Q&A: How can I encourage young, aspiring veterinarians?
Make childhood dreams come true
Q: My daughter is 11 years old and she's determined to become a veterinarian. What can I do now to prepare my child for a career in the veterinary profession?
It's great that your child is interested in becoming a veterinarian, and it's important to feed her thirst for knowledge, says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Andrew Rollo. Plus, one of the main components of any veterinarian's job is to teach, so eager-to-learn minds are always welcome in a practice.First, check with your local jurisdiction and state veterinary licensing board to find out about any age requirements for job shadowing or volunteering. If she's old enough, your child could volunteer at an animal shelter or just spend an afternoon shadowing doctors in a practice.
You can also engage her interests by taking her to the zoo, visiting local farms, and checking out nature centers, Dr. Rollo says. Bring her along the next time you take your own pet to the veterinarian and tell the doctor she's aspiring to join the profession. Ask the veterinarian to suggest ways your child can help keep your pets healthy at home—brushing your pet's teeth, managing the feeding schedule, and taking the dogs on walks are all great ways to involve your child in pet health.
In a few years when your child is old enough, Dr. Rollo suggests, encourage her to look for summer work at a veterinary hospital, zoo, or farm. "Every veterinarian had to start somewhere, and we've all spent a good part of the day picking up stool," Dr. Rollo says. "Some of us still do." Working at a veterinary hospital will give her the best sneak peek into the profession. Not to mention it will help her find a mentor and make professional contacts who can help her when she's ready to apply to veterinary school later on.
Keep in mind that most veterinary schools are looking for diversity and balance in their students—they don't just accept applicants who majored in zoology or animal science. College admissions boards appreciate students who've played on the volleyball team, participated in the school play, or majored in fashion design. So encourage your daughter to explore a variety of other activities as well. No matter what career she ends up in, a well-rounded background will be a huge plus.