planet earth

I want to be an overseas vet

planet earthYou know how you keep being told that a career in veterinary is a passport to the world? Well, it is true and the fact is that for many of you the idea of working outside of the UK, even if only for a short period of time, will become an increasingly attractive idea, for a range of reasons. I know fellow vets who have opted to work in Australia and New Zealand on a short-term, ‘working holiday’ visa, to those who have navigated the gauntlet of the North American registration system on account of a) wanting to work in what is without dispute the most advanced veterinary market in the world, and/ or b) personal reasons, such as a partner being based over there. Whatever your reasons may end up being, it is important to know what you need to do in advance, especially as the process for being allowed to work as a vet in some countries is not at all straightforward and can take a decent amount of time to complete.

So why would you want to work overseas? Well, I think the answer should really be, “why wouldn’t you?” Life is short, the world is big and yet more accessible than it ever has been before, and we are members of a profession that can, in theory at least, ply our trade and leverage our skills in many locations around the globe. The main reasons I can personally identify for considering even a short foreign period of employment overseas are:

  1. Travel & immersion in different cultures. Working, and by extension, living somewhere is often vastly different to the experience you get when simply visiting somewhere as a tourist. An extended period of stay in one location enables you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture and to really get to know ‘the locals,’ from whom many new and lifelong friends are likely to be made. Travel really does open your eyes and enable you to see things differently, including from a professional perspective, and is reason enough to take the plunge.
  2. A new life. Just because you were born in, grew up in and studied and graduated in the UK doesn’t necessarily mean that you are meant to remain in the UK. I know many friends who went travelling, with every intention of returning permanently to the UK, only to find that they found their true home, the place they felt they belonged, during their trip and subsequently stayed.
  3. Improved salary & other lifestyle considerations. Vet salaries are ok in the UK but they’re better in places such as the US, with the added advantage of pet owners knowing and fully appreciating the full cost of healthcare. Friends of mine who moved to the US make more as vets there than they would have done here in the UK, and claim to enjoy a much higher standard of living in the process. Oh yeah, plus they have the cool additional perk of being referred to as ‘Doctor!’

The list could go on but we have to get onto the detail of how to go about working overseas. The countries I am going to consider here are Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Much of what is included here is based on an excellent post by Zoe Belshaw, of Nottingham University, who is a member of the BVA Overseas Group.

Australian flagAustralia

If you are registered with the RCVS, which you will be if you graduate as a vet in the UK, then you’re sorted. Each state does have it’s own board, which you will need to be registered with in order to practice there, and you are likely to have to apply for a couple of additional licenses: a state radiation license, and a microchip implanter license if working in either Queensland, Victoria or New South Wales.

More info at:

Australasian Veterinary Boards Council

Australian Veterinary Association

New Zealand flagNew Zealand

As in Australia, RCVS registration counts but you do need to be registered with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand and hold a current practicing certificate.

More info at:

Veterinary Council of New Zealand

USA flagΒ United States of America

So you want to work in the US? Sure? Really sure? Because the process is long, tough and far from cheap. My personal recommendation to anyone considering working as a vet in the US is to seriously consider applying and completing the registration process either during your final year (you’re revising hard anyway, right?!) or shortly after graduation. This is for two reasons: a) you’re examined across all of the species and disciplines, meaning that this knowledge is likely to be at its freshest in your mind at the end of vet school, before you head out and specialise as most of us do; and b) you are more likely to be focused on really nailing your application, before you become settled in practice and comfortable with a nice, regular paycheck.

If you graduate from an AVMA-accredited university (Glasgow, Dublin, Edinburgh and RVC) then lucky old you, as you have completed stage 1 and can proceed straight to applying for the NAVLE, which is the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Everyone else has to start from stage 1 and follow the whole process through.

If you apply to work in a US university (eg as part of an internship scheme) then you will not need to worry about any of this as you’ll be covered by the university. It does, however, mean that you will not be allowed to do anything of a veterinary nature outside of the university.

