Veterinary medicine students learn about animal welfare; how to recognise, prevent and control animal diseases; the welfare and productivity of livestock; and how to care for and treat healthy and sick animals.
In an era in which human degradation of the environment means that we are encroaching further and further into once-wild areas, more zoonotic diseases - viruses and bacteria jumping from animals to humans, as may have been the case for Covid-19 - are expected. Already, free-range chickens are being moved indoors to minimise their risk of bird flu. Vets play a key role in preventing transmission of diseases from animals to humans.
Where do vets study?
Short answer: UCD. That's it. UCD's five-year, level eight course (course code DN300) is the only place to train as a veterinary surgeon in Ireland.
But points are high and some applicants will, inevitably, be disappointed, so it's really worth looking at some of the veterinary medicine courses available in European universities: lower entry requirements, high-quality courses delivered in English and, in some cases, lower fees. You'll find details of these courses and can apply at Eunicas.ie.
That said, it's also worth bearing in mind that UCD's degree is particularly well-considered internationally: as well as being accredited by the Veterinary Council of Ireland and the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education, it is one of just six European veterinary schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
What’s on the UCD veterinary medicine course?
Modules on this course include normal animal structure and function, animal husbandry and welfare, veterinary public health, pathobiological sciences, herd health and population medicine, surgery and professionalism.
In the fifth and final year, students take part in clinical rotations at the UCD Veterinary Hospital.
What about veterinary nursing?
Three-year, level seven veterinary nursing courses are available at the Letterkenny campus of Atlantic Technological University (ATU), the Athlone campus of Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) and Dundalk IT.
While they are different courses, some of the modules available include anatomy and physiology, animal husbandry, surgical nursing, anaesthesia and diagnostic imaging.
UCD, meanwhile, runs a level eight, four-year veterinary nursing course.
Graduates will be equipped to work as veterinary nurses in clinical practice, or to pursue careers in areas such pharmaceuticals, food and medical surgeries, animal nutrition, practice management and animal welfare.
Are there other courses focused on veterinary health?
Yes. TUS offers a four-year, level eight course in bioveterinary science at its Athlone campus, focused on the inter-relationships between living organisms and their environment. . Graduates go on to work in roles such as veterinary diagnostics and pharmaceutical research, hospital and forensic laboratory work and veterinary, medical and nutritional sales
Munster Technological University (MTU) offers a three-year, level seven animal bioscience programme at its Tralee campus.
The course focuses on animal health, diseases and diagnostics, supported by hands-on practical experience. Graduates will be equipped for roles as animal health researchers, herd health advisors, pharmaceutical drug and vaccine developers and clinical practice managers.
Qualified MTU graduates can also progress onto a fourth year to pick up a level eight qualification, BSc in veterinary bioscience.
Applicants may also be qualified to progress to UCD’s graduate entry veterinary medicine course or any number of postgraduate courses.
What about other routes to becoming a vet?
Besides the option to study abroad, UCD offers a graduate entry course, allowing qualified graduates with prior learning in biological, biomedical or animal sciences to enter into a four-year training programme to work as a veterinary surgeon.
How much do vets earn?
Less than you might expect. According to gradireland.com, newly qualified veterinary surgeons will typically start on €35,000 a year, with more senior vets on between €50-60,000, rising to over €100,000 for very experienced vets.
Where do vets work?
It sounds like an obvious question with an obvious answer: vets work in vet surgeries, where people bring in their sick cats, dogs, rabbits and other pets. Right?
Well, yes, but it’s just one of the routes for vet graduates today.
Employers will generally value the research, analytical, problem-solving and critical thinking of veterinary medicine and nursing graduates, opening up possibilities in areas such as management, so graduates can also expect to work in farm animal or equine practice, medical regulation and teaching, as well in public or private sector research careers, including animal science and the animal health industry.
What are CAO points like?
In 2021, students required 601 points to get onto the UCD course, with about 82 students accepted. Applicants also require a minimum H5 in chemistry and an 06 or H7 in English, Irish, maths, a third language and one other recognised subject.
Applicants to TUS’s level eight degree required 338 points in 2021 and applicants to MTU’s animal bioscience courses needed 234 points. Veterinary nursing applicants needed 234 points for MTU, 389 points for ATU, 451 points for Dundalk IT and 521 points for UCD.