Here's an email from Emily.....
I am currently a sophmore at Western Michigan University studying Biology and am running into a rough patch during undergrad. All of my life I have loved animals and have thought I have wanted to be a Vet. I even have job shaddowed my local small animal veterinarian and loved every minute of it so I thought this will be the perfect job for me, but now I am doubting my choice.
I was always good in school during high school and got a 3.84 GPA at the end of it and I enjoyed my science classes. Then I started college, my first semester I did great! All A's and B's, then came second semester taking General Chemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology, I studied hard and ended up getting two DC's on my transcript and retook them the next semester and got B's in both subjects. This brought my GPA down to 3.04. Anyways I am just about to finish my sophomore year of college and am starting to question my choice in pursuing a veterinary career. I love animals, but I feel like my passion for science and school work is definitley not what it used to be. I find it very interesting but I am not good at it and also adding another four years to my college career seems frightening and I have read blogs about people's live in vet school and it doesn't get any easier. I am thinking of becoming a Vet Tech, but my parents discourage me saying that I am smarter and should try to pursue my original dreams of becoming a Vet. How do you think I can decide between the two careers, Vet tech seems like the easier way out, but still rewarding, just less money. But Vets don't make that much considering the amount of money they put in for their education. I am in a pickle, I just don't know if I have the passion for school to succeed in vet school.
First, I'd suggest doing some keyword searches on this blog, as over the years I've talked a lot about the pros and cons of a veterinary career and whether or not it is worth it. You'll find similar questions to yours and various answers that I've provided.
Simply put, if you don't have a strong passion for being a vet, don't do it. Going through vet school was the hardest and most challenging thing I've done in my life, and that includes having studied for and received a Master's Degree just before that. Vet school is actually more grueling than human medical school because you have to know so many different kinds of anatomy and physiology. For four years you'll have little to no personal life and won't have time to hold down more than a part-time job. Once you graduate you can expect long, hard hours and make a fraction of what you really should make. Current average debt load coming out of vet school is around $160,000, yet average starting salary is around $60,000. A recent study showed that the return on investment (ROI) for veterinary school is so bad that an average vet will be 65 years old before they break even for the amount of money and time they put into their education.
So with a bleak picture like that, how do we do what we do?
Passion. Passion for pets, passion for medicine, and passion for the people who have pets.
This is not an easy job, and it can be a struggle for newly graduated vets to make a living nowadays. But it can still be very rewarding, which is why people continue to do so. My rewards are not from my salary, though I'm paid decently. I keep doing this because I get to make a difference in the lives of people and pets, I get to teach and train my staff, and I simply find medicine and surgery to be fascinating.
Stop and think for a few minutes. What is it about veterinary medicine that excites you? Are you comfortable with the idea of doing surgery every day on pets? Do you think how a body works is really cool? Do you want to interact with people and teach them how to be better pet owners? Can you handle when cases don't go right or when a client refuses needed care? Are you prepared to work you tail off to make a comparably small amount of money?
There is nothing wrong with changing your mind about your career. You have to have a huge desire and passion for science and school in order to survive a veterinary education. No, we really don't like all of the study, but it's a necessary evil and you need to see this as a true calling rather than simply a job. Because you have to look back on it after graduating and being in practice and ask "was it worth it?"
Becoming a veterinary technician is not a second choice! It doesn't mean that you aren't smart enough to be a vet! I have known many techs who have just as much intelligence as the veterinarian for whom they work. Becoming a vet doesn't mean that you're "smarter" than a tech. Many people chose to be a tech as their first choice, and are happy in that career.
Do some soul-searching, Emily. If becoming a vet seems like more work and hassle than you are willing to do, then it's not going to be a career in which you are happy. Besides....you can become a technician and still go on to vet school later if you decide that you really do want to be a doctor.
That actually brings up a related question by a reader, which I'll post in a few days.