Army Veterinarian Part 1: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

This is the first article in a series on my experiences with the Health Professions Scholarship Program and as an Army veterinarian. You can find everything I’ve written about being an Army veterinarian on this dedicated page.

Have you wondered about what it would be like to be a veterinarian in the Army? Maybe you’re a pre-vet student beginning to think about how in the world you are going to pay for veterinary school. Or perhaps you’re a veterinarian who has been practicing for a few years and is ready for a change.

You love your country and appreciate all the benefits of having a relatively safe and prosperous society, so why not volunteer to serve that cause more directly? Sure, you might not always agree with everything the current government is doing, but that’s okay, right?

Do these vague patriotic feelings, combined with a very practical sense of financial self-preservation, sound familiar? If so, I think you’ll enjoy this series on my experiences as an Army veterinarian.

I love meeting new people and talking about my life and career as a vet. I know that I’m very fortunate to get paid for studying and now working at something I love. I can understand that people are naturally quite curious when they hear that I’m a veterinarian in the Army, and this is also one of the most common sources of questions I’ve gotten since starting this website.

Let me share a typical conversation with you.

New friend: “So, what do you do?”

Me: “I’m a veterinarian in the Army, actually.” [That “actually” is thrown in to preempt the perpetual follow-up of “Really?” “Yes, really.”]

New friend: “Wow, I had no idea there were veterinarians in the Army! I always wanted to be a vet, but I was never very good at the sciences in school. [Just throwing that comment in there, since it’s true of about 75% of people I talk to.] Why does the military need vets?”

Me: “Well, one of our primary missions is to provide medical and surgical care to Military Working Dogs (MWDs). You know, the bomb-sniffing and police-type dogs you’ve probably heard about?”

New friend: “Oh, yeah, I guess that makes sense. They must be fun to work with!”

Me. “Yeah, they’re pretty cool animals, for sure. We also provide medical care to military families’ pets and are involved in food safety and other public health issues.”

At this point, my new friend will either continue with more follow-up questions or we’ll move on if they’re now satisfied with their new knowledge of this previously unknown entity.

It’s crazy how many times I’ve had this exact conversation over the last eight years.

Surveys consistently rate veterinary medicine as one of the most admired and respected professions out there, and when you combine that with the also highly rated military officer, you have a pretty potent combination. It’s a lot of fun, but also a weighty responsibility, to have a job people generally think is pretty darn cool.

So how did I get to this point? It all started with a failed scholarship application.

During my fourth year as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, I learned about a new scholarship program from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The program has changed since then, but at the time the scholarship would provide full tuition and a stipend for graduate students in any field from a select few Virginia and Maryland universities.

I spent hours preparing my application and was confident that my unique vision of combining a career in veterinary medicine and public health would be so appealing to the scholarship committee that they wouldn’t be able to turn me down.

Unfortunately, they did. I was rejected.

I had gotten so excited about finding this unique way to pay for veterinary school that I was devastated. Was I really going to be able to pursue my dreams of being an uncommon veterinarian while also shouldering $200,000 of debt?

It was around that same time that I first learned about the Health Professions Scholarship Program and the existence of vets in the Army. I honestly can’t remember where I first heard about the program, but it was immediately incredibly appealing while also being pretty scary.

Growing up, my grandfather’s service during World War II was the closest personal connection I had to the military. It seemed like a completely foreign little subculture of American society that I knew nothing about. I had always respected the military and was thankful for those who chose that career, but I had never even considered it an option for myself.

I tend to go “all-in” on most things in life. When I learn about something that interests or excites me, I will spend hours researching and weeks exploring all the possibilities. This is what I did over the next year as I learned about the Army’s scholarship program and what it would be like to be a veterinarian in the Army.

I contacted every Army vet I could find, asking them probing questions about their experiences and getting honest answers about whether or not they would do it again. Somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t get one negative answer to this latter question. Even though all of them had things to complain about and various frustrations about life in the Army, they all were glad for the experience and thankful for the opportunity to pay off loans while serving their country.

Is that true across the board? No, of course not. There will always be some for whom the Army is not the best fit. But in general, whether someone chooses to stay in for just his or her three-year commitment or go all the way to retirement at twenty, I’ve found that most people are happy they took the plunge and signed on the dotted line.

So there you have it. I was convinced. Or so I thought. As you’ll read in Part 2: The Health Professions Scholarship Program, I hadn’t yet experienced my own frustrations with government bureaucracy and incompetence. Stay tuned!

But first, leave a comment here to ask your own initial questions about joining the Army as a vet. Have you thought about it? What’s holding you back?

Don’t miss the second installment in my Army Veterinarian series, where you can learn all about my experiences applying for the HPSP scholarship.

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143 Responses to “Army Veterinarian Part 1: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning”

  1. Daniela M. December 11, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    I think what is holding me back is having this commitment when I have really no idea what is like (that’s why I’m so glad to find this!). Some of my questions are: do you have to do normal bootcamp? How did you handle having a family and being an Army vet? Does your wife and kids get to go with you when you are doing your three years?
    I know my question may seem really basic, but I’m not too familiar with all this. My boyfriend is 2nd Lt in the Army Reserve now (he was active and did go to Afghanistan for a year), but he is not in the medical field. I have tremendous admiration and it sounds extremely interesting to me, but I definitely want to make an informned decision to see if it would be the best fit for me. I know there is also another program where it’s in the Reserve and has a loan repayment program too.

    • Elliott December 13, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      Daniela, thanks for your comment and questions! I plan to answer these and a whole lot more in future posts in this series. It sounds like you are doing the right thing by learning all you can now!

      • Monica May 13, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

        Thank you for sharing! I’m currently a high school Junior and planing to join ROTC in college. I’m really interested in veterinary corps, however, I’m little confused….SO, I’m thinking to take pre-vet in college but since that’s not a major nor a minor, what should I put for my major on the application? Does the Army have veterinary assistants /technicians? How much longer do I need to study after finishing pre-vet program? How do I pay for vet school if I’m not qualify for scholarships? (which also indicates I can only take the Basic Course at ROTC)

  2. Alexandria December 11, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    Thank you for sharing! I just recently applied to veterinary school this year (waiting to hear back!) and am very interested in the army route if I am accepted. From what I have read, the HPSP is very competitive in itself. I would love to hear more about it’s application/what to expect of the HPSP in part two!

    • Elliott December 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

      Hey Alexandria, great to hear from you. Congrats on getting your applications submitted! Yes, the HPSP scholarship is competitive, but it really depends year to year on how many slots are available and how many people apply. I’ll have a lot more details in the next post!

  3. Tim December 17, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    First year vet student here; I’m really interested to read the next installment. From what I’ve read the direct commissioning route seems like a good option for people that aren’t quite up to snuff as far as competing for the HPSP or who maybe change their mind after graduating about what they’d like to do. Do you know anything about how that works and what is different about that path? Thanks!

    • RJ March 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      Direct commission after vet school is extremely competitive. If you think you are interested, I would try for HPSP. I know because I have applied for direct commission the last two years with no luck. Direct commission is a great deal from what I know, but just understand you are up against stiff competition. Many applicants have advanced degrees and years of practice experience. There seems to be a large need in the reserve component. That may be an option if you can’t get direct commission.

      • Elliott April 3, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

        Thanks for the comment, RJ. That’s what I’ve heard as well.

  4. Elliott Garber December 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Hey Tim, thanks for your comment. I was in officer basic course with a couple of vets who had direct commissioned straight out of vet school. I also know others who practiced for a few years before coming into the Army. You will get a huge signing bonus and loan repayment as a direct commission which is comparable but not quite as generous financially as the HPSP program (depending on how many years of the scholarship you get, of course). I’ll be sure to discuss this route also in my future posts.

    • tayyab December 4, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

      Nice I m vet DVM from Pakistan .l want to work abroad if I come in your country how will you help me

    • tayyab December 4, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

      I need your reply please being a veterinarian we are family .please do something because. there is no. scope for vets in Pakistan .I am a good expertise in A.I. breeding .treatment.management.email me tayyabiqbal960@gmail.com

  5. Maureen December 21, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Found a link to your site on VIN. Very interesting! I have been practicing ER medicine for 9 years and sometimes wonder if I would like a change. I’ve paid off half my student loans (sadly ONLY half). One thing I always wondered about being an Army (or military) vet – what about your own pets? Can you take them with you if you’re shipped off somewhere remote? Maybe it’s silly but that’s one of the first things I thought of.

    • Elliott December 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      Maureen, hi! Sounds like you found the right place here — we’re all vets and students who are wondering about the possibilities outside of regular small animal clinics.

      Good question about your own pets and a military lifestyle. As you can imagine, most Army vets have pets just like veterinarians everywhere! We can bring them with us to any regular assignment, both in the U.S. and overseas. Here in Sicily there are a ton of military families who have brought their pets with them — those are my patients! If you are deployed to a combat zone or sent on a short-term assignment to a more remote location (like I was to Egypt, but could also be places like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc) then you won’t be able to bring your pets with you. That’s where kind friends or family have to step in…

      Definitely something to think about as you consider a military life!

