Frequently Asked Questions
What are some of the career opportunities post-graduation?
Graduates of the Program are qualified for a hugely diverse array of career opportunities
. These include employment at academic institutions, in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, at government health and science agencies, in the fields of public health and emerging diseases, in regulatory medicine, in contract research and military service, and in clinical research and/or practice. The wealth of opportunities is endless.
How is the curriculum organized within the VMD/PhD Program?
VMD and PhD studies are interwoven throughout the Program. Students receive their veterinary training at the School of Veterinary Medicine, and their PhD training usually in one of the nine Biomedical Graduate Groups (though they may choose from any of the graduate groups within the University). Students typically begin with the core basic science veterinary curriculum in the first 2.5 years of study. This provides a solid foundation in medically-relevant biomedical science. Over the next year, students generally complete their PhD coursework in the graduate group of their choice. Students are able to join any graduate group at Penn, giving them over 500 thesis laboratories from which to choose. During their second and third years, students perform laboratory rotations with faculty in their graduate group to identify the laboratory and mentor for their thesis research. Students then perform full-time research until their project is completed, about three years on average. A clinical connections program is in place to enable students to maintain their clinical skills during thesis research years. The Program concludes with thesis defense and veterinary clinical requirements, and students receive their VMD and PhD degrees concurrently.
- Year 1: Full time Vet School curriculum, 1-2 graduate courses, first laboratory rotation
- Year 2: Full time Vet School curriculum, 1-2 graduate courses, second laboratory rotation
- Year 3: Complete Vet core courses, complete graduate coursework, candidacy examination, third laboratory rotaiton
- Year 4 and beyond: Thesis research, clinical connections program
- Final Year: PhD thesis defense, clinical rotations, graduation
What type of research is supported by the Program?
Students are able to perform their research within any of the graduate groups at Penn. Most work with faculty in one of the Biomedical Graduate Groups
How do I choose a thesis laboratory?
Students choose a thesis lab based on research rotations performed with faculty within their graduate group. Rotations are usually performed during the summers of the first 2-3 years of the Program. Advising is provided for finding a thesis laboratory, but considerable information on potential thesis laboratories can be found on the individual graduate groups websites.
Is funding available for VMD/PhD students?
Students admitted into the Program are provided with Veterinary and Graduate School tuition and fees, student health insurance, and a graduate level stipend.
How long does the Program take to complete?
The Program usually takes about eight years to complete. The most variable time period is the PhD thesis research phase. We are committed to providing students with training that is completed in as short a period of time as possible. However, we do not believe that an abbreviated PhD thesis training period best prepares our students for the future.
What are the areas of PhD study in the Program?
Most students perform research in one of the Biomedical Graduate Groups:
Do graduates continue to perform clinical work?
Many graduates continue to perform clinical medicine in conjunction with their research projects.
To apply to the VMD/PhD Program, two applications are needed: the VMD/PhD Program application, and the Vet School application. The VMD/PhD Program application is due November 15 of each year for admission the following fall. The Vet School application is due October 1 for admission the following fall.
What are the criteria for admission?
Criteria considered for admission to the VMD/PhD Program are:
- Undergraduate GPA: There are no cut-offs, but obviously the higher the better. The average GPA of recent matriculates is 3.75 (ranging from 3.5 to 4.0).
- GRE Scores: Again, there are no cut-offs, but again, the higher the better. Average verbal and quantitative GRE scores of recent matriculates are 640 and 730, respectively (ranging from 500-730 and 570-800).
- Research Experience: It is imperative that candidates have considerable research experience. Students usually have multiple in-depth research experiences.
- Letters of Recommendation: Letters of the greatest influence are those from faculty who have seen your research skills up close.
- Interviews: During interviews, applicants meet with Penn faculty and discuss their past experiences and future goals.
- Goodness of Fit: Can the Program deliver the training you need to achieve your goals?
What sort of research experience is needed for admission?
Most students have multiple, in-depth research experiences that enable them to address questions experimentally. Students should know the background areas and understand the context of their own work in the larger picture of the scientific field under study.
How competitive is the admissions process?
The process is highly competitive. Currently 10-15% of applicants are offered admission.
Can I use the same letters of recommendation for my Vet and Combined Degree applications?
Letters sent to the School of Veterinary Medicine through VMCAS do not reach the VMD/PhD Admissions Committee. Letters must be sent separately to the VMD/PhD Program. While you may use the same referees and/or letters for both, letters from persons who are familiar with your research interests, experience and abilities are most strongly weighted in the VMD/PhD admissions process.
Letters, along with the downloadable Recommendation Form, may be emailed or sent via postal service to:
Dr. Michael Atchison
Director, VMD/PhD Program
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
3800 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Are foreign applicants eligible for the Program?
Can I apply to the VMD/PhD Program after admission to Vet School?
Yes, students can apply after enrollment in the School of Veterinary Medicine, or after enrollment in one of Penn's graduate groups.
Can I apply separately to the PhD Programs at Penn?
Yes, students can apply separately to the Penn graduate groups. However, separate admission to the Vet School and a Penn graduate group does not constitute admission to the VMD/PhD Program. Admission to the Program requires a VMD/PhD application
as well as a Vet School application
. Conversely, when applications to the School of Veterinary Medicine and the VMD/PhD Program are completed, it is not necessary to apply separately to a Penn graduate group for admission to the VMD/PhD Program. For addmission to Biomedical Graduate Studies exclusive of your Vet and VMD/PhD applications, please apply directly to BGS