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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Too Old For Vet School?

I'm at a conference this week, so I won't have good daily practice experiences to share.  Anticipating this event, I've saved up some emails to answer this week.  The first one is from Jeff....

I have wanted to be a veterinarian every since I can remember even before I knew what a vet did.  I also have taken some detours along the way and now at 36 yo I want to start the journey of becoming one. I do not like working in an office at a computer.  I do import/export for a Customs Broker/Freight Forwarder.  
I know I have a long road ahead of me but I can think of nothing else that I want to do with my life.  I have talked to other vets who discouraged me from doing it because of my age but damn them. I can do this.
Do you think it is worth it?  And no, it is not just because I love animals. There is much more to it than that.
Thoughts, concerns, ideas.  I know I need to get a lot more animal experience, shadowing experience, etc. LOL. 

Jeff, I'm a firm believer that it's never too late to follow a dream.  I know of at least 10 people in my own veterinary class who were over 30 and had previous careers before entering vet school.  One was in the Air Force, one a school teacher, and one worked for IBM.  While 36 is not a traditional age, I certainly don't think that you're too old.

However, you're going to face challenges that your younger classmates might not.  First is a big financial burden.  Even if you're not making much money now you're not going to be able to continue that job in school and will have to survive on a fraction of your current salary.  You'll likely have some pretty intimidating debt loads upon graduation, and a starting salary isn't a great one in this profession, at least considering the amount of debt we rack up.  If you have a family to support, this might not be a viable option.

You'll also have to look at your retirement goals.  At 36 you have less time to build a retirement than at 26, but that also depends on how diligent you have been up to this point.  But you'll also have to worry about your loans, so that is less money to save for retirement.  Those 10 years can make a big difference.

I would peruse this blog for discussions on the current state of the veterinary profession and the financial outlooks.  It's not pretty, and no matter how much you may love it, it's becoming increasingly difficult for new graduates to simply make ends meet.

Lastly, you absolutely need to get some experience working in the veterinary field.  Most clients have no idea what the daily life of a vet is like, which is one of the reasons I started this blog several years ago.  But reading my blog is still no replacement for practical experience.  You may work for a vet and decide that it's not the right option for you after all.  Or you might discover a greater passion.  One of my most recently hired employees has realized that he wants to make a career in this field, even though he is currently a receptionist.  He is learning the realities of the profession and still loves it.  Currently he's planning on gaining some more experience and then working to become a licensed technician.  So working for a vet can help you decide if it's really what you want to do.

Best of luck, Jeff!