Ok, so the process is as follows:

Stage 1: Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates certification program

(NB: There is an alternative route, PAVE, run by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, with the stages appearing to be similar to those below.)

This is comprised of four stages and should, in theory, take no more than 2 years to complete. The stages are:

1. Enrol, provide proof of graduation and pay the registration fee, which is approximately $1000, and is valid for 2 years.

2. Provide proof of your English language ability. This can be in the form of a letter from your secondary school, although it is worth checking regularly as this may be subject to change.

3. Basic Clinical & Scientific Knowledge. This is a 225-question, multiple choice exam (BCSE) testing everything from anatomy, to pathology knowledge, and preventative medicine. There are a number of centres in the UK at which you can apply to sit the exam, and they run at regular times during the year. The cost at the time of writing was about $80 plus an additional $40 for sitting it in the UK. This can be resat as many times as you like, but it will incur an additional charge each time.

4. Clinical Proficiency Examination (CPE). This is a test of hands-on clinical veterinary and medical skills, and is conducted over the course of about three days in the USA. This covers entry-level skills across species and disciplines and is administered at a number of sites across the US, of which you can state a preference but with no guarantee of being booked at that centre. The cost is a whopping $5000, which is non-refundable, and if you fail 4+ out of the 6 sections then you have to resit the lot, otherwise it is possible to resit the individual components at about a $1000 a pop.

Stage 2: North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). This exam consists of 360 MCQ’s and can be sat in the UK between November and December each year, or for a limited period in April, depending on the state that you’ve specifically applied to become registered with. The cost is $550 plus whatever the specific state fee is – you’ll need to check the state fees, requirements and application deadlines independently.

Stage 3: State exams. Some states may require additional exams to be sat before you can be eligible to work in them.

Stage 4: Work Visa Application. Once you have your NAVLE all sorted, your prospective employer will need to apply for a work visa on your behalf through the US Immigration Department. As such, you will need to have a job lined up in the USA and they will need to be willing to fill in several forms on your behalf.

Once all that’s done then you’re ready to hop on a plane and get working in the USA πŸ™‚

There are, of course, other countries that you may wish to work in as a vet and I am sure there will be further posts on these in the future. Please feel free to make suggestions or provide info to this effect. Thanks and happy travelling.

75 thoughts on “I want to be an overseas vet”

  1. i was just wondering what if, as a vet student, i wanted to work in america 10 years down the line? would you still advise doing the exam straight after graduation?

    1. Hi Amelia. Thank you for your question – a very good one at that. The answer to your question is a short one: yes. I would absolutely recommend sitting the US board exams straight after graduation/ at the same time as your finals. This is simply on account of the fact that you will have a) revised everything already for your finals – try going back to pig medicine once you’re ten years into a small animal career! – and b) in the exam frame of mind. I honestly believe that taking the exams whilst you are at your most ‘exam ready’ makes real sense. Hope that helps πŸ™‚

      1. You do need to work in the U.S. within 5 years of taking the NAVLE otherwise you will have to reset the exam. This means getting state licensing etc. If you then come back to the UK, you’re NAVLE will count forever.
        Check the NAVLE and NVBME websites.

  2. Hi, you mentioned that the ECFVG is not required for those who intend to take up internship in US universities. I have been doing a bit of reading and found out that most of the universities require an applicant to either be a graduate of an AVMA-accredited vet school or possess an ECFVG certificate. I believe Cornell is an exception.

    Do you know if the same requirements are needed for internship in non-university veterinary hospitals in the US?
    Thanks… I’m from the Philippines, by the way, so I’m struggling with a lot of prerequisites πŸ™

    1. Hi Nash. Good question. I do not know the specific answer I am afraid and would suggest directly emailing the hospitals you have in mind, or alternatively directing your enquiry to the US accreditation body themselves. Good luck with your internship quest.