  6. Robyn January 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Hey Elliott! I am graduating this May with my bachelors and applying to vet schools this summer. The Army opportunity sounds amazing and I would love to pursue it. Thank so much for creating this website and I look forward to reading the next installment!

    • Elliott January 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

      Robyn, good to hear from you! I’m glad you found my site and hope you’ll keep coming back for more. I’ve been really fortunate in my experiences with the Army, so I want to make sure everyone is aware of this unique opportunity.

  7. Charis January 8, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    I am a US student at the University of Glasgow (which is AVMA accredited). I was curious if you know any foreign vet school graduates that have since joined the vet corps. I know it is possible to join, after taking an additional examination, but I wondered if our vet school loans (from the US gov) were also eligible for the repayment program while serving. I decided to attend Uni of Glasgow for my love of travel, and from you blog, it seems like a career with the vet corps would be a way to continue to see the world after schooling.
    Also, I loved your lambing post! I went lambing last spring in the North of England on a farm of 700 texel ewes. I can relate!

    • Elliott January 8, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

      Hey Charis, thanks for your comment! I don’t personally know any foreign vet school grads who are in the Army now, but that doesn’t mean the don’t exist. I’ll shoot an e-mail to our HR people to see if they might have that information. I imagine that your situation is going to be more common now with more international schools accredited by the AVMA and U.S. students attending them. As long as those basic conditions are met, and especially since your loans are backed by the U.S., I don’t see why you would be at any disadvantage in attempting to get a direct commission into the Vet Corps. Your lambing experience sounds fun! I would love to have more lambs in my life at some point…

  8. Jo January 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Elliot, Just stumbled on this site and will definitely be following your posts from now on. Like Charis, Im also an American who studied veterinary medicine abroad. My family has worked abroad for many years, living in the Middle east to Africa so it was only natural that i caught the travel bug, still do since im now in Germany. I’ve always wanted to find a way where i could combine my love for animals and travel and after hearing an interview with a female Veterinarian who is serving in the army ( reserves) i was more encouraged to check it out. Great that i found this site. Im also very curious to know more about foreign vet school grads who are in the Army and what is required. 🙂

    • Elliott January 12, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Jo. You sound like my wife, who was born in Egypt and lived everywhere from Pakistan to Singapore to Brazil as a child! So what are you doing in Germany now? Practicing as a vet in some way? I’ll do my best to track down some fellow Army vets who went to vet school outside the U.S. and get their stories on here at some point. Follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter for more regular daily updates on how you can combine your veterinary training with world travel!

  9. Jo January 13, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Thanks for the response, Elliot. I wouldn’t say i am as well traveled as your wife(haven’t been to Brazil yet), although i was born in Saudi and can speak Arabic fluently, which came in very handy for certain employment opportunities :-).
    I moved here a year ago with my husband, who is German, and after studying the language for 8 months will be starting a “Praktikum” at an Animal Clinic here. Im also enrolling in the Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates ECFVG to get my U.S. license. So, we’ll see where this winding road eventually leads too. Will follow for updates on vet/travel topics. Thanks again!

  10. Marissa February 13, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    Hi Elliot! I just stumbled across your blog by looking to volunteer veterinary programs working with elephants. I’m actually a third year (almost fourth-yay!) veterinary student and I’ve been thinking of going the army route after graduation. I worry about my boyfriend (who will eventually be my husband) and how joining would effect our family life. I am mostly interested in the human animal bond master’s program they offer and paying back my loans, but the traveling and interesting stuff you do seems incredible! I look forward to hearing more about your adventures, and I’d love any advice you have to share 🙂

    • Elliott February 26, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      Marissa, thanks for your comment. That’s exciting to hear that you’re thinking about serving as a vet in the Army. I think everyone naturally has some reservations as they think about such a major commitment, so you’re not alone there. I had a really tough time making the decision myself, and I did just what you’re doing in trying to talk to different Army vets to learn about their experiences.

      The human animal bond program is fairly new but it is supported by the highest levels so I think it will be around for a while. Before you would be eligible for this masters degree or another Long Term Health Education Program (residency, etc), you would have to complete at least three and more likely four or five years of regular Army vet assignments, including at least one deployment or overseas duty of some sort. Then if you did the program, you will get another service obligation of 3-5 years, depending on the program you did. I think the masters programs usually come with a four year obligation.

      Keep me posted as you continue thinking through this decision!

  11. Allison February 24, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    Hi Elliott- I’m currently having a ‘crossroads’ moment in my life and your experience-based input is the kind of information I’m looking for. I’m definitely that “wanted-to-be-a-veterinarian-since-I-was-a-little-girl” cliche, but for me, it’s coming to fruition as a second chance at a life-long dream. Revisiting this dream as a career change while being a 32 year old single mom has brought some new challenges to the table. The first time around at 22, I had spoke with an Army recruiter about the HPSP option and again now as you said, have embarked on another ‘fact-finding’ mission. The problem I face is that the school that may offer me a seat is on foreign soil and therefore makes the scholarship program a moot point. However, I know that enlisting in active duty after graduation is still possible (and most likely necessary considering the amount of loans). I’ve asked the recruiter and now I’d like to ask you for a blunt and honest opinion if a single mom can make a career as an Army Veterinarian work. Work ethic, dedication, and ability are not an issue- but if I do this to make a better life for myself and my son in the future, will I be shooting myself in the foot and sacrificing his well-being now? Could you foreshadow some challenges/obstacles or even better some of the coping strategies/benefits that might make this work?

    • Elliott February 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      Hey Allison, thanks for sharing about your situation. I’m inspired to just read about your drive and commitment, and I’m confident that this will get you where you want to be.

      My blunt and honest opinion is that yes, a single mom can make a career or even just spend a few years as an Army veterinarian. Actually, the vet that I replaced here in Sicily was a single mom, stationed overseas, and she seemed to do fine with that situation. The military tries to be very accommodating to different family situations, and there are usually decent childcare options available. However, you would have to expect that at some point during your commitment/service you would be called on to deploy or go on another unaccompanied assignment where you couldn’t bring your son. You would have to be confident in the family or friends that you had arranged to care for him if and when this occasion arose.

      Most veterinary jobs in the Army are pretty comparable in terms of the hours required to other civilian jobs as a vet. You’ll be on call and occasionally have to perform after-hours and weekend duties, but this is the exception to the rule. Other than a long deployment, the hardest thing on families of all varieties are the shorter trips required for trainings, conferences, and other missions. You would be able to bring your son along on some of these, at your own expense, but not all of them.

      As long as you are willing to set up support networks and ask for help, then I don’t think life for you or your son would be unduly difficult. I know that I appreciate my wife’s support every day and can’t imagine raising our kids and working full-time without her, but I know it’s possible and I see it in my colleagues on a regular basis.

      My last bit of advice is that you probably shouldn’t count on being guaranteed an Army vet job if you decide that it is right for you. Unfortunately it is even more competitive to get a slot as a direct commission post-vet school than it is to get an HPSP scholarship. We veterinarians know a good deal when we see one! So it’s a good possibility to keep in mind, but not something to depend on in your career and financial planning.

      Best of luck!

      Elliott

      • Allison February 27, 2013 at 3:04 am #

        Thank you for your candor and encouragement. It sounds like an excellent opportunity and quite a life-experience for both me and my son. It’s definitely something I want to aspire towards- after all, I do like a good challenge! Thank you again and I plan to continue to follow- keep up the great posts!

  12. John H March 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    Hey Elliot,
    It’s good to see someone in the field to answer questions on this program. We all know not everything is as grand as the recruiter hints at when signing up for the military. I just had a few questions for now. I have just been accepted to Michigan State University CVM and am looking to fund my education (as an out of state student, sadly, that’s 52,000 a year for tuition alone). The loans I’d have to take out to live off of, because we have less than 3 months a year off from class to work and fund 12 months of rent and eating, amount to 300-350k a year. Needless to say, when I read about HPSP, I was interested. Now, there’s the part of the question many people don’t seem to be asking about: reserve duty. Is the contract for inactive reserve (can only be called up for declared war) or is it active reserve (Oh, hey, you’re ours again for 5 years any time we please)? Do you know anyone that has been called back to duty? Is it just the army or is it any branch of the military (I am PADI-SCUBA certified and the work with seals, dolphins would be quite fulfilling)? How soon can I get in? I start class in August, could I start my training this summer? How long is the application process? You said it is very competitive, so do many first years get in or is it something typically only upperclassmen receive? The sooner I can get in the better. Thanks for your time and all your valuable information, Elliot. Please keep us posted!

