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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Employment Prospects For Veterinarians

In this blog I've often discussed the current rather bleak job outlook for recent veterinary graduates.  Each year new vets are accumulating more debt while the starting salaries have been stagnant or even decreasing.  What hasn't been discussed as much is the employment and underemployment status of the profession.  Prior to recent data I had only seen one study that showed the unemployment rate gradually going up.  But a 2014 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) shows some differences.
The study sent surveys to over 8000 veterinarians and received just under 2000 responses.  The good news is that the current unemployment rate in the profession sits at around 3.4%.  This is far lower than the national unemployment rate (no matter how you measure it), and is encouraging.  This means that finding a job as a vet is much easier than the general populace and comparing to other professions.
However, this one number doesn't tell the entire story.  And this is where it gets a little more complicated.  Of the vets surveyed, 14.5% are "underemployed", indicating that they want to work more hours per week for increased compensation.  Where it gets tricky is that 20% of the respondents say that they want to work fewer hours.  The underemployed group wants to work an average of 12.2 more hours per week, while the other group wants to work 12.7 hours less.  There is also a clear gender bias, with females overwhelmingly wanting to work the lighter schedule and males (especially more recent graduates) wanting to work more.  While the study didn't look at the reasons for the data, I would suspect that women want to eventually have families and balance children with work, which often necessitates less work hours per week.  Since men don't tend to be the primary child caregivers at home, they don't need to work less.
According ot the study here's the other good news...the number of vets who want to work less exceeds those who want to work more.  This means that about 2,000 new veterinarians could be employed to balance the difference.  Good news for those seeking jobs!
All of these statistics are encouraging and show that most vets who want jobs will get one.  But that's a rather broad statement.  It still doesn't do anything about the huge debt load that goes into getting the degree, or the relatively low starting salaries.  It also doesn't guarantee that you'll get the exact job you want.  So even though I think the news from the study is overall very positive, I wouldn't recommend ignoring the debt-to-income ratio and would still be very aware of these issues when considering becoming a vet.