  3. Hi ,
    Do you know which, out of the countries you mentioned, have a larger market for veterinarians for example; if a country has more veterinary jobs available etc

    1. Hi Alannah. I must say that I do not. It would be very interesting to know though. I guess the only way to be sure is to monitor the job postings on agency sites or the veterinary press in each country. Are you thinking of an overseas move?

  4. Hi,
    Great article. Really helpful, thanks! Do you know what the deal is for Canada? Is it the same as for the US?

  5. Hello,

    We are US expats living in Dubai. I have a 13 year old daughter who aspires to be a veterinarian. We have been developing her 4-year high school curriculum plan (we homeschool) based on what US undergraduate schools require for pre-vet majors.

    Upon looking through your website, I realize I have only been thinking of US schools. Do you think we should consider universities in other countries? We are expats after all! Any schools you would recommend or do you think she should just stick to the US? At this point she plans on practicing in the US but I suspect that when she gets older, she may be thinking worldwide.

    And if you ever need a willing/eager volunteer to come help at your practice (who also recently completed her first triathlon πŸ˜‰ … I know my daughter would love to (and her mom will accompany her).

    Best regards.

    1. Hi. Thanks for your message and nice to hear from fellow Dubai-based people πŸ™‚ Not a bad idea to be thinking early about these things so good going. I would be interested in knowing what the final curriculum looks like once you have decided on it and to learn more about what, in your experience, US pre-vet majors require.

      As for considering non-US schools, you could certainly look at the options, with the schools to focus on being those that have AVMA-accreditation, as I believe it cuts down the number of exams that she would have to sit in order to eventually practice in the US by one, which helps. I am naturally biased when it comes to non-US schools, being a graduate of the UK system, but it is safe to say that a UK vet degree certainly does still travel well, with the advantage being that you can graduate in five years versus the US system of pre-vet then going on to study vet med afterwards. Either way it is also going to cost a lot of money, but the UK system would at least cut down on the number of years spent at college and thus the overall cost.

      Glad to hear that she has completed a triathlon – great place to get into it πŸ™‚

      Thanks again


  6. Hi Chris,

    Here are some school subject guidelines from University of California Davis undergraduate pre-vet program: It is similar but not always exactly the same for other US pre-vet programs.

    There are schools in the US that allow you to get your pre-vet requirements in 2 years and then you can transfer over into a vet med school for your doctorate. So you don’t always have to get the 4 year undergraduate degree in the US before going to Vet school. But I think that is the traditional way.

    We’ll start looking at UK schools. Hubby is a Brit and we do have family there. Do you know if the schools in the UK are more or less competitive than the US vet schools? My impression is that UK vet schools are more difficult to get into.

    Yes the costs…it’s going to hurt big time. πŸ˜‰

    1. Ah, great stuff. Thanks πŸ™‚ I do not imagine the UK schools are any more competitive although there are fewer of them compared to the US. The entrance requirements for veterinary are tough regardless of whether applying in the US or UK.

  7. Hi Chris,

    I am a vet student due to graduate in July 2016 and I am looking into rotating internships in the US and Canada. With regards to Visas I understand I will need a H-1B visa. Can you apply for that Visa prior to being accepted for an internship position? Do you have any idea how much the Visa process fees are because I believe some internships may want myself to pay for the process?

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Thomas. Great question! To be honest I have no idea at present and would recommend that you ask this of the individual internship programmes you are thinking of applying to – they will certainly know the answer πŸ™‚ Good luck with your studies and great plan to head to the US.

  8. Hey, how hard is it for us folks on the other side of the pond? I am a US vet out 5 years and want to practice in the UK. What’s our requirements for overseas practice coming from an AVMA accredited school?

  9. Hi,
    I’m a vet from Kenya and looking to be an overseas vet. Where do I start? I have just cleared my studies and due to graduate in a month.