    • Elliott March 12, 2013 at 11:17 am #

      John, thanks for your questions and comments. Congrats on getting into Michigan State! That’s the first step in this whole process, of course.

      The HPSP contract includes three years of active duty and another five years of “inactive” (Individual Ready Reserve or IRR) duty. Basically any military commitment is for this minimum of eight total years.

      The five years on IRR typically do not require any actual service to the military. From what I’ve heard, there was a period of about 30 years when no veterinarians were called up from their IRR time. That ended around 2004 I think when one or two vets were called in due to shortages brought on by our two wars. It happened once and hasn’t happened again since then.

      So it’s theoretically possible to be called up during that time, but unlikely. You would always be called back in service as a veterinarian in the Army — it’s not like they could say okay now you’re going to be an infantry Soldier or something.

      Unless you have prior military service of some sort, the earliest you could get in would be with a three year HPSP scholarship. You would apply for that next year, during your first year of vet school, and it would start with the beginning of vet school. The three-year scholarships are more competitive, but it’s still very possible to get one. I think last year there were about 2-300 applications for around 30 spots. If it doesn’t work out the first time around, you can also apply for a two year scholarship and even just for a direct commission after graduation which also includes some loan repayment.

      I hope this helps with some of the details. Let me know if you have more questions!

      • John H March 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

        Thanks, Elliot. Your information was very helpful. I am a little disappointed to learn that there is a maximum 3 year scholarship available as I wanted to get into the program as soon as possible, but these are things I needed to know. I will still be bugging the recruiters up until that time and making sure my name is known. I can understand some of the reasoning behind a shorter program, especially with the added stress of the sequester now. Thanks for all your help and keep up the good work.

      • Elliott March 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

        Thanks John — keep us posted on how it’s all going!

  13. Steph March 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Hi Elliott. I’m 17(in my final year of high school) and have wanted more than anything to be a vet for the last 10 years. I came across your website a couple of days ago while doing a bit of research on the HPSP scholarship and have been reading it ever since! Thanks so much for sharing all your experiences – it’s fascinating reading your stories and advice!

    I’m currently living in Australia but I have an American citizenship. I was wondering if studying outside the US would decrease my chances of getting the HPSP scholarship? Do you know how many people get accepted from overseas each year? If I decide to go down the army path, when should I start applying?

    I would ultimately love to be a wildlife veterinarian – travelling all over the world, working with exotic animals like you have been. Are there any wildlife-related opportunities in the army? If not, how did you get into that field?

    Thanks again for all your help! I look forward to hearing from you 🙂

    • Elliott March 18, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Hey Steph, I’m glad you discovered my site and hope it can continue to be a helpful resource!

      That’s great that you’re already thinking ahead about the different possibilities for paying for your education and also using it in different ways down the road. I think a lot of people your age are excited about the idea of working with animals but don’t really start thinking about the realities until much later, so you’re ahead of the game.

      Unfortunately the HPSP scholarship is currently restricted to American citizens (which you’ve got!) who study veterinary medicine at U.S. schools. You probably know that there are a number of vet schools around the world that are now accredited by the AVMA, but this isn’t enough for the HPSP. If you’re interested in this route, you would apply for the scholarship during your first or second year of vet school, so you’ve still got plenty of time.

      That said, you could still consider going to vet school there in Australia or somewhere else and then applying for a direct commission into the Army as a veterinarian. This is typically even more competitive than the scholarship, but it’s not impossible. Right now, people who direct commission as vets in the Army get a $120,000 loan repayment bonus.

      The opportunities to work with wildlife and exotic species are pretty limited for an Army veterinarian. Most of us see dogs and cats and that’s it. :-/ There are a couple of exceptions to this, though. The Navy has a marine mammal program that usually has three Army vets assigned to it, so if you’re lucky to get that assignment you could spend three years working with dolphins and sea lions. There is also a lot of biomedical research in the military that involves wildlife species of all varieties, so you can get into that if you pursue a PhD or lab animal medicine residency after a few years doing more typical work.

      I haven’t been able to do much with wildlife or exotic species during my time in the Army so far, but I’m still hoping that might change. If not, I have the option to get out when my commitment is up in the summer of 2014.

      Thanks again for your comment!

  14. Elizabeth Wheeler March 22, 2013 at 2:32 am #

    Hello – my biggest obstacle is that I don’t know if I’m still eligible! Technically, I don’t have multiple sclerosis, I have “Clinically Isolated Syndrome” … and I have found that I am heat sensitive. Due to this diagnosis, I had to withdraw from the Ross University Vet program in November 2011. I have been accepted to AVC at University of Prince Edward Island, but I was able to deffer my enrollment till September 2014 because I have a baby due for what would be the first days of classes (I didn’t see that one working well…). I am extremely interested in the Army Veterinary Corp, but I don’t know if I would still be eligible health wise.

    • Elliott March 23, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Unfortunately I can’t help you in figuring that out! You would have to begin the application process to determine if you could get a medical waiver for that specific condition. Basically the Army needs to be sure that you don’t have any pre-existing conditions that would prevent you from being able to do the job of an Army veterinarian. I’m always surprised to hear what people got waivers for and then what other people got rejected for, so it seems to be kind of a hit or miss process. Good luck!

  15. Joseph Baird April 4, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    I am somewhat of a military brat and have already heard about the HPSP. So, my questions are:

    1. Can veterinarians go to combat?
    2. Can veterinarians attend Airborne, Air Assault, Pathfinder, Ranger, or Special Forces schools. (Yes, this is a legitimate question!)
    3. Can veterinarians serve in Airborne units?
    4. How long does it take to become a veterinarian.
    5. I know that minimum service contract is 4 years, but could you sign a contract for 6 or 7 years.
    6. Do you enjoy your job?
    7. Would you recommend being an Army veterinarian?
    8. Where can you travel, and are you able to request different service posts?
    9. (On a sidenote:) Where did you recieve your degree. I have thought about taking the HPSP to go to Cornell. So could you recommend this college?

    Any information would be greatly appreciated!

    • Elliott April 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

      Hi Joseph, thanks for the detailed questions! I’ll try to address them all briefly here but feel free to contact me through my site here if you would like more details on everything.

      1. Can veterinarians go to combat?

      Yes, vets can and often do go into combat zones. I have several veterinary friends who are deployed in Afghanistan right now, and many others who have already spent time there and in Iraq. We are not usually out on foot patrols with the infantry guys, but that doesn’t mean we get to stay away from the action. Many vets have been awarded Combat Action Badges and one vet was killed in action in Iraq a few years ago.

      2. Can veterinarians attend Airborne, Air Assault, Pathfinder, Ranger, or Special Forces schools. (Yes, this is a legitimate question!)

      Yes to all of them! Airborne and Air Assault are pretty common, while the others are less so. One of my commanders is a veterinarian and earned his Special Forces tab a few years back, and there are veterinarians assigned with all the SF Groups and with the Rangers. A veterinary friend of mine just successfully completed Ranger school and got his tab a few months ago.

      3. Can veterinarians serve in Airborne units?

      Yep, there are many vets with Airborne units, both traditional and special operations. They have to complete Airborne training and wear the wings and tab just like everyone else.

      4. How long does it take to become a veterinarian.

      The veterinary degree (DVM or VMD) is a four year graduate degree. Most people do it after completing four years of undergraduate college, but some vet schools will accept you if you have only completed the required pre-requisites even without an undergrad degree.

      5. I know that minimum service contract is 4 years, but could you sign a contract for 6 or 7 years.

      Actually most vets come in with a 3 year active duty contract plus another 5 years on the individual ready reserve. As a veterinarian, you are usually free to stay in for as long as you like (as long as you don’t really mess up somehow!). Officers do not sign enlistment contracts for certain periods of unlike most enlisted soldiers.

      6. Do you enjoy your job?

      Depends on which day you ask me! But yes, I’m glad that I chose to join the Army and know that I will be better off for my time in service whether or not I stay in for a whole military career.

      7. Would you recommend being an Army veterinarian?

      It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure. But I do recommend it to many people like you who are considering different ways to plan their veterinary careers. The most important thing is to go into it all with a realistic understanding of what the job will be like, and that’s something I’m hoping to help with in my website.

      8. Where can you travel, and are you able to request different service posts?

      Army veterinarians are traveling all over the world all the time. I’ve been to over 50 countries, many of them on military missions. Army vets are stationed at almost every military installation around the world, and although you can always request particular assignments it is never guaranteed that your request will be met.

      9. (On a sidenote:) Where did you recieve your degree. I have thought about taking the HPSP to go to Cornell. So could you recommend this college?

      I went to Tufts for my veterinary degree. Cornell is a great school also and I know of several Army vets who are graduates from there.

      Thanks again for your questions and good luck!

  16. Barrett April 17, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Hey Elliot,
    First of all thanks for putting this website together. I just found out yesterday that I got the HPSP(woohoo), and I am definitely gonna do it. Did you do the leadership training during the summer? The way I understand it, they want you to go unless you already have a job commitment and then its no big deal if you miss. Is this correct?

