Veterinarian jobs and the associated animal health master’s degree and doctorate programs are in high demand in California, which has 220,000 horses and 192,000 dogs. There were also about 80,000 farms and 500,000 acres of farmland in California, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
When looking to go into the field of veterinary medicine, many students start by considering what a veterinary university major might look like. Starting in the wrong end of the pipeline can be discouraging, as many traditional veterinary programs are challenging and expect that their students have a significant background in the subject.
To set themselves up for success, many prospective veterinary doctors elect to pursue different routes that lead to veterinary medicine but don’t require a specific degree.
This list breaks down each of the best college majors that serve as a pathway to the field of veterinary medicine. Often referred to as pre-veterinary or pre-vet, these majors can be pursued alongside any specific bachelor’s degree program, giving students the best of both worlds by encouraging them to adjust their academic coursework to fit their particular career goals.
Some schools may not offer specific courses in pre-vet courses, but they all cover the same basic topics: animal health and biology. This list covers colleges in California that are suitable for those seeking to go into the field of veterinary medicine.
San Joaquin Valley College - Fresno
The San Joaquin Valley College offers a two-year associate in science degree for those seeking entry into the field of veterinary medicine.
The program is offered through the Central California Area Health Association, which also oversees the nearby Fresno Area Community College and Reedley College.
The associate degree examines the health of domestic and wild animals, with curriculum covering topics ranging from animal anatomy to animal disease. It also includes classes in laboratory methods and animal treatment, providing students with hands-on experience handling animals.
Students who complete the degree can then transition into the University of California, Davis, where they can earn a full veterinary degree. UC Davis students also have the option of doing their junior-level courses at the nearby California State University, Fresno, saving them time and money.
The San Joaquin Valley College also has a veterinary technician certificate program, which trains students for two years in everything from animal health care to laboratory testing. The program follows the same curriculum as the associate degree, but it is offered through the Los Abrojos Community College District, not the Central California Area Health Association.
Pima Medical Institute - Chula Vista
Established in 1979, Pima Medical Institute offers two degree options for those interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.
Option one is a two-year associate degree in veterinary assisting. Students learn about various animal species and receive hands-on training as a veterinary assistant in a clinical environment, giving them the skills and confidence necessary for a supportive role in the veterinary team. The second option is a four-year program that leads to an associate of science degree, which supports those looking to move on to a bachelor's degree program.
At the four-year campus in Chula Vista, Pima offers a variety of associate and bachelor's degrees in subjects ranging from biotechnology to medical assisting to nursing. This more traditional medical school also has a graduate level nursing program and a family nurse practitioner program.
Foothill College has a pre-veterinary studies major for students who are thinking of going into the field of animal health. The program is not an easy one, requiring students to complete many course hours in math, the biological sciences, and chemistry.
Many course hours also need to be completed in the form of lower-division courses in animal science, including courses in the anatomy, histology, and physiology of both domestic and laboratory animals. Additionally, a 200-hour internship is required in order to apply for the Foothill College's animal science program. This internship can be completed anywhere and can be done concurrently with classes.
Students who successfully complete all of these course requirements are eligible to apply to the nearby California State Polytechnic University, Pomona's veterinary science bachelor's degree program.
Other colleges in the state that accept Foothill's pre-vet students include California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California State University, Chico, and Golden Gate University.
Stanbridge University - Orange County
As the first and only Seventh-day Adventist college to offer a bachelor's in Veterinary Technology, Stanbridge University has been a pioneer in the field. Graduates earn a competitive edge in the job market due to their hands-on training, which takes place over the course of two years in the vet tech program.
In addition to gaining experience in a vet's office and clinic, students also gain confidence working with animals thanks to their 26 credits in an animal health sciences track. Courses include essentials such as Animal Anatomy and Physiology, as well as more specialized classes such as Avian Medicine and Surgery and Tropical Animal Health.
When it comes to veterinary programs, not many schools can match the resources and research facilities of Stanbridge University. The school is located on a 53-acre campus in Anaheim, which provides plenty of space for students to study and live. The campus includes a library and bookshop, as well as a 700-seat sanctuary concert hall.
Platt College - Alhambra
On the small side, Platt College offers a single, three-year program in veterinary technology at the Alhambra, CA campus. Students receive intensive training in animal health and physiology as they work with Portersville College’s renowned equine program. After graduation, students earn the Associate in Animal Health (AAH) degree.
The highly technical curriculum includes 30 career track and 20 general education units. In the career track, students take 10 units of advanced veterinary technology coursework and five units in integrated equine clinical sciences. The latter focuses on horse anatomy and physiology, as well as equine lameness management.