  10. please anybody sees my comment guide me it will b v kind of u πŸ™‚ tell me the details and requirements and salary and expances in the USA autralia Uk etc while i stay there as Vet hopefully (Y) i have done my dvm from paksitan and wants to job in UK USA or australia

  11. Hi. I’d like to ask you if i can work overseas as a vet without an exam, assuming that possession of domestic veterinarian license(It’s a Korean vet license) and English ability is proven(IELTS or TOEFL). I don’t much care about the country , but just want to know which country allows to work as a vet without the need to take an any exam.

    1. Hi Cadmel. That is a very broad question and the honest answer is that without knowing where you wish to practice as a vet it is very difficult to answer. All the best. Chris

  12. Hi I am studying veterinary in warsaw, will I be eligible to work in Australia if I go home to ireland and work first? Thanks

    1. Great question Rachel. The best thing to do is contact the Australian Veterinary board to clarify their requirements for overseas vets working in the country. I would be interested to hear what you discover. Good luck. Chris

  13. I’m a vet from Algeria and looking to be an overseas vet. Where do I start? i really reaaaaaalyy wanna go πŸ™

    1. Hi Miss Yahia. The first question in response to a question such as your own is “where do you want to go?” “What do you want to do?” It sounds as though you need to ask yourself a few more fundamental questions before meaningful answers can be offered. Good luck.

  14. Hello Dear NerdyVet,
    Hoping so You are fine and having a nice pleasant weather there.

    I belong to Pakistan and Basically I am veterinarian and Passed my DVM exam and after that also got M.Phil Degree in Microbiology recently .
    Actually I wana to ask that
    I wana to practice as a vet worldwide esp america europe
    and i read above NAVLE fee (is this fee is sufficient to take NAVLE exam?)
    Please guide me if you can?
    If You don’t mind then please guide me via my email id
    so that I can contact you in future aswel for any query.
    awaiting for your response
    Have a good time.

    1. Hi Dr Arslan. What kind of veterinary would you be looking to pursue in either Europe or the US? Each country will have their own specific requirements for granting veterinary licenses and work visas, not really an area I know much about I am afraid. All the best.

  15. Hi
    I’m DVM student at university of tehran, iran
    I would to know how can i get a visa for applying CPE exam because we can pass the previous exams even NAVLE in turkey but the question is about CPE and the council wouldn’t give us a visa for going us to participate CPE exam
    What’s the solution?

    1. Hi Arash
      I m wondering about Did you sit NAVLE? Im from TURKEY and Im thinking about sit the exam. How did you prepare the exam?


    2. For the CPE you must physically be at the test center in the US, so I am afraid there is no other way than travelling to US if you want to take the CPE. CPE is not a computer-based exam, it is a hands-on practical exam.

  16. Hello,
    I am currently in my first year of vet school in the United States. It has always been a dream of mine to move to the UK and practice there. The thing is, I would like to specialize in theriogenology. Do you have a specialization program for that in the UK? Also, any advice on how to go about contacting vets in the UK, who would be willing to take on an American vet student for learning purposes?

    1. Hi Brittaney. For many UK vet students the dream is the opposite – to move to the US so that’s quite interesting. If it’s reproduction that you’re interested in specializing in then there will definitely be opportunities to do so. Are you looking specifically at equine work? Farm work? Smallies or something more exotic? Or maybe pure research? As for contacting vets the best advice, as Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode would say, is to just contact them. You’ll never go wrong with a simple introductory email, letter or phone call, ideally to a named contact within the organization that you’re interested in working with. LinkedIn and other web-based tools make finding the right people so much easier these days. Hope that helps and good luck πŸ™‚

  17. Hi i am vet student from ethiopia iam 4 year now so i have 2 year laft for my school to end but i have been in USA and want to start school in colage in other field cuz i am afrad of fnishing it cost much time including geting lisensed what do u advise me ?
    tank you

  18. Hello, NerdyVet

    I want to begin to thank you for a great article and a lot of useful information! Very helpful indeed.