    • Elliott April 18, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      Wow, congrats Barrett! That’s awesome. I didn’t do any Army training until the summer after I graduated from vet school. This is the option that the vast majority of Army veterinarians choose, and I would recommend it for you too. Your vet school summers can be spent for more relevant educational pursuits. If you wait until after you graduate, you’ll do the basic officer leadership course and continue right into the veterinary track with a cohort of other new veterinary officers who will become your friends and colleagues. Congrats again!

      • Barrett April 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

        Thanks man, I’m looking forward to it. Oh yea that makes sense. I have a job anyway this summer but was wondering about next summer. Thanks for your help.

  17. Barrett April 27, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Are the various continued education programs competitive in the Army? I saw that there is a wide range available from Pathology to Surgery, but I didn’t know whether most vets tried to do these or if the extended obligation caused most to avoid that route. I know its a really broad question since there are so many different ones (at least in the brochure), but I am curious about the general availability of these education opportunities.

    Thanks,
    Barrett

    • Elliott April 27, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

      Hey Barrett, good question. In my experience so far, I’ve seen almost everyone who applied for a Long Term Health Education Program (LTHET) get selected for it. I have friends who have started MPHs, lab animal medicine residencies, pathology residencies, PhDs, and emergency/critical care residencies. The general feeling among my peers is that the traditional clinical residency slots are the most competitive (E/CC, medicine, surgery, radiology, behavior). As long as you fulfill the basic requirements of time in service (usually 4-5 years) and one deployment or overseas tour, you should be pretty good to go into whatever you choose.

      • Barrett April 27, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

        Ok great, thanks for the quick response. One more question…do your grades from vet school play any role in the assignments you are given or continued education competitiveness?

    • Elliott April 29, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

      Barrett, I’ve never heard of vet school grades having any impact on assignments. Once you make the cut it seems like everyone is put at an equal starting point. For continuing education, I imagine that some residency directors and academic program admission committees will look at your grades. However, you won’t really be competing against the general population for a slot so I wouldn’t be too concerned about it at that point. The biggest place your grades will have an impact now is on your initial selection as a Veterinary Corps Officer.

  18. Annika May 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Hi Elliot,
    I’ve always been interested in animals, even when I was younger and working at my local animal shelter, so when it came to thinking about college, I thought veterinary school would be a good fit. I’m in my 3nd year (undergrad) and am now hopelessly thinking about what to do with my vet degree when it comes around. I’ve always had a special love and respect for the military, so when I heard about a military vet I knew that’s my future job. I went on GoArmy.com and looked at the job profile and it all seemed good, but quite confusing, mind helping me understand?

    1. Why in the world do vets need to complete the Army Physical Fitness test? I mean, I’ve never been the one for PE in grade school, so this is a BIG turn off as I’m not exactly army fit and can run a mile in 15 minutes, so 2 in 20 is out of this world (I’m not overweight, unfit or unhealthy, just lazy)

    2. How many additional years of schooling are there? Isn’t 8 years enough?

    3. How stressful is it? The GoArmy website states “Being a Army veterinarian requires thinking quickly and accurately under stress and precise work ethics.” Ummm, huh?

    I’m quite concerned and seriously thinking about just going into private practice after reading this, but I think an Army Veterinarian would be perfect for me. Thanks!

  19. Taylor June 11, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    Hello Elliot,

    I am currently weighing my options in the military as I plan to enlist in the next few weeks or so. While I am overly excited to be able to serve my country, I am just as worried that I will not be able to fulfill my dream job as a veterinarian in doing so. I have researched for hours the answers I seek and have yet to find them which has left me worried. I am hoping you may be able to answer them for me.
    What my situation all boils down to is whether or not the Army will allow me to go to school to become a vet while I am serving. To be more concise, is it possible to become an Army vet with no prior college experience before enlisting? Unlike you and many other Army vets I have read about, I have yet to attend college to even earn a Bachelor’s degree. I am afraid that because of this I will never be able to pursue my vet career while serving in the military. Ultimately, I would like to know if the Army would send me to school to get my degree and then send me to vet school? Is this possible?

    Thank you for your time!

    • Elliott July 15, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

      Taylor, great question! It’s definitely more common for Army veterinarians to come into the Army as officers either during or after finishing veterinary school. However, I do know of a few exceptions who have done just what you are talking about. They originally enlisted as regular soldiers, either as vet techs or something totally unrelated. After serving for four years, they got the Army to pay for them to go back to college for an undergraduate degree. This could be either through a ROTC program, a military academy, or just using your GI Bill benefits at any civilian program. Then you could continue on to veterinary school through the HPSP program. If you have prior enlisted service you are eligible for a four year HPSP scholarship. So yes, it is possible to go the route that you’re thinking of. Probably a little bit harder to stay on course, but if you are driven and stick with your goals you can do it! Good luck.

  20. Rachel Bridgman June 14, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    You’re such an inspiration!! I’ve been looking into this actually, I contacted our local Army recruiter to ask some questions. But its so much more helpful to hear from someone who actually experiences this everyday. I’m 17 and fixing to go into my Senior year of highschool….do you recommend going to college first and getting Pre-Vet done like you did OR just join up and get started that way..I’m so curious and have a million questions!!! Thank you for your service!

    • Elliott July 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

      Hey Rachel, that’s awesome that you’re thinking of a career as a vet and considering how you could combine it with military service. I just responded now to someone else with a similar question here on this post, so take a look at my answer there. Basically, you can go at it either way. It’s much more common, though, to go ahead with college and pre-vet on your own first. You can certainly enlist now but you will have to serve at least four years as a regular soldier before having the opportunity to continue on with your education. Good luck!

  21. becomeavet July 25, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    As a practicing veterinarian myself, and the wife of an Army officer I have to say, I love your blog! I have nothing but respect and admiration for the work you do, as well as the work of the heros your look after the Military Working Dogs (MWDs).

    • Elliott August 3, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

      Hey Elyse, it’s great to hear from you! I spent some time exploring your website — you have some great information there. If you’re ever interested in doing some sort of guest post here on my blog just let me know. I would love to hear more about your work.

  22. ALEX9 August 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    I am sorry to be little bit of the topic, but this question is very important to me. I dream about becoming a veterinarian. I have very specific question that is not only reflecting on career but on my future. For an example, if I would finish veterinary college in Poland could I work in USA.

    • Elliott August 20, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

      Hi Alex, that’s a good question. It’s definitely possible to practice as a veterinarian in the U.S. after graduating from school in Poland. Unfortunately it’s not an easy process, though, because you have to take a series of exams in order to transfer for your license. Here’s a good website with all the information on the program.

  23. Aly August 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Dr. Garber,

    I am currently enlisted in the Army National Guard, working on getting my undergraduate in Veterinary Sciences, and am in enrolled in the ROTC class at my college getting ready to contract in. I am so glad that I have stumbled across your blog, it has continued to fuel my excitement to pursue a career in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps. Thank you!

    • Elliott August 24, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

      I’m glad you have found it helpful and encouraging! Thanks for letting me know.

  24. Naomi August 13, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    Hi Elliot!
    I’m actually 17 and about to be a senior in high school and I know I’m young but I’ve always wanted to be a vet and being in the military has always been something I wanted to do as well! I have a few questions, besides MWDs, have you treated any other animals in the US or other countries; and what were they? How will becoming an Army vet be different if I join the army reserve during undergrad and grad school vs if I just joined the army after vet school? will I have to go through less training? get paid more? I hope that makes sense… thank you!!

    • Elliott August 24, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      Naomi, you are way ahead of the game! It’s great that you’re thinking ahead like this.

      I’ve treated all sorts of dogs and cats and rabbits owned by military families, but also Bedouin camels, goats, and sheep in Egypt and Navy dolphins and sea lions in San Diego. I also got to work with the military horses that work at Arlington National Cemetery.

      If you are in the Army Reserve all the way through undergrad and vet school, you will definitely make a lot more money once you come on active duty into the Veterinary Corps. This is because our pay is based on total years of service in the military, and Reserve time counts in the same way towards this. However, you will also have to make sure you can still do well academically on top of the Reserve commitment of one weekend a month and two weeks of training per year. This isn’t impossible, of course, but just an added challenge. You would also need to accept the risk of being deployed at some point as a Reservist, delaying your educational path a little bit.

      Good luck!

  25. Christi Leong August 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    Hi Elliot!

    I’m so glad to have found your blog. I am currently working on applying to vet school and just wanted to connect with someone in the field! Ideally, I’d like to become a military vet, and then possibly (and eventually), work in education (teaching at a university, classes like gross animal anatomy and such–they have been my favorite so far!).

