Becoming a specialist: Internships and Residencies


Internships are (generally) 1-year programs in either small- or large-animal medicine and surgery. Veterinary students in their senior year and veterinary graduates looking to specialize apply for internships through a matching program. Internship applicants and training hospitals rank each other in order of preference, and a computerized system matches each applicant with the highest-ranking teaching hospital that ranked the applicant. Academic performance in the veterinary professional curriculum, as well as recommendations from veterinary school faculty, is considered in the ranking of internship applicants. The most prestigious internship programs are at veterinary medical colleges or at very large private veterinary hospitals with board-certified veterinarians on staff. Since internships are usually at large referral centers, interns are exposed to a larger number of challenging cases than they would be likely to see in a smaller private practice. Most veterinary interns in the US receive a nominal salary and their educational debts, if any, may be postponed in some government-subsidized loan programs. Veterinarians can often command a higher starting salary in private practice after completion of an internship. An internship is also the next step (after receiving a DVM degree) toward residency and board certification.

Residency Training

Veterinarians who complete internships or who have 2 years of private-practice experience are eligible to apply for residency programs. Residency training is more specialized than an internship. Currently, residency training is available in internal medicine, surgery, cardiology, dermatology, ophthamology, exotic small-animal medicine, pathology, neurology, radiology, anesthesiology, and oncology. The programs take 2 to 3 years to complete, depending on the nature of the specialty. Successful completion of a residency is required for certification by any of the veterinary medical specialty boards. Some residencies combine research and graduate study and lead to a master’s degree.

Leave a Reply