5 things I wish I knew before going to vet school

1. Costs – tuition fees + placement expenses + cost of living in the UK

Vet school can be quite costly. Besides tuition fees, you also have to pay for your expenses while on EMS placements and also feed yourself during term time. Multiply that by 6 (or 5, if you are on a 5 year course) and it amounts to quite a sum (compared to being on a 3-year degree). Multiply it again with the currency exchange rate of your country…. then cry.

2. Average salary of a vet in the UK


Yes I am one of those people who didn’t conduct thorough research to find out how much a vet earns because surprise surprise, not all vets are in it for the money!! The starting pay of a new grad vet can vary, but average between £28-30k/ year (sources: my new grad friends, so probably not the most accurate). This of course depends on what type of practice you go into and the location of your practice. (Eg., London jobs have slightly higher wages due to the higher cost of living) A quick google search shows that the vet degree is on the higher end of the fresh grad salary spectrum, comparable to foundation year human medics, and sits at the 5th position of the International Pay League table when comparing vet salaries across 11 European countries, plus the USA and Australia. In short, the pay is actually not that bad, in fact it is actually pretty good. However, the pay increment doesn’t look very appealing when compared to other professions like business, economics, law and computer science. A survey done has shown that UK vet salaries are stagnating or in decline. To quote my housemate,  

you can probably get a better paid (corporate) job with a less demanding degree 

While that is a very bold sweeping statement, it is me assuming that a degree to obtain a corporate job involves fewer years of studying, fewer exams and manual labour (think mucking out at the stable or farm). I feel like most people go into vet because they want to help and save animals, so the money factor is probably not the main attraction when applying.

3. Your non-vet peers will graduate way before you do, and it will feel weird.


When I applied, naive Mayy was like ‘meh, 6 years is not that long, it’ll be fine‘. Little did I know that the FOMO (fear of missing out) would kick in when I would see my peers graduating and moving onto adult life, having the earning power and being independent, getting engaged, buying a house, having babies etc.. Or the awkward conversations at family or friend reunions when people ask you ‘wow, you’re still at university? I thought it was your final year last year! Aren’t you ashamed to be the only one your age as a fresh grad?‘ – I kid you not, the number of times I have to put up with these conversations I just…. I have no advice. Except that prepare to learn and be comfortable with seeing your peers advance in life while you are still at Uni, remember that life is not a race no matter what society tells you,

Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt

everyone is living life at their own pace, societal pressures may be there, but why should you care?  You will be carrying out meaningful work providing a service to the animals and the job satisfaction will be worth it! (I hope, well, stay tuned for my future post when I realise that job satisfaction may not be what it seems). 

4. You learn anatomy by doing dissections on an animal carcass.miller

In the first 2 years of vet school, we learnt anatomy through doing dissections on euthanased dogs. These early morning dissection sessions involve being in a lab filled with the stench of formalin, cutting through a cold corpse that bled loads (depends on your dog tbh) to learn about the origin and insertions of muscles, nerve location etc… Lets just say you do not want to be present with a hangover after a hard night out! Fast forward to clinical years, we still conduct post mortems (PMs) occasionally, bearing in mind that conducting PMs can be a common job for a farm vet to identify the pathology which led to the death of a farm’s livestock so it is pretty relevant task to do.

Why do I wish I knew this? So that I could have mentally prepared myself before rocking up to the lab to be greeted by a couple of animal carcasses and the stench of formalin, stinging my every orifice. Thankfully, I got used to it pretty quickly.

5. The academic workload can be quite intense (especially at Cambridge), but necessary


In pre-clinical years (the first 2-3 years of uni) we learnt about animal anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, principles of pathology, principles of neurology, reproductive biology + animal husbandry…etc At first it felt like I was studying a pure science degree (which wasn’t what I had in mind when I signed up!), and at times I would feel frustrated and stressed learning endless lists of drugs, their mechanism of action to minute detail or the optimum pH of silage (which by the way, is 4.2, it has been ingrained in my head now), repeatedly questioning myself if this knowledge is even relevant or useful for veterinary work.

Now, being in clinical year, as much as I hate to admit it, the ground work covered in the first 3 years was actually useful/ necessary to understand the process of a disease and the best management strategies to treat or control it. Also, it gets better in clinical years. I find the content that I am learning now is more interesting and applicable to vet work, so I definitely feel a lot happier in being in clinical year. To those reading this article in pre-clinical years, hang in there friends, for the best is yet to come! 😊

ps: I didn’t realise this until like 5th year, but finding out what study method works best for you early on can help you be an efficient student, making the workload much more manageable. I would write more about this but I think it should be a post on its own!

There are probably a lot of other things I wish I knew before going to vet school, but these 5 things came to mind. What did you wish you knew before going to vet school? Leave them in the comments below! 🙂


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