    I’m working on my vet school application (personal statement) and am really having a tough time with the prompt, and in particular, “Discuss your understanding of the veterinary medical profession.” Do you happen to have any advice for how to approach this question? Do you happen to have access to any previous personal statements or topics that have been particularly good? I’m definitely struggling a bit with trying to be unique, while also answering the question! Any help and/or resources would be much appreciated! 🙂

    Thanks so much!!!

    Christi Leong

    • Elliott August 24, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

      Christi, great question here. I’ve been seriously thinking about how I might better be able to assist people like you who are applying for vet school and other scholarships and opportunities. I’ll shoot you an e-mail personally and we can chat more that way.

  26. Rachel October 17, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    Hello Elliott,

    I can not even begin to tell you how useful your blog has been for me. I am currently working for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs as a research technologist. I study traumatic brain injury in a rodent model. Prior to taking this position, I working in the VA’s animal facility performing routine animal husbandry tasks for a variety of animals.

    I have always found that interacting with the animals has been my favorite part of my job. I’m just not as passionate about research as I thought I would be. I still value it greatly, but when I think about my life 5, 10, or even 20 years from now, I don’t see myself being happy with my current career. All I think about is how much I want to make a career out of caring for animals.

    When it got to the point where I was losing sleep over my quarter-life crisis, I decided to do a bit more research on becoming a veterinarian. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an Army veterinarian, which is quite ironic considering I spend 40+ hours a week working for the Army. I truly believe that this is the answer. It sounds like it will be both physically and emotionally challenging, but I’m confident that I have what it takes. Thank you so much for opening my eyes to such an incredible opportunity.

    • Elliott October 22, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

      Hey Rachel, thanks for sharing about your situation! It’s always encouraging to hear from people like you who are finding the information here useful and inspiring.

      One of the things I like most about my work in the Army is that there is so much variety in the different missions that I am tasked with. I know that I would get burned out quickly of doing the same thing every day.

      You might want to consider lab animal medicine for a future career track, either in or out of the Army. It lets you stay involved with the animals while also having a bigger picture impact on the research side of things.

  27. Pricilla K Green October 23, 2013 at 2:30 am #

    My daughter recieved a scholarship from the Army for 4 years. She has Military class all day Thursdays. Her challenges are going great. She made Ranger Challenge. However, she is struggling with her science classes. She has always made As in science but the military classes and challenges are not meshing well. She has trained dogs and horses since she was seven and has always wanted to be a Veterinarian. The Army accepted her knowing this. She is getting very discouraged and has lost some of her 4 year friends. My question is this should she strictly focus on the requirements for Vet school and not go for the biochemistry degree she is seeking? Texas A & M doesn’t require a biochem degree. She is at UTA excellent school in Arlington, Texas
    If you have any spare time and could give her some encouragement I would really appreciate it.
    Pricilla K Green
    Mommy of Cadet Veronica L. Green

  28. Jess October 29, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Hi Elliott,

    I’m so excited that I found your blog! I’m a first year at
    PennVet and I’m in the process of applying for the HPSP. Growing up, I always pictured myself in a private practice somewhere, but over the past few years I’ve realized that is really not where I want to be. The more I have researched the Army and talked with recruiters, the more I have realized that this is exactly the career path I picture myself in. I know that the HPSP is extremely competitive and the odds aren’t in my favor (I don’t have much military background in my family), but I still want to be an Army vet after I graduate in 2017. Do you have any advice for preparing myself for this career and/or making myself a competitive applicant?

    -Jess

    • Elliott November 5, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

      Jess, great to hear from you!

      The most important thing you can do now to make yourself a competitive applicant is to excel academically in your first semester of vet school. It seems like most people who get chosen for the HPSP as first-year vet students have close to a 4.0 in that first semester. It’s not the best way to distinguish who will make the best Army officer, but unfortunately it seems to be a key factor.

      You’ll also want to really polish your letter of intent to make sure it’s very clear that you understand the role of an Army vet and that you are passionate and ready to take this commitment on.

      Finally, you should do all you can to make sure you have strong letters of recommendation. If you can get one from a military officer or even better an Army veterinarian who you have worked with, that would help, but it’s not a requirement at all. I didn’t have anyone with military experience among my references.

      Good luck!

  29. Adrianna November 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Hello. I am currently a high school student in my third year of my vet program. I am very interested in becoming what you are BUT I need help. I have NO clue of how to sign up or where to go. I just need to know what is required so I can hopefully get into this career. Thank you for your time.
    -Adrianna W.

    • Elliott November 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

      Good to hear from you Adrianna. It’s great that you’re thinking so far ahead with this! You’ll first need to get into an undergrad college or university and complete at least the minimum required courses for acceptance into a veterinary graduate degree. The vet degree is another four years of school. It’s a long road but worthwhile if you can stick with it!

  30. Tiffany McCants November 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    how often do you get moved around? Im looking into being a Army Veterinarian very seriously but that would be a very large issue for me. I have many questions about it.

    • Elliott November 13, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

      Tiffany, most of us get moved every 2-3 years. It’s possible to stay in one location for a longer time if you are in an area with lots of jobs for Army veterinarians (mostly the DC area or San Antonio, TX).

  31. Lita November 27, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    Hi Elliot, I’m 18 years old and am having a real difficult time deciding about the military. I have known all my life that I want to work in the veterinary field, have been preparing for it everyday, and recently just acquired a job working at a vet clinic. I also know with all my heart and soul that I want to travel to foreign countries and help people. Foreign aid, culture, and language are all passions of mine. On top of all of this, I have a long line of military heritage including, currently, my brother and father; however, I never in all my life even considered the military. I originally didnt think I could even survive basic, especially after watching my brother and various friends go through it and hearing their stories…i felt i wasnt strong enough. That all changed today when I went into the National Guard recruiting center as support for my friend Aly who is enlisting. The idea I could get paid to go to a school I really want to get in to, the chance to help with foreign aid, become a vet/ vet tech, get stronger, and gain all these worldly skills is very tempting, but I am scared out of my mind. I’m not sure if it’s a life I can lead. I still am unsure if I can survive drill and basic. Plus, I’m positive my dad and brother are going to tie me up and throw me in the basement if they hear I want to enlist. What I really want to know is, what helped you decide? What’s it like? And is foreign aid/abroad travel difficult to get in to? Your advice would greatly help my unsettled mind.

  32. Stephen December 23, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    How long can you be employed.. Also can you request to be deployed.. Also will you half to handle guns??

    • Elliott December 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

      Hey Stephen, theoretically you could be employed as a veterinarian in the Army for over thirty years, as long as you keep getting promoted. Everyone signs an initial commitment of eight years, which is split into active duty and reserve component depending on the type of contract.

      Yes, you can definitely volunteer to be deployed! It totally depends on the current world situation as to how likely a deployment might be.

      And yes, all Army vets have to do at least basic initial training with both the M4/M16 and the M9. Unless you are deployed in a combat situation or are assigned to a special operations unit, it’s unlikely that you would do much more weapons training.

  33. Leonardo RIvero January 2, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    Hi Dr. Elliot

    Im a fourth year veterinary student in venezuela, and i want to work in veterinary corps.

    My question its if you know what i need to do to enter in the veterinary corps?

    Thanks.

    • Elliott January 7, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

      Leonardo, unfortunately the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps is only an option for U.S. citizens. Do you have dual citizenship? Or are you considering immigrating? You could also check to see if Venezuela has veterinarians in its own military. We often collaborate with military vets from other countries.

  34. ARCHANA January 9, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    wow i was not knowing about this thank u sooo much

  35. Terri January 22, 2014 at 3:36 am #

    Do other branches of the military have vets? And do they have scholarship programs like the army’s? I have a son (11th grade) interested in becoming a vet. He has earned his Gold Medal of Achievement in Royal Rangers (similar to the Eagle Scout) and is supposed to qualify for fast-track admission at military academies. We are looking at options.

    • Elliott January 31, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

      Good question, Terri. The Army is the only branch of the military that has clinical veterinarians. The Air Force does have a very small number of vets who are serving as Public Health Officers, and they do not do any animal medicine. Sounds like it could be a good fit for your son!

  36. Jacqueline Alonzo January 30, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    Hi there! So excited that I came across your page. I’m a 19 year old undergrad student. I’m not that stong in math but im fairly good in the sciences. But i decided nothing is going to stop me from becoming a vet. I have been around horses my enitre life. I was in ffa in high school and was in a trail riding group. My whole family was raised to treat our pets like part of our family. This is something that really excites me and lights the fire in my heart. Im very passionate for animals and public health. i currently have a 3.6 GPA.. I don’t really have to much on my college resume compared to my high school resume. I plan to get more involved in the fall semester. Do you think you can give me some general information on the application process and what the admisssions look for? I know they don’t what the “oh I have always loved animals” kinda personal statement, what is something that you would say is acceptable. Also I was planning on already joining the army reserves because of the benefits. I heard that they still cover have of tution if you are in the reseves, would that make me a more competative applicant for becoming an army officer? Do you recommend any books or websites that can help me with the application process?

