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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Do We Love It?

One of the comments on yesterday's blog was an interesting one to me.

I'm starting to question whether most vets love what they do or not. A great majority of the ones I talk to do not. 

Several years ago I saw a survey in a veterinary journal stating that around 80% of practicing veterinarians loved their job and would choose to do it again.  I had a hard time relating to that study since I was in the 20% that didn't feel the same.

I think that most professionals reach a point in their career where they question their choice.  What was once a dream and a passion becomes routine and just a job.  When I first graduated from vet school I loved my job.  I was eager to put my knowledge to use and took pleasure in going to work every day.  As I practiced longer I began to feel the stress of the duties and responsibilities.  I also kept seeing the same kinds of cases day in and day out, which was not very exciting or interesting.  Fast-forward a few more years and I hated what I did and dreaded work every day.  Now the pendulum has swung back and I don't mind work most days, even though it is still a job.

As I mentioned yesterday there are a lot of stresses that come with being a vet, especially when you start realizing how many serious decisions you have to make on a daily basis.  For the most part I would say that it is a rewarding career, and I've gotten so I actually like what I do most days.  But would I do it again?  No.

As is typical, hindsight is 20/20.  My interests have also changed over the years to where I enjoy other sciences and history more than I did when I was younger.  I also discovered a love for teaching.  So if I had to do it over again I would likely go for a PhD in history and become a college professor.  Knowing then what I know now would have completely changed my future.

Would I recommend a career in veterinary medicine to someone at this point?  Possibly, yes.  The circumstances are different than when I applied almost 20 years ago, mainly in regards to the financial picture and debt load.  I do think that someone could really enjoy themselves and it's a stable career. However, the salary and hiring prospects are the worst they've been my lifetime with no signs of getting better.

All of this being said, I doubt that veterinary medicine is alone in these feelings and outlook.  


  1. I'm finishing a PhD, having started with the aim of becoming a professor, but doubts have been creeping in for a while now. We don't typically struggle with a debt load, but the long, low-paid apprenticeship period (PhD, postdoc(s)) with no guarantee of a permanent job (also relatively low-paid compared to qualifications) can wear you down. Vet med is definitely not alone!

  2. Think those stats are pretty accurate world wide Chris - many vets I know were a little jealous when I jumped over to tertiary teaching - and the change for me revitalised my enthusiasm. There are still days when I idly reflect what else I can do ( changing interests is all part of that as you grow older) but I am aware that every paid job has a down side, a requirement to toe the line and to do things in different ways, and I would probably hate most other jobs more.
    Perhaps the secret is to enter a trade, earn money fast, (most millionaires are plumbers etc) and then retire early and pursue your hobbies. The academic road is not necessarily a passport to financial bliss:)

  3. It's possible you can teach and be a vet. I posted on your blog a month or so ago about my dismal job outlook. I could only find part time small animal positions so I'm currently part time vet and part time professor at a local college teaching anatomy. Best of both worlds!

  4. Yeah, being a college professor is no better. My husband spent 8 years working on his PhD in mathematics. Not math education - PURE MATHEMATICS - a field that has limited successful graduates. He was just hired to teach full time a local private university. He teaches 4 classes, does research, writes grant proposals, etc etc, and he makes $48,000/year.

    And history is even worse. It's widely considered to be one of the areas into which you should definitely NOT go because there are no jobs...

    (This is homeless parrot, btw - different google acct)

  5. Also, just to add to how decisions can change ones life, if you would have become a history professor, you would not have me ;)

  6. So maybe History wouldn't be the best option. Would have been nice to try, though. Archaeology might be better since there is more practical application.

    And for the readers who don't know, Stacey is my lovely wife. It's a great point she makes, because our life choices affect our present and future as well as our past. I am very much in love with my wife after 14 years together and can't imagine life without her. I wouldn't have that if I went back and changed anything. Remember Back To The Future?


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