I can see you now, staring off into space, wondering how in the world you’re going to learn a semester’s worth of material in the next couple of weeks. It’s not easy, with the beautiful spring weather to enjoy, summer plans to finalize, and a brain that doesn’t want to stay focused for more than five minutes at a time. But who said becoming a vet was going to be easy?
With all this going on, do you really have time to think about finding a job eventually? Or even paying for vet school? Those things will take care of themselves, right?
Veterinary Scholarship Program with Guaranteed Job
Now that I’ve given you one more thing to worry about just when you didn’t need it, I’ll tell you about a program that might provide a great solution. Don’t delay, though, because the application for this $50,000 scholarship is due by March 20, 2014.
I know some of you are probably kind of sick of hearing about my experiences as an Army veterinarian, and you’re wondering if there are actually any other ways to help pay for school and get a nice stable government job when you graduate. Not everyone is up for the shoot-‘em-up combat action that Army vets sign on for, and that’s totally okay.
Let me introduce you to government organization called the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS falls under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and it is often confused with another USDA organization called the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Together, these organizations employ almost 2000 veterinarians who are making a median annual income of $112,000.
APHIS veterinarians support a broad mission that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. They can be located all over the U.S and the world, and their actual jobs range from guiding the government’s One Health efforts to helping to control brucellosis and tuberculosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area to developing emergency preparedness plans focusing on animal welfare in partnership with our country’s zoos.
FSIS veterinarians focus predominantly on food safety and food defense, and they can end up doing some pretty interesting stuff too. Keep an eye out for a new podcast interview soon featuring one of these FSIS vets.
USDA Pathways Program: Saul T. Wilson, Jr., Internship
Okay, I hear you, enough with the background information already! Here are all the juicy details.
How does a $50,000 scholarship sound? Combine that with paid internships during school breaks and an automatic conversion when you graduate to full-time job as one of the aforementioned APHIS Veterinary Medical Officers, and you have yourself the Saul T. Wilson, Jr., Internship (PDF).
Now before you get too excited, I have to admit that the $50,000 is the best case scenario in which you are selected as a pre-vet student with two more years of undergraduate studies (with a $5,000 scholarship per year) and then move on to four years of veterinary school (with a $10,000 scholarship per year).
You could also apply as a first year vet student and get a total of $30,000 (again, $10,000 per year for graduate studies) in scholarship funds, along with these other benefits.
I just spoke with Mr. John Morris from APHIS. He’s listed as the point of contact in the job listing online, and I wanted to get some clarification for you about the academic requirements. Here they are straight from the USAJOBS site:
- Undergraduate applicants must have completed at least 2 years (60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours) of a 4-year preveterinary medicine or other biomedical science curriculum.
- Graduate student applicants must have completed not more than 1 full academic year of study in veterinary medicine.
Mr. Morris let me know that these requirements are at the time of the application. That means that in most cases only junior or senior undergrads and first year vet students are eligible to apply. If you have more specific questions, you can get in touch with Mr. Morris by phone (202-799-7076) or by e-mail (John.C.Morris[at]aphis.usda.gov).
If you make it past the first round by meeting the basic eligibility requirements, you’ll be asked to submit three letters of recommendation and a personal statement explaining why you are a good candidate for the program. Make sure you read my advice on how to get a glowing letter of recommendation so you’ll be ready to go when that time arrives.
Like most government scholarship programs, this one also comes with a mandatory service commitment of one year on the job for each school year that you participate in the program. Depending on when you start the program, this could be anywhere from three to six years working as an APHIS veterinarian.
The other tough requirement is that you have to complete at least 640 hours (16 full-time weeks) of paid internship with APHIS during your participation. This could limit your ability to pursue other types of experiences during your vet school summers and elective rotation time. But you could also end up getting exactly the types of experiences you were looking for anyway, and get paid for them too.
Small Window, Big Opportunity
The application window for this scholarship program is only open for two weeks. That doesn’t give you a lot of time, but don’t let that stop you from trying for what could be a life-changing opportunity. Your future job possibilities and financial stability are going to be shaped by the decisions you make now, as a student. That’s the truth, whether you make conscious decisions about it or not.
So maybe you’ve never even considered for the government, especially the Department of Agriculture! But what if that work could involve shaping national and international policies regarding the welfare of captive zoo animals? What if you could be involved in developing sustainable solutions to the ever-expanding problems at the interface of wildlife conservation, livestock production, and public health?
Do yourself a favor and at least think about it. This is a pretty cool route into a unique career as an uncommon veterinarian. Again, you can read an informational brochure about the program here or go directly to the USAJOBS online application to find out more.
Have you considered working with the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service? Can you share any personal stories about APHIS vets that you’ve interacted with? What is holding you back from pursuing an opportunity like this?