All course information is listed within this syllabus.

VBSC 101: Careers in Veterinary Medicine and the Allied Professions (1 credit). Examination of career opportunities in veterinary medicine including types of specialization by species and/or by discipline.

Prerequisites: None


Instructor for VBSC 101.

Jennifer L. Koehl, VMD
Assistant Teaching Professor
Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
One Health Minor Coordinator

Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
108E Animal, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802

E-mail: Use Canvas Inbox

I will do my best to respond to your e-mails within 48 hours, and I will let you know if I'm going to be unavailable for any length of time.


  • Pennsylvania State University: Masters of Professional Studies: Homeland Security: Public Health Preparedness. 2021–current
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine: Veterinarian Medicinae Doctoris (VMD). 2008
  • University of Scranton: Bachelor of Science in Biology, Minors in Biochemistry and Theology. 2004

Course Overview

This course is intended for first and second-year VBSC-intent or declared students starting in one of Penn State's Commonwealth campuses. Students should have an interest in careers in veterinary medicine or the allied health industries.

Since Commonwealth campus students do not get a chance to take a major-related first-year seminar and usually do not have a pre-vet club on campus, this course seeks to bridge academic gaps between UP (University Park) and Commonwealth campuses using the "One Penn State" model. Students will learn about various veterinary specialties and other types of animal-care-related jobs they can pursue with a VBSC major.

People usually associate the role of veterinarians with private veterinary practice. Veterinary medicine is much broader and reflects expanding societal needs. Veterinary medicine contributes to biomedical research, public health, environmental health, food and agricultural systems, and care of companion animals, livestock, wildlife, and exotic animals.

Veterinarians' educational backgrounds in basic and clinical sciences are comparable to physicians. However, veterinarians study every basic and clinical discipline comparatively among multiple species. They need competency in preventive medicine, population health, parasitology, zoonotic diseases, and epidemiology, among others. Veterinary professionals are trained in protecting and improving both animal and human health.

Course Objectives

This course will cover four major areas:

  • Career exploration in veterinary medicine including types of specialization by various species and/or disciplines (areas covered in this course are not an exhaustive list);
  • Careers in animal and medical industries related to animal health and research;
  • Career choices related to animals if veterinary medicine is no longer an option for students; and,
  • Provide Commonwealth campus 2+2 VBSC students with a strong connection between their campus and faculty in the University Park campus.

Course Outline

Module 1: Setting Your Career Goals

Module 2: Animal Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine

Module 3: Companion Animal Medicine

Module 4: Equine Veterinary Medicine

Module 5: Large Animal, Mixed Animal, Food Animal, and Poultry Veterinary Medicine

Module 6: Laboratory Animal and Comparative Medicine

Module 7: Wildlife and Zoological Medicine

Module 8: Veterinary Pathology and Veterinary Microbiology

Module 9: Veterinary Nutrition, Veterinary Toxicology, and Veterinary Theriogenology

Module 10: Veterinary Internal Medicine and Veterinary Dermatology

Module 11: Veterinary Preventive Medicine and Emergency and Critical Care

Module 12: Veterinarians in the Government and Military

Module 13: Pharmaceuticals, Animal Foundations, and Biomedical Research

Module 14: Technical Positions and Animal Agriculture Jobs

Module 15: Conclusions and Reflections

Course Schedule

For due dates, refer to the Course Summary on the Syllabus page in Canvas.

Course Materials

A textbook is not required for this class.


Assignments are due by 11:59 p.m. on the date indicated on the Canvas Syllabus page. Assignments submitted after the due date will be assessed a late penalty of 10% of the total point value for each 24 hours beyond the due date.


Weekly short essays are required and will relate directly to the module for that week. You may use other sources to assist your writing, but you must cite all sources. Your essays will comprise 40% of your total grade. You will submit your assignments on Canvas through Turnitin. These assignments will be examined for plagiarism and AI (artificial intelligence) (ChatGPT, etc.) usage at submission. Detection of either of these will result in a ZERO for that assignment.

  1. Times New Roman or Arial 12-point font, single-spaced, one-inch margins.
  2. Essays should be no longer than one page.
  3. Cite all referenced material in APA or AMA style. Include a page break in your assignment and alphabetize all references on their own page.
  4. Follow the rubric listed for each individual assignment. Some essays will require paragraphs. Others you may be asked to provide bullet points.

Writing Assignments

There are four (4) major writing assignments, two (2) individual writing assignments, and two (2) group writing assignments. The individual writing assignments are worth 10 points each and the group writing assignments are worth 15 points each. These assignments are worth 50% of your total grade. You will submit your assignments on Canvas through Turnitin. These assignments will be examined for plagiarism and AI (artificial intelligence) (ChatGPT, etc.) usage at submission. Detection of either of these will result in a ZERO for that assignment.

