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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Vets Seek Non-Clinical Practice

Recently I ran across an interesting survey on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN).  For those not familiar, VIN is a long-running website forum dedicated to veterinary professionals.  Vets and technicians from all over the world interact, share cases and experiences, participate in educational webinars, get advice from specialists in various fields, and generally interact with colleagues.  The site posts polls frequently and the most recent one caught my interest.

"Do you have, have you had, or have you seriously considered a career in a field of veterinary medicine other than clinical practice?"

The answers were the most interesting part of the survey. 
I am in clinical practice and have never worked outside that field nor have I considered changing...39.14%
I have considered switching to a non-clinical field, but I am currently in clinical practice...47.48%
I am currently actively searching for a non-clinical position...2.3%
I have worked in a non-clinical field, but I am now in clinical practice...4.82%
I have worked in clinical practice, but I am now in a non-clinical field...2.19%
I have jobs both in clinical practice and a non-clinical field...2.19%
I have always worked in a non-clinical area of veterinary medicine...0.11%
I am not currently employed, but I am searching for a clinical position...0.11%
I am not currently employed, but I am searching for a non-clinical position...0.55%
The main result of the survey is that about 50% of veterinarians currently in clinical practice would rather not be in clinical practice.  They would rather be teaching, working in research, or working in industry (such as for a food or pharmaceutical company).  And I'm one of them!  If it was up to me I'd leave clinical practice and become a full-time teacher in a heartbeat.  Unfortunately well-paying teaching positions require advanced degrees or speciality certifications, neither of which I have the stamina and desire to acquire.  I've taught at the college level, but I was making a fraction of what I make in clinical practice so I had to go back to working full-time as a vet.

I don't think there is anything inherently bad about a vet no longer wanting to be in clincal practice.  It's a hard job and you risk injury every day, as well as having to deal with the disgusting parts of medicine and cranky clients.  A vet can still use their knowledge and skills in other capacities, and typically will be paid much more in industry or academia than they will in private practice.  There are many benefits to not being a clinical vet, even though this is what people typically imagine when they think of someone in this profession.

It also doesn't mean that a vet is doing a worse job because they don't want to be in their clinic.  This survey suggests that when you go and see your regular vet there is about a 50/50 chance that they would rather be doing anything else.  Yet that same vet probably greeted you cheerfully and gave your pet great medical care.  While I'd rather be teaching than practicing, I also give my clients, patients, and staff the best attitude and care that I possibly can.  A vet who would rather work for a pharmaceutical company isn't automatically disenfranchised and disinterested in their daily job.

For me it's just nice to see so many other colleagues who feel similar to me in this regard. 


  1. I did twenty years in clinical practice and now the same again teaching and running a vet nursing programme. i did adult teacher training as part of the job, didn't need post grad qualifications, and have loved it all. Pay the same once promoted, but no after hours and longer breaks to spend time with my children. No regrets for either stage of my career. we are scientists and can offer do many skills. Life is not all about hands on practice :)

  2. I left clinical practice several years ago with no regrets. If I'd been able to find a suitable position sooner, I'd have done so. Non-clinical jobs are rare, or employers prefer an MD or straight PhD to a DVM. I am acquainted with too many veterinarians with an MPH or Master's in addition to their veterinarian degree who cannot find a job and thus are still working in clinical practice, often unhappily. Some are board-certified; employers don't care. No matter what organized veterinary medicine says, demand for veterinarians for non-clinical positions is low. The jobs don't exist in sufficient numbers. My next job may be outside the veterinary profession, and that's okay with me.


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