    P.S
    Thank you so much for being considerate of those reallly passionate about this career yet lost on how to get started!!!
    Truly appreciate this page so much!!!

    • Elliott January 31, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Jacqueline! Sounds like you would make a great veterinarian. The best resources for information on preparing for and applying to veterinary school are the AAVMC, the APVMA, and the SDN online forum.

      The Army Reserve has some great benefits, but I’m not sure if it would make you more competitive for the HPSP scholarship or not. Good luck!

  37. jessica February 2, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    Hey, first i have to say thankyou sooooo much for putting this together cause it has already answered most of my questions! I am a highschool student, i am 100%hoping devoted to both animals and military and for longest time i was trying to decide between the two, untill my JROTC colonel told me how i can be both! I am just curious on the steps that i have to take in order to get in HPSP?

  38. Sarah Rizor February 6, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    I’m a Junior in High School and I had decided last year that I wanted to become a Vet and I am going to try and take a Veterinary Sciences class my Senior year. Several years ago I seriously considered the Army and also last year at a Job Fair I thought about it again. I respect the Military and have several people in my family who were a part of it. I never knew you could be both and this is all new to me and I’m a bit confused as to what to major in for a baccalaureate degree and even where to go to college. When would you enlist in the Army as well? Just any advice would be helpful right now.

  39. Stephanie February 6, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    I loved your story! I’ve loved animals ever since i learned what they were. This past year I was watching animal planet and something came on about rescuing animals and I finally decided that I wanted to pursue that career; however, I found absolutely nothing about animal rescue professionals until i found the veterinary corps. I decided to join ROTC so I can learn more about it. I must admit that the more i read stories about it, the more i want to be come an officer. The more I experience ROTC, the more interested I am in the army. Where do I go from here? I am a motivated student and cadet and would love to learn more!

  40. Melissa February 13, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    Hello!
    Im currently a freshman double majoring in Animal Biology and Chinese at UC Davis. I am very interested in being an Army Vet, and in the HPSP. My initial question is “when do you apply for the scholarship? During your undergraduate senior year? Or after you have been accepted into a veterinary school?” And if it is during veterinary school, would I finish my studies and THEN go in as an Army Vet? Thanks for your help! I am currently doing a project in a class of mine where I have to investigate a specific career in the veterinary field and I have decided on Army Vet as my topic.

  41. Katie February 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    Thank you for posting these! I’m currently enlisted in the Army right now. I’m deployed to Aghanistan, with only 8 months on my contract left by the time we get home. So naturally, I’m in the whole “What do I want to do with my life?” state. About a two weeks ago it finally dawned on my what I know I want to do, and that is be a vet. I love animals, and everyday I hate that I can’t do anything to help the animals I read about being mistreated. It even bothers me that I can’t go to the other side of the FOB to help the dogs that are diseased. Yes, I’m the kind of person that brings home strays too. Me and my big heart….. Anyways, whenever I bring up what I want to do, everyone just tells me to stay in and re-class. I like the Army well enough, but I definitely want to go to school and follow my dream. I did some research anyways though and discovered information about the Army Vet Corps, and I found your post. Reading though it all definitely made my decision harder. I just don’t even know how to go about accomplishing this since I’m already enlisted. Do I get out and just get back in or is there an easier way? Help!

    • Elliott February 20, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

      Katie, great to hear from you, and thanks for your service over there in Afghanistan right now. I haven’t been myself yet, but one of my vet techs (68T) just returned a couple of months ago. He is currently an E-5 and in the process of applying to colleges to start along the same path as what you’re thinking. He hopes to do an ROTC scholarship for undergrad and then get a four-year HPSP scholarship for vet school. I would do all you can to figure out how to make the military pay for as much of your school as possible! I’ll shoot you an e-mail personally now so that I can get you in touch with my Soldier who is right in the middle of doing this same thing.

  42. Sara February 27, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    I am a junior Pre-Veterinary Student and I have really started looking into this HPSP scholarship. I have always thought about joining the military but I never thought it would be a feasible option for me until I started looking into this program. I was wondering if you could tell me how difficult it is to get into the program? I have found a couple different forums and sites all telling me different things. I don’t plan on going to vet school until after I get my masters but it’s something I really want to do. Also, one other reason I have doubts is my physical fitness. I have never had a lot of motivation to work out and be physically fit but that is something I want to work on while getting my masters and in the next two years as an undergraduate. I was wondering also about the PT tests and how difficult it can be. Thank you so much!

    • Elliott April 3, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

      Hey Sara, unfortunately it’s pretty tough for me to qualify exactly how competitive the scholarship is. I can tell you that there are many more applicants than there are recipients, and of course you’re competing against other people who are already in vet school like you. Physical fitness is important, but it’s not a primary part of our mission as veterinarians. You do have to be able to meet the minimum standards, though, which you can find here. In many positions we also do regular fitness sessions with our soldiers, so you need to be able to keep up with the group!

  43. Caroline March 3, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    Hello Dr. Elliot!

    I just recently discovered your site and I am so very excited about it. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into it, it is incredibly helpful. I am currently a junior in undergraduate school and will be applying to vet school this June. I am very interested in HPSP. If admitted to vet school, I plan to pursue a master’s in Public Health alongside my DVM. I want to do everything I can to make myself an appealing candidate for HPSP. My biggest confusion right now is, when exactly do I apply? I know that I must be admitted to vet school first. Can I begin to apply as soon as I’m admitted or after a certain time period in vet school? Thank you so much for your time and your help!

    • Elliott April 3, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words, Caroline. You can apply for the HPSP for the first time as a first year vet student. Once you start vet school then you can get in touch with your local health professions recruiter and they will guide you through the process.

  44. Carolyn March 4, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    Hi Dr. Elliot,

    Just wanted to thank you for providing all of this great insight into being an Army Vet. I’m a first year vet student and after much deliberation have decided to apply for the HPSP. I have several questions about active duty sites, type of work, etc. How much are the active duty preferences considered? Have you ever gotten a site that you requested? I’m also worried that I will lose all of my surgical skills if I’m continually placed in large food mission sites. Have you experienced this at all? I’d love to talk to you more and appreciate any help you can provide.

    Thanks!

    • Elliott April 3, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

      Great questions, Carolyn. I’ve answered some of them in my FAQ, and others will come whenever I get around to writing more articles about my assignments as a vet in the Army. As veterinarians we’re required to keep up our clinical proficiency, so that means doing a certain minimum number of surgeries every quarter. Almost all assignments for new graduates include a good mix of clinical medicine and the public health / food safety side of things.

  45. Paola April 3, 2014 at 1:21 am #

    Hello Dr. Elliot! I’m very happy I found all of the information that you’re providing. I’m 19 years old and in College. I originally was going to go for a Nursing career, but recently my dream to become a Veterinarian has been chasing me. Is it mandatory to be a veterinarian in order to get into the army?

    • Elliott April 3, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      No, not at all! There are also nurses and all sorts of other medical professionals in the Army and other branches of the military.

  46. Ant April 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    Sir,

    I am currently in the guard and I have some questions for you. I’m thinking about going to vet school and going big army as a vet. Is it possible to talk to you off-line?

    • Elliott April 3, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      Sure, just shoot me a message through my Contact page. I’m a little behind on replying right now but I will eventually!

  47. Chelsie May 22, 2014 at 4:57 am #

    Hello! I have many questions on being a vet in the army but i cant decide which is better army or airforce i lookin for a way to pay for my college if you could email me at murraychelsie50@gmail.com i would love your advice im stuck in what decisions i should make for my future career. It would be greatly appreciated if you could thank you!

  48. Peyton May 24, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    This is the blog I’ve been looking for for quite some time! I’ve always wanted to work with military dogs or police dogs, and I really think that the HPSP is something that would really be interesting and beneficial for me. How does it all work? I’m a 17 year old female who has been working at a veterinary clinic for 4+ years now and working at a horse stable for a year. I know that this alone would help my chance to be accepted into vet school, but the money is a huge issue for me. I’ll be a senior in high school this fall, applying for colleges and such. Should I be applying to ROTC programs to greater my chances of being selected for the program? How does the program work? Sorry for all the questions – whenever you get a chance, please e-mail me! I have tons more. Thanks for all you do. Your work is inspiring. 🙂

  49. kelly nguyen June 12, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    Hi sir. Im currently an enlisted soldier in the Army right now and was very interested in the Veterinary Corps. I was thinking about staying enlisted and reclassing to a 68T but the veterinary corps sounded very elite to me and i just wanted to know your input on how id be able to join the veterinary corp with the situation i am in now.

