A board-certified veterinary specialist is a veterinarian who completed up to 12 years of college education and veterinary training. Specialists must first graduate from an undergraduate program, then become veterinarians through a four-year veterinary program. Admission to veterinary school is very competitive, and many people apply to more than one school. Upon graduation, both state and national boards must be passed before one can practice veterinary medicine in the United States.

To become a veterinary specialist, one must undergo additional extensive training after vet school graduation, clinical experience in the area of the chosen specialty, publish a clinical case or research findings in journal articles and pass a credential review and specialty board examinations. The length of time to attain the specialty certification varies with each individual, but is usually a minimum of two years.