With just 28 accredited veterinary schools in the U.S., the top schools stand out from the rest for several reasons. At these schools, students gain hands-on learning experience at world-class research institutions and veterinary hospitals. Most offer four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees, which mixes comprehensive science courses with clinical experience, and students prepare for careers in private practice, on farms and at zoos. The top schools also offer specialized learning in different areas of veterinary medicine, including small animals, equine health, livestock and zoological medicine.

Cornell University

Cornell University's veterinary school has been ranked No. 1 by "U.S. News and World Report" since 2000. The university offers traditional Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees as well as opportunities for clinical study and hands-on research. DVM candidates can apply for residencies at the Cornell Hospital for Animals, and there are a variety of options for research at the Baker Institute for Animal Health, the Feline Health Center or various other university facilities. Students can also specialize in many different areas, including equine, small animal and exotic animal.

University of California, Davis

UC Davis's School of Veterinary Medicine was ranked No. 2 in the country by "U.S. News and World Report" in 2011. The school offers a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, in addition to various master's programs in the sciences. The DVM program is a four-year degree track. In the first two years, students study fundamental veterinary courses before focusing in their third year on small or large animals. The fourth year is spent in a clinical training program.

Colorado State University

"U.S. News and World Report" ranked Colorado State University's veterinary school tied for third in 2011. Each year, CSU accepts an average of 138 students into the doctorate program, which is a four-year DVM degree track. Students at CSU spend their first two years studying a comprehensive veterinary medicine curriculum before moving to clinical studies in years three and four. The clinical program provides students hands-on training experience at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

North Carolina State University

NC State's College of Veterinary Medicine was tied for the third spot overall by "U.S. News and World Report." At NC State, students can pursue graduate degrees as well as a professional DVM degree. The doctorate program is a four-year degree track. In the first three years, students study a comprehensive curriculum before focusing on clinical training in year four. One unique program is the Teaching Animal Unit, which is a working farm that provides field lab and research experience for students.