Please read and edit your assignment carefully before you submit it. Pay attention to all facets of an assignment. Incomplete assignments cannot earn complete grades.

These assignments are submitted through Canvas via Turnitin. All writing assignments should meet the following criteria:

  1. Times New Roman or Arial 12-point font, single-spaced, one-inch margins.
  2. Word count limits are listed on individual assignments. Do not exceed the word count. If word count is exceeded, 10% of your assignment grade will be deducted from your total score.
  3. Cite all referenced material in APA or AMA style. Include a page break in your assignment and alphabetize all references on their own page.

Final Project

This assignment will let you see what employment opportunities exist today for all veterinary positions covered in this course. This is worth 10% of your final grade. You will submit your assignments on Canvas through Turnitin. These assignments will be examined for plagiarism and AI (artificial intelligence) (ChatGPT, etc.) usage at submission. Detection of either of these will result in a ZERO for that assignment.

  1. Identify three advertised veterinary jobs on websites like but not limited to LinkedIn, Glassdoor, AVMA jobs, and
  2. Provide a link to the advertised position.
  3. Summarize the position's title, duties, location, and salary range if indicated.
  4. List any educational requirements for this position, including board certification or a Ph.D., MPH, etc.
  5. Complete this assignment using Times New Roman or Arial 12-point font, single-spaced, one-inch margins.

It is due on the last day of class.

Overall Criteria for Assignments


  1. Use correct grammar in all writing assignments.


  1. Do not put your essay into one giant block paragraph. Your essay should include:
    • An introduction paragraph (do not repeat the question)
    • A body (consisting of multiple paragraphs to prove your point)
    • A conclusion paragraph

Do not forget to put your name on the top left corner of the first page. Make it a habit to put a title to your essay as well.


  1. Writing assignment requires a minimum of 400 words and a maximum of 600 words, which should not include the references, the title of your essay, your name, etc. Grading will stop after 600 words and your grade will reflect was completed within the word limit. Always cite references.
  2. Essays will require a minimum of 200 words and a maximum of 300 words, which should not include the references, the title of your essay, your name, etc. Grading will stop after 300 words and your grade will reflect was completed within the word limit. Always cite references.
  3. Your final project can be presented in a table or written form. Feel free to use bullet points.


  1. Utilize various sources. You can use books and/or refereed journal articles as references and only one reputable internet source for each assignment. Visit the VBSC 101 Library Guide (select Library Resources in the Course Navigation Menu) if you need help getting started.
  2. If you have any questions about references, please let me know in advance!
  3. Internet Sources
    • I will not accept any more than one internet source, which should still be a reputable source. It should NEVER come from PETA, or any Humane Society web pages, which offer "opinions" not "science-based facts," even though they might sound like they are scientific. This means you will need to visit your campus library and/or take advantage of the Penn State Libraries website to locate additional sources.
  4. AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association,; AMA (American Medical Association,; NIH (National Institute of Health,; USDA (United States Department of Agriculture,; and NSF (National Science Foundation, are just a few reputable internet sources for you to investigate your subject matter. For instance, the AVMA is the ULTIMATE authority on euthanasia, which is the topic of your fourth assignment. I would like everyone to skim through the AVMA guidelines (2013) on the subject of euthanasia (PDF). Additionally, utilizing websites of U.S. veterinary schools is acceptable.
  5. Books and Journals
    • Visit your campus library or the Penn State Libraries web page to find books and peer-reviewed journal articles for your assignments.
    • Articles in "peer-reviewed journals" are reviewed by expert scientists in the subject area. Some examples of peer-reviewed journals are the Poultry Science Journal, Journal of Animal Science, Journal of Nutrition, Nature, or Science.


  1. Cite your sources in the body of the essay and list them at the end of your essay properly in APA, MLA, or AMA format only.
  2. For citation styles, please visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab, which was created by the English Department at Purdue University.

Grading Policy

The following table is the grading criteria for the course.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Cumulative Point Value Weight
Essay Assignments 65 40%
Individual Writing Assignments 20 25%
Group Writing Assignments 30 25%
Final Project 10 10%
TOTAL: 125 100%

The following table is the grading scheme for the course.

Grading Scheme
Letter Grade Percentage
A 100% – 94%
A- < 94% – 90%
B+ < 90% – 87%
B < 87% – 84%
B- < 84% – 80%
C+ < 80% – 77%
C < 77% – 70%
D < 70% – 60%
F < 60%

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Undergraduate Courses for additional information.

NOTE: If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. 

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Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on the Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

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Please read the academic integrity guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

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In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus' disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Use of Trade Names

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Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.

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