  50. Adam June 17, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    Hey Elliott,
    I have some question about scholarships while in the military. I am currently Enlisted in the Air Force at almost to my 3 year mark. I recently decided to restart my schooling to become a vet. My question is do you know of anyone who has done this? I am having difficulty finding someone who can give me so information on this. Would I need to finish my contract or possibly apply for a SOAR program? Have you heard of an Air Force enlisted person going blue to green for a program like this? Any input you give me would be greatly appreciated!

  51. Ryan June 22, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    I just wanted to thank you Elliot for putting out this very informaive article out there. I am currently in the Air Force and I am getting out in January to pursue a vet career in the Army. I am starting fresh out of WSU and I had a lot of questions that you answered for the most part right here. I just shadowed a MWD gastropexy yesterday and I will continue to do that as much as I can. The career itself seems like it has so much more to offer in the military than it does in the civilian world. No matter what, it seems like the stongest place to start a career as a vet. Also, is there an advantage to being prior service during the application process? Adam, I might have a few answers for you if you look me up on the global (ryan krastins)

    • Adam June 25, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

      That sounds great. Im on a Tdy right now but I’ll send you an email once I get back to home station. Thanks!

      • pat July 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

        What do you know about vets working for the military but not being in the military? Love your blog!

        • Elliott August 22, 2014 at 6:19 am #

          There are a lot of vets who work for the military as civilians. Most of them are clinicians working as GS or NAF employees at the vet clinics on base, but there are also others in research positions.

  52. Asya July 2, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

    Hi Elliot,
    I’m currently in High School in JROTC . I’ve always wanted to be an veterinarian since I was younger and I still do. The problem is I’ve wanted to go to the military and be a veterinarian but I don’t know how to start this process when I get out of school. Help???

  53. paige July 17, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    Ok so I’m 15 and I’m a girl my dream is to join the army but my other dream is to become a vet so iv been thinking bout being a vet in the army but wat is holding me back I that I want to be not only being a vet but also be put in combat out on the battle feild is there anyway I can do both. Thx for taking time to read this. – paige

  54. Stephanie July 18, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Dear Mr Garber, i am a 17 year old girl from a country in southern Africa, i want to study for a vet but don’t want my parents to pay for my studies, would you please be so kind as to perhaps tell me (when you get a chance) of institutions that may help me to achieve this, i don’t mind studying in other country’s and possibly staying there
    thank you

  55. David August 19, 2014 at 5:07 am #

    This is great! My granddaughter wants to be a vet, and I think this would be a great fit for her. Can’t wait to show her your site.

    • Elliott August 22, 2014 at 6:15 am #

      Thanks David, I hope you will!

  56. Hiram August 31, 2014 at 12:48 am #

    Elliot,

    I am 28 years old with a B.A. Degree with emphasis in Spanish. I have worked as a teacher for one year, work with race horses for about 4 years, and currently a teaching tennis pro. I would like to fulfill my dream of becoming a veterinarian to hopefully work at a race track down the road. Could you help me on how I could accomplish this with the help of the military? Army, Air Force, Marines, etc.
    My first idea would be to join the military and with their help go to vet school either before or after service. How does this work?
    I don’t have much information on how to start the process, what to do first, or whether is even possible.

    Thanks
    Hiram

    • Elliott January 3, 2015 at 5:06 am #

      Hiram, sorry for taking so long to respond here. My best advice is to read through everything linked from my Army Veterinarian page here, including the FAQ. That will give you a good start in understanding the situation. Only the Army has veterinarians, and there are very few positions that involve any equine medicine. Good luck!

  57. Amanda September 13, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    Elliot,

    Your website is so helpful, thank you for taking the time out of your day to inform.

    I recently spoke with a recruiter about the HPSP scholarship, and he told me that I would only owe three years of active duty for a three year HPSP scholarship. He did say that not everyone that applies will get three years: one or two years could be awarded. Is five years Individual Ready Reserve mandatory for all vets with the scholarship? That would indicate an 8 year commitment. (read this in your response to another person). Say I only get accepted for two years HPSP, does that change the amount of IRR?

    I read from your post that you apply your first year of vet school. Is there a specific date or website that tells you details about exactly when and how to apply? Do you go to boot camp immediately before starting your “training” as an army vet?

    Another of my concerns is this, being called to combat. It says on the army’s website that the vet corps is not called to combat, but in some of your previous posts you talk about being in combat zones and a veterinarian dying in the line of duty. Please elaborate…

    Also, In terms of the 8 year commitment, this may make me change my mind of applying for the HPSP and joining as a commissioned officer and going with the 120k! Would I also owe the 5 years IRR this way or just three years active duty? Do I still get a sign on bonus going with the HPSP scholarship or just with the commissioned officer route?

    When you join as an officer, how do you move up in rank? I read that a chief in the vet corps is a Brigadier General.

    I know I just asked you enough questions to write a book, please take your time in your responses. Your knowledge from experience is greatly appreciated.

    -Amanda

  58. Margaret October 25, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    Hi. I’m a single mom and I’m about to start online school for veterinary technician. I was wondering, will they let you commission in being a vet tech or do you have to be a veterinarian? I keep asking people but they aren’t giving me a straight answer.

    • Elliott January 3, 2015 at 5:04 am #

      Vet techs can come into the Army as enlisted Soldiers, but in order to commission as a veterinary officer you would need to be either in vet school or already graduated as a vet.

  59. Zach January 3, 2015 at 4:54 am #

    Hey there Elliot,
    After reading your blogs, talking to some Army vets, and doing tons of research, I decided to be an Army vet! I was on the veterinary career path my whole life, and the Army seemed awesome. So I got myself into shape, got accepted to a DVM program, started talking to a recruiter… and was told I couldn’t even apply. It came out in our conversation that I was on antidepressants when I was 13 (I’m 23 now) at a time my whole family was in turmoil. It was a temporary thing. I was literally a freshman in high school. I’ve been off them for years and years, and do NOT have any mental health issues, but the recruiter basically shot me down there. Do you think I should talk to someone else? Do you know if he’s correct? I am extremely unsure how to proceed and would love feedback. It looks like you’ve been off this page for a while, but any response would be hugely appreciated. Thanks!

    • Elliott January 3, 2015 at 5:03 am #

      Zach, thanks for your comment. You should definitely talk to another recruiter, and if you keep getting negative answers you should request to speak to people higher in their chain of command. This sounds like something that they would pretty easily give a medical waiver for. Good luck!

  60. Marisa January 25, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    I am currently a vet technician and am a pre-med/vet student.Do you know how would things work if I married in the military and went to vet school. Would he be able to be based by me? And would I be able to work on the military base as a vet?

  61. Hannah February 3, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    Hello, I graduating from high school this year and was planning on going to SUNY Canton to receive my 4 year degree as a veterinary technician and I was wondering at what point would I join the army to become a vet in the army? Would I be active as a vet tech in the army while attending to become a veterinarian? How soon can I join?

  62. Rebecca February 14, 2015 at 12:59 am #

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  63. Kayla February 26, 2015 at 11:09 pm #

    Sir,
    I’m in a unique situation. Being a veterinarian in the Army has been my goal for years. I lost sight of that goal in 2009, the last year of my pre vet studies and since graduating from the university of Florida in 2010 with an animal sciences degree have earned my commission in the Army Reserve as a 2LT. I am taking the last class I need to apply to vet school (I apply in May). Do you have any insight as to how I’d go about going from a transportation officer in the Army reserves to a veterinarian in the active duty Army? Do you know if having so much time in between pretend will hurt my chances in vet school? Will my short military career help?Thank you in advance,

  64. claudette April 29, 2015 at 4:16 am #

    Hi, ive contemplated enlisting in the military when i was a senior in high school and until now. If i were to enlist i would be the FIRST in my family to join the military and seeing how i am a female my family will take the new even harder even with the heads up with me wanting to enlist. I am currently studying at the university of Houston to get my bachelors to then go on to vet school. I my self have looked into the vet program the army has for many years, the few questions i have always come up with is , how would it work while in school? after you graduate from vet school which job do you get to pick, clinical or field, or are there more? How many years would your contract be after finishing vet school.
    trust me its no easy task being a female in a Hispanic family wanting to join the military so if you could give me an in site to what i am in store before making the decision to talk to a recruiter i would really appreciate it.
    thank you
    -Claudette
    ps im still going to continue reading

  65. Cindyl Hearne May 5, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    hi there my name is cindyl and I am about to be 16 I’m a sophomore in high school and have had my heart dead set on being a vet since I was about 5 years old. I have a great connection with almost all animals as well as growing up on a farm I use to train horses and worked in a vet office. I want to be a large animal vet and specialize in equine. I will stop at nothing to achieve my life goals. I come from a small family who cannot pay for college fees and must find a way to earn/receive help or a scholarship. Would joining the army and going through this program be a wise decision on my part? Where would I start and what should be my first steps in this process? Please email me back thank you.

  66. Christie August 16, 2015 at 3:09 am #

    I’m the mother of a West Point cadet. His little sister has aspirations of following in his footsteps. But she interested in becoming a veterinarian. Do you have any knowledge of Army vets going through USMA?