    This is probably a stupid question buuuut, what is the benefits of being recognised and accredited by EAEVE and what is the differences/ meaning of these two terms ? Because for me accredited and recognized have the same mening for me. ( I could not find an answer to this anywhere πŸ˜› )

    I know my school is recognised By RCVS so i can register in UK and get a licens but does this mean I still need to sit the National Veterinary Examination to get a licens in Australia and New Zealand? You donΒ΄t happen to know do you?

    Best regards


    1. Hi Krest. Err…. no idea. Which school are you at/ are you a graduate of? I would fire over an email to the relevant veterinary boards in both countries to check. Probably the quickest and surest way to get a reliable answer.
      Sorry I wasn’t much help Krest. Good luck.

  19. Hello,
    I am going to graduate from a US school in May of 2017. I would like to practice in another country. I am open to really anywhere that is okay with the fact that I speak English. I have been looking at European schools, but I feel like I am running into a brick wall on places. Do you have any resources that I could look at on where internships/jobs are listed. Also, as a graduate from US I am unsure what is really required of me to practice in Europe. I am also looking at Australia and New Zealand. I am in the very preliminary stages, but would like some direction if possible on what tests I need to take and how I would go about applying. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Chauntel. Thanks for reaching out and good thinking getting a head start on this in advance of graduating next year. The answers to your questions really do depend in large part on what it is you actually want to do as a vet. Are you looking to specialise? Work in general practice? In small animal practice? Large? Equine? Any specific countries you really have your heart set on? Any reasons why you do not wish to start your career in the US? Are you originally from the US or elsewhere? I look forward to getting a bit more info. Feel free to continue this conversation through the Vet School Success Facebook page if you’d prefer. All the best. Chris (Nerdy Vet)

  20. What if i wished to move to Ireland and work as a vet there? Would i have to go back to school and relearn everything, or would my license transfer over to there as well?

    1. Hi Tara. The best advice I can offer is to look at the Veterinary Council of Ireland website, which will help you answer the question of whether your current qualifications allow you to practice or if you need to satisfy some additional criteria. I simply Googled ‘veterinary, licensing, ireland’ and it was the first result that came up. Good luck.

  21. I wish to be a vet in Ireland, but I want to know if id have to go back to school when i move there. If i had gotten my license in America would it still be valid when I move there?

  22. I am from Ethiopia and gratuated in BVSC programme .. I want to work in USA ., so .what can i do to succeed it , please help me buddy????

    1. Hi Andebet. Thanks for your message and congratulations on graduating. Working in the USA is indeed a dream for many but like most things worth having it is not an easy undertaking. The first thing you will need to investigate is sitting the NAVLE – Google it and you can follow the links to learn more about this subject.

  23. I am just about to start studying at the RVC. Once qualified i have plans to work in Miami ideally at the zoo. I have started to get in contact with them so that I can get some work experience and experience Miami and all it has to offer with my family. I have been trying to look up and see how long the NAVLE lasts and if it needs to be renewed? and if the the state of Florida has any state exams?

  24. Hi I am a lady vet from Sri Lanka with 6 years experience. I am looking for a chance to work as a vet in one of the developed countries like Australia or New Zealand as I am a single mom with a daughter of 4 years. So it isn’t not easier for a single mom to survive here mainly due to social and economic constraints.I need to spend a peaceful and happy life with my daughter for rest of my life. Please support us to go to our targets

    1. Hi Hasanthi. Thank you for your message and I empathise with your drive to want to improve the quality of your life and that of your daughter. I am not really sure how I can help though. Have you looked into the requirements to be able to practice in the countries you mentioned? That would be where I would advise starting. The websites of the respective governing bodies will have details of their requirements for getting licensed in each and that will certainly be the starting point. All the very best of luck and thanks for stopping by.

  25. Hi there!
    I’m a vet student in the UK at Nottingham vet school and would be interested in working in South Africa after I graduate. I was just wondering how I would go about doing this and if there are any additional exams or registrations that I would need to do.
    Thank you for your help!

