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Thursday, November 15, 2012

More Bad News For New Vets

Anyone getting ready to go into or graduate from vet school probably shouldn't read this.  You'll just get depressed.

Today I read the results of a survey conducted annually by the American Veterinary Medical association.  The data was not encouraging for anyone entering veterinary medicine.  Here are some of the highlights....

*  61.5% of graduates received a job offer or an offer to pursue advanced education and training. This has come down considerably over the last two years, having been 74.3% last year and 78.9% in 2010.
*  Starting salaries (excluding internships and residencies) averaged $65,404, down 1.6% from $66.469 in 2011.  And that was down from 2010.
*  Average debt burden was $151,672, a 6.4% increase from $142,613 in 2011.


For two years the job offers and starting salaries have decreased, while debt load has increased.  This means that newly graduated vets are having harder times finding jobs and making enough money to even survive and pay back loans.  And while the problem of jobs and pay is getting worse, two states are wanting to open new veterinary colleges, adding around 200 more people to the workforce every year which will further drive down salaries and make it harder to find work.

I'm not sure why I keep blogging about this topic since every new report makes the picture bleaker.  I guess it's kind of like not being able to turn away from a car accident.  Industry leaders and the AVMA are supposed to be meeting to work on developing a plan to help the problem, but I'm not sure what they can do.  One of the solutions they are considering is making it easier to repay loans, but this still doesn't help with the decreasing pay and difficulty finding jobs.  That's determined by the market and in current economic times it's hard to overcome.  If the clients aren't bringing their pets in and aren't able to pay for services, we can't make enough money to pay higher salaries and hire more vets.

Most established vets like myself are doing okay, if not great.  Veterinary practices as a whole have seen a decrease in revenues, though there are still some (like mine) that continue to grow.  The problem is new graduates and their rather disheartening and debilitating debt load.  When I graduated I had maxed out on subsidized and unsubsidized student loans, ending up with a total of around $40,000 in debt, below average even 15 years ago.  I cannot imagine having $150k in debt to repay.  Keep in mind that this is the average, which means half of debt-laden graduates have a higher repayment!

This is depressing because most people who become vets have a real passion for animals and medicine.  They know they aren't going to be wealthy and do it because they genuinely love the animals, owners, and the profession itself.  When they realize that they can barely make ends meet and have a hard time finding work, it not only hits them financially but also emotionally.  This job that they have dreamed of and worked so hard for is suddenly out of reach.  Broken dreams are never easy to handle.

I would hate to be entering this profession nowadays, and have great sympathy for anyone doing so.  For those thinking about starting vet school, I can't say that I currently recommend it unless you can make it through school without any debt at all (and apparently about 10% of students do).