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Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture, Forestry, Ecology, Nutritional Sciences: For a sustainable future

What do vets, foresters and nutritional scientists have in common? A solid understanding of the natural sciences. Physics, biology and chemistry play a major role in all these degree courses.

by the Editors

International students in the lab © Hagenguth/DAAD
International students in the lab . © Hagenguth/DAAD

Veterinary medicine is one of the most popular degree courses in Germany. As with medicine, finding a place on a course is therefore not easy. You need to have a very good grade point average as there are admissions restrictions (numerus clausus, NC) for the subject throughout Germany. Study places are awarded by the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung (Foundation for University Admissions).

If you choose to study this subject because you love animals, you should be aware that: Work in a veterinary clinic or a large animal practice can be very physically demanding and stressful. Working on weekends and at nights is standard. A work placement can help you to get a realistic picture of the profession. Many veterinarians are needed, especially in livestock farming. Which means you must be willing to work in the countryside.

Veterinary medicine: Every other vet is self-employed

A degree course in veterinary medicine takes just under six years in Germany and begins with a scientific-theoretical part that lasts eight semesters at the university. During this phase you’ll start acquiring practical experience. This is not limited to handling live animals. But work placement weeks are also compulsory in food quality and control, the slaughterhouse industry and in the public veterinary sector. After a work placement year at a veterinary clinic or practice, students of veterinary medicine complete their degree by taking the state examination.

Many graduates then open their own practice – every other vet in Germany is self-employed. Others work as employees in practices and clinics, in health monitoring, as expert consultants in the pharmaceutical industry or in managing and monitoring the cattle trade and meat production.

Helping to make the world a better place - from agricultural and nutritional sciences

The future of agriculture and issues of nutrition are vital for every person in the world. Using valuable resources in a responsible manner is one of the major global challenges. This is also reflected in the wide selection of courses offered at German universities – the spectrum ranges from crop production ecology to resources economy/management. Suppose, for example, you are particularly interested in renewable raw materials and bioenergy: In the corresponding degree courses, you will look at the entire process chain, from farmer to consumer. You learn how to assess this production process, develop sustainable strategies for creating and processing raw materials and energy crops for each product.

More than 200 degree courses in agriculture and forestry at German universities address the design, use and development of rural spaces. There are also more than 60 courses in nutritional sciences. These cover a wide range of subjects from nutrition in developing countries to nutritional physiological evaluation of food and nutritional guidance and consumer advice. There is a difference between nutritional sciences, trophology and ecotrophology. The latter also includes the subject of financial management. In addition to content on nutritional sciences, in ecotrophology you will be dealing with economics and social sciences issues.

Everything revolves around health

Findings from many different disciplines are incorporated into the nutritional sciences, both from biomedicine as well as public health and food science. Which is one reason why these healthcare sciences are becoming increasingly important. Nutritional scientists address the issue of how food influences and controls human metabolism. They research diseases such as diabetes and cancer, and are in demand as experts whenever health policy challenges need to be met with findings from nutritional research.

The job opportunities are varied: With a degree in nutritional sciences, you can, for example, work in diet therapy and nutrition counselling, but also in product development, the chemical industry or market research. English-language courses prepare you for employment in the international food industry. As managers in the agricultural sector, graduates are just as much in demand as in market and consumer research, development cooperation or environmental policy.

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