    • Eric December 3, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

      West point is not the right path for your son if he want to become a Veterinarian. I am writing from there 🙂

  67. Makayla August 31, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    Hi My name is Makayla. I am currently a junior in high school but I want to work in the veterinary medicine field. I have no idea what the criteria is or what I need. My biggest concern is going into something im not going to like. Do you still have to do regular bootcamp? I would really appreciate if you could go through the process for me.

  68. Joshua September 8, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

    My name is Joshua, and I’ve signed up to be a veterinarian in the army. My question is: what helped you prepare in advance? As in did you find any reading material that may have been helpful?

  69. patricia October 7, 2015 at 7:08 am #

    I’m 13 n I wan to be a vet in the military but I’ve just got one question do we go on dangerous missions or something that risks my life if yes I’ll just be a normal vet n lose my dream I all wanted.

  70. Kat November 13, 2015 at 2:43 am #

    Hey Elliot,

    Would the army ever pay for additional education post DVM? I have not applied to be an army vet but would consider it post graduation. I would like to get either a masters or go into research after getting my DVM. I also think that the army is a great place to go into if you are interested in research. Please share your thoughts on this and if the army would provide post-DVM training funding. Thank you!!!

    • Elliott November 13, 2015 at 5:10 am #

      Great question. The Army Veterinary Corps provides lots of opportunities for further education after you have been in for about five years. In fact, if you want to make a career of it, you pretty much have to do either another graduate degree or a residency training program. There are all sorts of options, from a basic MPH to a PhD to clinical residencies in E/CC, surgery, radiology, etc. The only catch to all this is that you have to do those first couple assignments as a regular Army vet before you can go into one of these programs, and then of course you owe more time after you complete the program.

      • Kat November 16, 2015 at 3:36 am #

        Thanks for your quick reply! I actually am interested in applying for a graduate degree or doing a residency in the army lab animal program. How competitive is it to get into the army vet corps post graduation? Do you know if there are any benefits to being in the army and applying to graduate programs? Last question, I promise, how long do the assignments take? Any advice on who I can best contact to ask all these questions?

  71. Shawnna November 17, 2015 at 11:29 pm #

    Hi, I’m just exploring my options and I saw this. I’ve wanted to be a veterinarian ever since I was a baby, no exaggeration there. I was wondering did you get the HPSP scholarship and did it help you pay back your original four year college for pre-veterinarian studies? I’m from a big family in a small town and my family can’t really help me pay for college so I’m relying mainly on the FAFSA and scholarships and loans. I don’t want to be in debt too much and I was wondering if this helped you or anyone you know pay off their loans? Thank you for this by the way!

  72. Ramon December 4, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    To answer Christie’s question (August 16, 2015), I know a West Point graduate (LTC Robert Trucksa USMA 1963) who transferred to the Veterinary Service after being commissioned in the Artillery. Bob thinks he is the 2nd USMA grad who joined the Veterinary Corps. Would you know who was the FIRST grad? My friend Bob became a specialist in eye surgery for animals. Perhaps you are familiar with his name. BTW, my best wishes to Christie’s daughter — may she realize her druthers to graduate from West Point and become a veterinarian!

  73. Tracy December 5, 2015 at 6:10 am #

    Hi Elliot , I am a soon to be undergrad college student. And I was wondering should I start going to the national guard now? Cause I want to be a veterinarian for the military. But also because I’ve always here it was a good way to pay for school as well. I planed on doing the Reserve Part of the national guard. As my boys which are veterinarians as well. I forgot to mention I work at a vet hospital in Vegas aswell. Thank you for this website as well it’s helping me become less scared.

  74. alexis January 7, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Elliot,
    I have just been accepted to Veterinary school and I have been looking into the HPSP extensively. There are some things I am fearful of..first off Im a 5’2 100lb female. I almost wonder if I even stand a chance because of this alone. Do you think it matters? Also, I am a little hesitant about being sent off to wherever in the world, without any say in where I am stationed. I have a family and would like to stay near them. I would love your honest opinion about these things. Thanks!

    • Kathy January 11, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

      For Army standards (female), your minimum weight at 62 inches tall has to be 104 lb, with a maximum of 136-138 depending on your age (17-20 or 21-27 yrs old).

  75. Brooke Weaver February 5, 2016 at 12:02 am #

    Thank you so much for all this information. I am actually a JR in Highschool considering serving to help pay for my future vet schooling. What tips would you give me starting at this young?

  76. Emily March 15, 2016 at 10:49 pm #

    I just graduated vet school with $300,000+ loans. I have an internship set up from the match to start in june for a year that pays $25,000 a year and then it’s on to the next internship that pays the same the next wherever I get placed on the match. I want to eventually work with exotics, but I am really feeling the pressure of the debt. I don’t mind moving, heck I’m doing that every year with the internship plan but making nothing! What is the best way to get started in the Army to get the most help with my debt and get a chance at working with wildlife someday?

  77. Jasmine Lara April 2, 2016 at 3:14 am #

    Hey so I am really intrestead in becoming a vet but the only thing holding me back is math. Im afriad I might fail the schooling in the army bcause im no good in math. So i was wondering if there is any hard math in there because all i really know is alegebra 1. So im really scared of failing the schooling then ending up having to get thrown into a job i wont like for 4 years.

  78. Tyler April 18, 2016 at 1:20 am #

    Hi,

    I’ll be going into pre vet undergrad school this fall. I have had my sights set on becoming a veterinarian for quite a while now, however I was just recently introduced to the possibility of doing so in the military. I found the idea immediately appealing, but I was wondering if you could clarify some questions that I had to help fully understand what I’d be getting myself into. Some of the questions may seem simple but I’m just trying to cover all my bases. First of all, how much of your graduate school debt would you be able to pay off by enlisting? How long, straight out of vet school, are you required to serve? And by enlisting, what restraints would this have on starting a family/marriage etc.
    Thanks for the help

  79. sam May 10, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    Hey I am a junior in High school and am taking Vet assisting next year then proceeding to basic. Do you know anything about the odds of getting in the Vet. field as an MOS, and if so what are the odds and how would I be able to increase them. I have talked to recruiters and have heard it is difficult to get into as an MOS and to have another medical related MOS ready as a back up. I would also like to know where I could be stationed as a Vet. While until July to sign on, I would like to be as prepared as possible.

    • Elliott May 19, 2016 at 11:41 pm #

      Hi there, good questions. I don’t think it is too difficult to become an Animal Care Specialist in the Army, which is MOS 68T. That is probably what you are referring to if you’re thinking of enlisting after high school. You can be assigned almost anywhere in the world where we have a military presence!

  80. Randi Arnett July 12, 2016 at 1:08 am #

    Thank you for creating this site Elliott!!! The Q & A is extremely helpful and helps answer questions I wasn’t even thinking of. I have an MBA but have always wanted to be a veterinarian. I’m older, 37, but looking at the military for assisting in paying for my vet school. I am registering this fall for science classes for my pre-req’s needed to apply to vet school; my MBA didn’t really focus on science. I plan to meet with my pets’ veterinarian in a few weeks to pick his brain on being a veterinarian. From what my husband tells me, 17+ year Army combat veteran, the Army will still want me despite my older age. What thoughts do you have for a mid career gal looking to change her focus? I am highly involved in animal rescue and feel that this experience has helped me support my long time dream of becoming a vet. I visited OSU when I was 16/17 imagining myself in their vet school, and then life happened and I got a City job and focused my education on business and got married, etc. I recently survived breast cancer and it really hit home that I need to start focusing on what makes me happy, particularly in my professional world. Thank you again for your advice and information!!

  81. Mercedes Gumm September 14, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

    Dr. Elliot,
    There is nothing holding me back in terms of my passion of joining the army. Before even applying to Veterinary School I had always been passionate about serving my country. Once I realized there was an option to combine by 2 passions I was sold. The loan repayment plan was just the cherry on top for me. The only concern I have is that although my university is AVMA accredited, I am not at a school within the US. St. George’s University is AVMA accredited and we all live on US government loans, but when I have asked recruiters about my certain situation, I seem to get the run around. I know that the army is what I want to do, but I am not sure if that is going to be feasible with 200,000 + loans coming out of vet school. 🙁

  82. Alexia October 25, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    How many years were you obligated to serve ?

  83. junior November 29, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    Dear elliot
    i am currently living in jedddah saudiarabia working as a veterinarian in a private owed small animal vet clinic for the past 4 years . i got my DVM from a non accredited vet university. i am planning to move to the US by the end ofdecember to join my wife and my son. with out taking the ecfvg exam can i join the vet corp some how? or can i get a scholarship through time if i join as an assistant ?

  84. Yanira Monsivais May 17, 2017 at 7:01 am #

    What all was consisted to join? or sign up for the scholarship?

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