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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Vet's Life, Part 1

Lani sends this increasingly common scenario, wanting to more about life as a veterinarian.

I came upon your blog a few days ago, and have been reading up on your posts. I am currently in law school, and I have one year left. After going through it, and after having experienced a legal career over the summers, I am no longer sure I want to be a lawyer.

There is no freedom in your schedule, it is a very cut and dry atmosphere (there isn't a whole lot of joking around), and most attorneys hate their jobs. I am currently 23, about to be 24, and I am thinking about making a major career change and go to vet school. I have already researched it, and I would have to go back to undergrad for a year to get my second bachelor's degree in science. And then I would have 4 years to get my DVM. I think I will be 30 once I actually start working.

Can you tell me more about your life as a vet?

I've answered questions like this in the past, but Lani has some interesting and new inquiries that I'll be addressing over the next couple of days.

What are the hours?
Depends on the practices, really. Most new practitioners can expect to work 40-45 hours per week, though the daily hours will vary. Some practices keep a standard 9-6 schedule, but more and more are opening earlier and closing later. Many practices do their own emergency work, meaning that you'll have to be on call from time to time. However, this is not the rule, and many don't do any after-hours work at all. Because this is so variable, you'll want to ask around a lot when you're looking for a position.

Was all the schooling worth it?
Whew, there's a pretty weighted question. Most vets would say that it is definitely worth it. I'm maybe not so certain about that, but this is just me. Financially I would have to say that it isn't worth it. The debt-to-income ratio for vets continues to worsen. I was reading an article in a journal last week that discussed this issue, and it stated that student debt was growing at an unsustainable rate. Within the next 5 years a new graduate needs to make a starting salary of over $100,000 per year simply to be able to afford to pay back their loans. This is about double what the current starting salary is, and is also more than most existing practitioners make. Now, you would get many who would say that the joys of the profession outweigh the financial issues. However, you still have to pay your bills, and that's hard to do when 50% of your monthly salary goes to loan repayments. You'll want to spend some time working with a local vet to see if you think it's really worth it. To be perfectly honest, I don't know if I would make the same decision again, knowing then what I know now. But studies have shown that 80% of vets surveyed are very happy with their choice of profession.

More of Lani's questions tomorrow!