A questionnaire was developed to look at attitudes to veterinary medicine as a career choice among students at different stages of the veterinary course at the Royal Veterinary College. Traditional-entry first-year and final-year students, as well as entry-level ‘Gateway’ (widening participation) students, were invited to participate. Wanting to work with animals and exposure to a veterinary role model through taking a sick animal to visit a veterinary surgeon appeared to be major factors in choosing a veterinary career for all undergraduates, regardless of their socioeconomic background. Overall, women were more strongly influenced by owning animals (P=0.014), and men were more positively influenced by the challenging reputation of the course (P=0.028). When the students were asked to indicate their top three reasons for wanting to become a vet, men were 9.5 times as likely as women to select ‘Want to train as a scientist’, 5.3 times as likely to select ‘Join a profession’ and 13.2 times as likely to select ‘Hardest course to get in to’; the top choice for both sexes was ‘Want to work with animals’. Thirty-one per cent of the students felt their careers adviser had been a negative influence on their decision to become a vet.