The opinions of applicants to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, in 2002 and those of male students in three natural science-oriented secondary schools who were preparing to write the matriculation examination the same year, were obtained using a questionnaire. A total of 218 female and 20 male applicants and 48 male students responded. Both applicants and students were asked to rate their agreement with 12 statements on a fi ve-point scale. In addition, the applicants were asked to describe in their own words why so few men apply to study veterinary medicine. The applicants considered veterinary medicine as a calling and clearly valued the profession more than the school students. Even though men were considered to be less interested than women in helping animals, both groups agreed that men have a similar ability to empathize. The students thought that the veterinary curriculum was better suited to female students, and they also found that it was easier to accept the image of a female rather than that of a male veterinary student. The veterinary profession was perceived as having lower status and a lower expected income than the medical profession. The faculty’s selection criteria were listed as one reason for males not applying. In the media, the work of veterinarians primarily focuses on companion animals, and not enough is known about employment possibilities, specialization and opportunities for advancement. The applicants suggested that more information be provided and at an earlier stage of secondary education. Rather than stressing the perspective of helping sick and injured animals, the plentiful employment available, the variety of work options and the important societal role of veterinarians should be highlighted.