sign up to take the exam. Usually, testing centers are in small office settings with six to 12 individual stations equipped with a computer. You have a total of 7.5 hours at the testing center, divided into six blocks, to take the exam and it consists of 360 multiple choice questions.
- Unlike many licensing exams, your scores are not displayed on site when you complete the exam. You will receive your score about four weeks after the close of each testing window.
- If you do not pass, you can retake the exam in the next testing window. You have a total of 5 chances to pass the exam.
Take supplementary classes and certifications in holistic medicine.Once you've taken the exam and received your license, you should get further involved in the world of holistic medicine. Many organizations throughout the country offer classes and seminars about holistic medicine and there are other certifications you can earn regarding specific medical practices.
- The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) offers classes and subsequent certification if chiropractic medicine is an aspect of holistic medicine you are interested in. Chiropractic medicine involves treating neuromuscular disorder through manual, non-invasive adjustments of the spine rather than medication or surgery.
- The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH) is an organization of veterinarians that practice and support the use of non-traditional, homeopathic practices. They put out an annual journal and have yearly conferences and seminars throughout the country. Looking into becoming a member is a great way to expand your skill set in homeopathic medicine.
- You can get training and certification to perform acupuncture through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS). They offer a variety of coursework and are affiliated with American Holistic Veterinary Medicine associate. Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that involves inserting needles at specific points of the body to provide pain relief to patients.
Consider joining one or more of the holistic medicine associations.After engaging in some training and learning some special skills, thinking about joining some associations. This is a great way to keep your practices up to date and network with veterinarians that hold similar philosophic beliefs regarding medicine.
- The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) is a research organization constantly seeking out new and innovative veterinary practices. Many vets interested in holistic medicine are drawn to the society as it helps them stay up to date with new research.
- The American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition (AAVN) is an association of animal scientists and veterinarians committed to understanding and improving the nutrition of animals across the United States. They're always looking for assistance of holistic veterinarians as they tend to be invested in keeping animal nutrition natural and healthy.
- The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) is an organization committed to holistic medication specifically. If you want to practice holistic medicine, joining the organization and participating in conferences, seminars, and educational outreach programs is a must.
- You may find other institutions and organizations as you begin working in your career. Read the latest veterinary medical journals and keep your eyes out for articles discussing holistic medicine. Look up the CVs of the authors and see if they belong to any organizations you'd be interested in joining. You should also review the CVs of any vets you meet at conferences or seminars and see if they belong to any associations that are relevant to your interests and goals.
Look for a job in a clinic that practices holistic medicine.As you begin your job search, keep an eye out for veterinarian clinics that match your values. It may be difficult to open your own practice right away. Even if your ultimate goal is to start your own clinic, you will need to spend several years working for someone else so keep your eyes open for clinics that match your values.
- If you're a member of any of the above organizations, many post job listings on their websites. You can also network with other vets you meet at conferences and workshops and get in touch with them. Ask if they're hiring or know anyone looking for vets with experience in holistic medicine.
- Seek to move to a bigger city. A smaller town or suburb may only have a few clinics available and they may all practice traditional medicine. A larger metropolitan area is more likely to house a diverse range of veterinary clinics and holistic medicine tends to be more accepted and sought out in larger areas.
Write a great resume and practice good interview skills.In order to land a job, you'll want good interview skills and a solid resume.
- Take advantage of career centers while you're enrolled in school. Take your resume to a career center to have it workshopped professionally. If you're already out of school, it's a good idea to have friends in veterinary medicine and other peers and co-workers look over your resume and give you feedback.
- Remember, you're looking for work in holistic medicine and your resume should reflect your values. Include any clinical experience you've had in holistic medicine as well as any certifications you have any organizations you work with. If you've presented at any conferences, this also looks great on a resume.
- If you're called in for an interview, always research the clinic and its values beforehand. At the end of the interview, be sure to ask questions. Do not limit questions to logistics, such as asking when you can expect to hear back. Ask open ended questions about the clinic's philosophy, values, and work atmosphere.
- Always arrive early. Showing up about 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time looks impressive to prospective employees. Maintain eye contact during the interview and give visual cues, such as nodding occasionally, to show you're interested.
- Use your alumni status to your advantage. Look for alumni associations in your area. If you apply for a job from a clinic where many vets graduated from the same vet program as you, you may be more likely to get an interview.
Seek clients as a holistic vet.Once you've secured a job in a clinic, you need to market yourself as a holistic veterinarian.
- Put up advertisements at food co-ops, organic grocery stores, and other places where you're likely to find clients interested in holistic medicine.
- Develop a professional website. This is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to seek out new clients in your area.
- Ask the organizations you're a member of to advertise about your skills on their web pages and social media.
- Participate in a variety of conferences to get your name out into the world of holistic veterinary medicine.
- Many holistic veterinarians continue to study after completing certification by attending seminars and workshops that keep them abreast of the latest innovations and developments in their chosen field.
Video: How to Become a Holistic Veterinarian
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