  26. hey so um i live in the us but i want to travel and do my vet does it work the same way or no because anytime i try to look it up it just tells me about others coming from other countries to the united states? I still am a long ways from being in vet school but i would like to know before i choose on what to do after college.
    Thank you πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Brianna. Many students travel from the US to other countries to study at vet school. I can think of several UK schools, for example, that count Americans among their student body, so yes, it is possible πŸ™‚

  27. hi nerdy vet
    as a Caribbean vet student , what do you recommend i do if i want to work in Australia an the UK ?

    1. Hi Allana. Will your degree allow you to easily work in either of those countries? Ask your school – that would be the simplest starting point.

  28. Hi! I was thinking about going to Glasgow for vet school because part of the appeal is that I can practice anywhere else in the world versus getting a DVM in the US- which I heard is slightly more restrictive (as in it is harder to practice in other countries? Or is this not true?

    1. Not that I am aware of. A DVM from the US would be just as acceptable in other countries as a UK qualification. Unless I am totally mistaken.

  29. This is very useful info! Please does this apply to vets in Nigeria? And also are we to take Ielts as a proof of English language knowledge?

  30. Re: Hello sir my self vijay Parashar and I am from India .I want to ask you what are the requirements if I would like to take admission in veterinary course , and you can contact me through my whatapp no 9911831090 or email. Thanks

    1. Hi Vijay. Your enquiry is way too general and vague for me to be able to offer any meaningful advice. The first thing I would do is think carefully about a) where you wish to study veterinary and then b) whether you meet the application criteria to be able to do so. These will be available on the target institution’s website or by contacting them directly.

  31. You need MRCVS exam for definite to practice if your vet institute is not RCVS recognised.
    Same for US and Canada, if institute is not AVMA recognised then have to take 3 (4 including english) stage exam.
    Life as a vet is tough in UK, US but yeah you do learn advance clinics. Do keep in mind,’the grass is not always greener on other side.’

  32. Hi I graduated Bachelor of veterinary science in Srilanka & worked as a Vet. surgeon for 5 yrs there , then moved to Canada under skill migration & passed Bachelor clinical science in Canada , Now I’m thinking to move on Australia to continue my career in Australia to practice as a Vet. surgeon any one’s advise to getting the license in Australia to work as a Veterinary surgeon ?

  33. Hi, Im Gabriela a vet from Ecuador. I would like to know if there is anyone here who has gone to a internship program in the us or if you know someone who could guide me. I know there are few places (most of them, universities) that accept foreign vets without doing an exam. But I don’t know the chances to get in. Is it worth it to apply and pay the fee if I am not from US vet school ??

  34. Please come to the island of Vis, in Croatia. There’s no vet here, and your services are desperately needed! I don’t know anything about pay or paperwork, but the island is a paradise.

  35. Hi there, just wondering about the type of qualifications needed if you want to work as a vet in Canada, but you have an RCVS certification from the UK?

  36. I am a currently an undergraduate veterinary student in Sri Lanka, how can i find a way working in abroard (Canada, Australia or New ZeaLand) please suggest me way that’ll be appropriate

  37. Hello!

    I am currently about to take a gap year before starting my US veterinary college career! I am considering reapplying to UK schools (even though I will still have my seat at my other university) because I would like to travel and practice in other places, such as Europe and Africa, but of course eventually come back to the US.

    I was wondering if being a veterinarian in other countries besides the US is more easily possible with a US or a UK degree?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Megan. I love Gap Years! Hope you have some awesome plans in place. Personally I would advocate getting your US vet degree as I am pretty sure you’ll be more than able to apply it easily to working in other parts of the world. I just wish my UK degree was seamlessly recognised in the US without having to go through the huge hassle and expense of the NAVLE et al, as I’d love to be able to spend some time vetting it up in the US πŸ™‚ Good luck with the Gap Year

  38. Hi!
    I have a question. I got veterinary degree in Russia, now got equivalent degree in the US (PAVE program, passed NAVLE), going to work in the US for 1 year. Would that be possible to practice veterinary medicine in Ireland? How would licensure process look like? Have zero info on that…
    Thank you.

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