Veterinary vs. Medicine: Which Is Right For You?

Updated on 21/05/2024 in
Veterinary vs Medicine: Which one is the right one for you?

Making the decision to work in healthcare is honourable and gratifying. However, choosing between becoming a veterinarian (vet) or a doctor of medicine (MD) might be challenging. Years of schooling, training, and dedication are required for both occupations. 

We'll look at the main differences between these two career choices in this post, along with some important considerations, to help you choose which one is best for you.

Veterinary Medicine vs. Medicine in Europe 

When deciding whether to study veterinary medicine in Europe or human medicine, there are some important factors to consider. 

Studies length

  • The veterinary programmes at European universities are usually 5 or 6 years long. You will discover all there is to know about animals during your study. You are starting with biology and anatomy, moving on to diseases and problems, and finishing with food safety and public health. 

You must be extremely knowledgeable about all legal and ethical concerns before practising medicine, including veterinary medicine. Because of this, European universities have included this in their curricula as well.

  • The medical programmes in Europe are 6 years long, with 3 years of theoretical subjects and 3 years of practical knowledge and experience. The foundational courses of the profession, like anatomy and pathology, are covered in academic study. 

To move on to the next level of your education, known as clinical rotations, which involves applying your knowledge in practical training sessions and contact with patients in hospitals, you must complete these essential requirements.

To sum it up, completing your studies and graduating as a vet or a doctor in Europe requires 5 or 6 years of educational training. Both courses require learning the basic sciences and completing all pre-clinical and clinical hours. 

Which is more competitive?

Both veterinary medicine and medicine can be competitive to study in Europe, and the level of competition varies depending on the country and university you are considering. 

The number of available spots can also vary from one country/university to another. In some countries, there may be more places available for veterinary medicine, while in others, the medicine programme spots can be more.  

The admission requirements can differ as well. Generally, medicine courses tend to have more stringent entry requirements, like high academic grades, entrance exams, interviews, etc. Veterinary courses may have similar, but less competitive in terms of their entry requirements.

To sum it up, both veterinary medicine and medicine can be competitive to study in Europe, and the level of competition depends on factors such as the country, the university, etc. 

Is dentistry or medicine more competitive?

Medlink Students works with a significant number of European medical schools that you can apply to in Europe. So feel free to contact us for further information on securing a place.

Is veterinary or medicine harder?

Determining whether veterinary or medicine is harder to study is subjective and depends on individual perceptions, experience and perspectives. However, some of the main things to consider are the duration of the studies, the programmes’ curriculums and complexity, and the clinical rotations. 

The medicine courses in Europe are usually longer than the veterinary programmes. Medicine is 6 years long, and studying medicine in Europe can take 5 or 6 years, depending on the country/university.

Both medicine and veterinary courses have rigorous curricula, and while the main subject matters differ, the complexity and the depth of knowledge required are comparable in both fields. 

So ultimately, whether veterinary medicine or human medicine is perceived as more complex to study depends on the individual strengths, interests and career aspirations. Both require dedication, hard work and a lifelong commitment to learning. So, it is essential to choose the right field that aligns with your passion and interests to thrive academically and professionally.

Entry requirements for veterinary medicine vs. medicine in Europe

The entry requirements for studying both medicine and veterinary in Europe are similar. Yet, at some medical schools in Europe, getting accepted into medicine is more complicated. 

For example, the most common entry requirements for medicine in Europe are:

  • A-levels, BTEC, GCSE, or equivalent high school diploma 
  • Satisfactory grades in Chemistry, Biology, Maths, and Physics
  • English language proficiency
  • Entrance exams in Biology, Chemistry, and English (options for online testing)
  • A simple online interview to check your motivation for choosing your vocation
  • Letter of recommendation or personal statement (optional)

For veterinary medicine, the two mandatory qualifications for almost all universities are secondary education and proficiency in English. 

To summarise, both specialities have similar requirements. However, getting an acceptance into veterinary school seems easier. 

Costs/Tuition fees

If budget is one of your main criteria for making a decision, below you will find information about the cost of studying veterinary medicine in English and medicine in English in Europe. 

The tuition fees at veterinary universities in Europe range from €5,100 to around €12,000 annually. The difference in prices comes mainly from the economic state of the countries. 

For medicine, the tuition fees also vary depending on which country you choose. 

Check out our extensive list of medical universities in Europe to find detailed information about countries, programmes, tuition fees, living costs, curricula, and much more.

Career Path

Career Opportunities

Both veterinary medicine and human medicine offer distinct yet fulfilling career opportunities. 

Graduating from vet school means you would primarily focus on the health and well-being of animals, working in private clinics, farms, or even wildlife centres. Vets contribute to animal care, livestock management, public health initiatives, scientific research and making a difference in the lives of diverse species. 

On the other hand, finishing your medical studies and becoming a doctor opens up avenues in primary care, hospitals, research, public health and global impact in medicine. Doctors play a vital role in diagnosing and treating human ailments, conducting research, teaching, and addressing different public health challenges.

Ultimately, the choice between these two rewarding fields depends on your passion for working with animals or humans, as well as your desire to make a positive impact in your chosen domain.

Work-life balance

When it comes to work-life balance, there are some differences between being a veterinarian and a doctor. Here are some considerations:

Vets’ work-life balance:

  • Flexibility - veterinarian working in private practices may have the ability to set their own schedules to some extent, allowing for flexibility in managing their work and personal life;
  • Emergencies and on-calls - vets who handle emergencies work in a 24-hour animal hospital and may need to be available outside regular working hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays. This can impact work-life balance, as it requires being on-call or working irregular shifts;
  • Physical demands - Veterinary work often involves physically demanding tasks such as lifting animals or performing surgeries on site, which contributes to additional stress and fatigue.

Doctors' work-life balance:

  • Long hours - physicians, especially those in residency or certain specialities, may work long, irregular hours. It is not uncommon for doctors to work more than the standard 40 hours a week, particularly during busy periods or when on a call;
  • On-call responsibilities - Depending on the medical speciality and practice setting, doctors may have on-call duties, requiring them to be available outside of normal working hours and respond to emergencies and patients' needs. 
  • Administrative tasks - Doctors often have administrative responsibilities, such as paperwork, charting, and follow-up, which can add to their workload and affect their work-life balance;

Both vets and docs may face challenges in achieving a perfect life-work balance due to the nature of their professions. However, this can vary based on individual circumstances,  practice settings, specialisation, personal preferences and many more. It is important for professionals in both fields to prioritise self-care, establish boundaries and seek support to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

A vet or a doctor: How do you choose the right one?

There isn’t a definite answer to that question. Choosing between a career as a vet or a doctor requires careful consideration.

First, reflect on your passion and interest in working with people or animals, considering which field aligns with your long-term goals and values. Second, assess the educational requirements and training involved. Third, explore career opportunities and work environments in each field, considering the type of patients or animals you'd like to work with and the work-life balance associated with each profession. 

Consider your personal skills and attributes, such as your knowledge, problem-solving abilities, empathy and communication skills. Gain exposure to both fields by shadowing professionals or volunteering to understand their day-to-day realities better. Research the future outlook of each profession, including job prospects, salary potential and growth opportunities.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on a combination of personal interest, aptitude, career opportunities, and desired work-life balance. Thoroughly explore bold fields, gather information and seek advice from professionals to make an informed decision that aligns with your passions and goals.

Article written by Dr Sam El Mais
Dr Sam El Mais, MD, MSc, BSc, graduated from a renowned medical school in Romania in 2019. He uses his professional knowledge and personal experience to guide students on crucial aspects such as university selection, admissions processes, and cultural adjustments.
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