Along with the regular courses for biology majors, Platt also has several pre-veterinary and equine-specific courses. These give prospective and current vets an opportunity to learn how different units relate to animal science. Along with horses, Platt’s equine-specific classes cover the anatomy, physiology, medicine, and management of horses. The college also hosts an annual international equine conference, attracting the best equine experts from around the world.
At Platt’s main campus in Pasadena, CA, the college offers three associate’s degrees, each in a different field: animal science, equine management, and veterinary technology.
It also boasts a number of other academic and extracurricular opportunities. Students can join a biological sciences club focused on outreach and education. With a more academic bent, the College hosts a number of biology honor society meetings, peer counseling, and professional conferences.
Central Coast College
That's no cow! The Central Coast College is home to the only veterinary technology program in the entire UC system.
And while UC Santa Barbara has plenty of STEM-related programs, it's worth noting that it was the first campus in the nation to offer a bachelor's of arts degree in sustainability.
For those pursuing a career in animal care, the Central Coast College's associate degree in veterinary technology can be completed in two years. It's no small feat, considering that others in the field can often take upwards of four to five years to complete their training.
And with a concentration of just 23 students in the last academic year, prospective students will likely have their pick of seats.
That said, the Central Coast College boasts an impressive Academic Achievement Index of 978, largely thanks to its small student body of 1,483.
With its home base in San Luis Obispo, students will also have easy access to some of the world's most beautiful parks and trails.
California State Polytechnic University - Pomona
Where proximity to patients is critical for veterinary careers, California State Polytechnic University offers an exceptional education. The program, launched in 1963, honors the Pythagorean tradition of seeking knowledge through observation and experience.
Along with vet biology, nutrition, and surgery concentration, the program features classes in livestock management and disease control. CSU Pomona's farm features 25 horses, 10 cattle, 10 sheep, 5 goats, 2 rabbits, 2 guinea pigs, 2 giant pigs, 2 giant rabbits, 2 giant turtles, 2 giant snakes, 1 leopard gecko, and 1 ostrich.
Students gain practical experience under the supervision of industry professionals by joining the veterinary technology club or internship programs. The school supports two permutations of the latter option: community practice and small animal healthcare.
San Joaquin Valley College - Bakersfield
Situated on the outskirts of Bakersfield, San Joaquin Valley College is a two-year institution that prepares students for entry into the workforce or to continue their education at a four-year college or university. The school has several diverse associate's degree programs, including animal care and management, landscaping, and veterinary technology.
For those interested in veterinary medicine, San Joaquin Valley College has a partnership with Loma Linda University that allows students to begin their studies at the community college and then continue them at the university. Students benefit from smaller class sizes and more one-on-one instruction at the community college and then continue their studies at a university closely affiliated with the school.
In partnership with veterinary colleges across the country, San Joaquin updates its courses regularly to ensure that they meet current standards. The school also offers a popular international programming trip in which students can go to overseas communities, help organizations, and even assist with animal care.
Platt College - Ontario
Located in Ontario, California, Platt College is a private college that offers a variety of associate degree and certificate programs. The college also offers three bachelor degree programs, all of which are delivered online.
One of those online bachelor's programs is a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology, which trains students in animal health sciences. After completing the associate degree at Platt College, students can then apply for the 63-credit-hour online program, which includes specializations in small animal, food animal, and community practice. Additionally, students can choose to add advanced externships and veterinary technology case studies to their curriculum. Upon graduation, students receive a veterinary technician license and are eligible to take the national veterinary technician exam.
Another Platt College program that leads to a career as a veterinarian is its two-year Associate of Science in Animal Technology program. Like the Veterinary Technology program, this associate degree can also be completed online or on campus. Upon completion of the associate degree, students can then either apply for the 18-week online or on-campus Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. This program includes concentrated studies in swine production, dairy production, or food animal production. Students also complete advanced production cases and an industry externship.
Carrington College - Pleasant Hill
Carrington College is a non-traditional college with multiple locations across California. Students can earn their associate's degree or begin their career with a certificate in a number of career-oriented programs.
The Pleasant Hill campus is home to the school's Veterinary Assistant Program and Veterinary Technician Program.
For the veterinary assistant program, students spend about a year in the classroom and gain hands-on experience with animals in clinical rotations. Out of the 23 clinical rotation sites, five are in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Students in the veterinary technician program gain even more in-depth experience with animals. This intensive program consists of about 18 months in the classroom and about 18 months in on-the-job training with animal medical facilities.
After graduation, veterinary assistants can go on to work in animal hospitals, veterinary clinics, and pet stores. Veterinarians, through their Association of Veterinarians in Veterinary Medicine-approved program, can recommend their students for entry-level positions and professional advancement.
Carrington College students, regardless of program, have access to resources offered through the university, including technology and student support.