IBISWorld Report suggests 2% increase in revenue per year is expected for the veterinary industry. However low wages are likely to continue due to the 50% increase in veterinary graduates over recent years.
American Veterinary Medical Association: suicides and stress in the veterinary profession are a major issue needing attention. Lifeline and many others have setup support systems that can help those needing assistance.
Lawyers Weekly – Law graduates having difficulties. According to Gradstats, law graduates have gone from 9.8% seeking employment four months after graduation and average wages of $42k in 2006 to 17% seeking and $53k in 2012. Meanwhile vet graduates have gone from 5.3% and $38k in 2006 to 19.2% and $45k in 2012. Vet graduates usually spend an extra three years at university with no income. The larger rise in underemployed vets is likely due to the difficulties faced by veterinarians being able to obtain employment outside of veterinary clinical fields. Vet graduates may also be more adamant about obtaining a clinical job and therefore not consider other jobs. This contrasts with lawyers whose skills are adaptable to a multitude of business environments.
DVM 360: Survey suggests that animal owners may leave their pets with illness/pain by skipping vet visits and not using medications to save money. The paradox of this is that owners state they are prepared to make sacrifices for their pet. This is a trait of self reported behavioural surveys where people will often say they do what others think is the best option when in reality they do something else.
New England Journal of Medicine: Veterinarians are the ‘canary in the mineshaft’ when it comes to assessing the education bubble. Vets have the highest and most rapidly rising debt to income ratio out of all professions. In Australia veterinarians have seen stagnating wages and increasing underemployment. When and will we start to see a decline in veterinary applicants?
A proposal for a new veterinary school in Wales will certainly raise some eyebrows after the stir created with the introduction of Surrey and Nottingham in the United Kingdom.
Reducing the length of a veterinary degree can allow graduates to focus earlier on their chosen species/subfield and gain skills in that area. It also allows the rising number of under/unemployed graduates to retrain in other areas more rapidly. The United States is considering expanding options for three year medical degrees. More on reducing the degree length in this previous post.
Future of the veterinary profession, free seminar. 21 November, Sydney. Covering wages and veterinary numbers among other things. See Small Animal Talk blog for details and to RSVP. A good chance to observe differing view points and elements of bias in the workforce debate.
It is quite likely some veterinary clinics are receiving 50-100+ applicants for job advertisements at the moment. The latest batch of graduates will be the largest ever in Australia being the first time all seven veterinary universities are producing graduates. With graduation expected within the next couple of months, students will be sending out many applications. One in five graduates from 2010 were unable to secure full time employment by four months after graduation. With successive years this has likely worsened and it is highly likely that some 2012 graduates are still looking for employment. As job availability declines it is also likely that increasing numbers of graduates will seek to return to university for another degree or take lower skilled jobs.
British Equine Veterinary Association: “Lucy [veterinarian] contended that it was irresponsible and immoral to allow individuals to commit five or six years, and tens of thousands of pounds, towards a veterinary career without them first being made aware of the limited opportunities available in very popular sectors of the profession such as equine practice.” AusVetNet has previously provided information on the low amount of jobs in equine practice compared to the number of students wanting employment in Australia. Data from the United States has shown declines in horse ownership which are likely occurring in other countries primarily due to the cost and time needs for horse ownership.
New book published by ACER in Australia, “So you want to be a vet?“. Blurb: “Eric Allan [veterinarian] cautions that it’s not just about working with animals. It is often an arduous and demanding profession, not as financially rewarding as some might expect, and requires a strong work ethic.” The best advice for prospective vets is to investigate the issues faced by veterinarians.
The Age, Melbourne: “Growing demand” for exotic pets. To prove such a claim requires historical trends on pet numbers and money spent on these animals which don’t appear to be provided. From the 2010 and 2005 ACAC reports in Australia it can be seen that birds and other pets are DECLINING. This is similar to the JAVMA post regarding the United States outlined below previously by AusVetNet. Declining pet ownership seems to be due to several things from finances, time to care for pets, apartment living, and travel.
Veterinary Surgeon’s Act Review in Queensland. A graph depicts the large rise in veterinary surgeons, far more than population growth which raises concerns over job prospects. It is also worth checking this document for some of the feminisation and rural myths explained previously by AusVetNet.
Oversupply of veterinarians should be of paramount concern to anyone who cares for animals as it can lead to declining standards in the profession designed to uphold animal welfare. Currently there are many animals that suffer because owners don’t provide sufficient health care. Although this comment is unlikely to represent the current standard across the veterinary industry it provides a glimpse of what could occur: “Everyone is becoming aware that the once respected profession has slid a long way. When the CBC does a consumer awareness type show about your business you just know there are problems. I think the issue stems from an oversupply of vets as every strip mall seems to have at least one. This oversupply has created a situation where vets have to be creative and assertive to get and keep business.
My sister took her old, senile, ill and over medicated cat to her vet and asked if it was time to put her down. She may well have asked her banker if she should move her banking business to another bank.” CBC News. Also check out a previous AusVetNet post on how veterinary practice sustainability is critical to animal welfare.
Vetsonline: United Kingdom veterinary salary survey reveals that wages are AU$64k. Large animal veterinarians work more hours to achieve a higher annual salary but lower hourly rates. New universities in England will likely push wages lower. Pet spending follows trends for luxury items. Those of higher socioeconomic status provide a higher level of care for pets in terms of health care along with environmental enrichment such as dog walking and doggy day care. In times of economic prosperity spending on pets increases. Some have suggested that the veterinary career is becoming a hobby only attainable by the wealthy due to the high cost of the degree and low wages.
The Australian: feminisation, low wages, declining need for vets in rural areas, and oversupply of graduates.
Previously we reported that the veterinary degree is one of the longest and most expensive with a low return on investment. Some veterinary students in the United Kingdom seek donations to fund their degrees. A Chilean who has completed most of his veterinary degree in Queensland is attempting to crowd source the remaining cost of the degree. It will be interesting to watch what happens to HELP (student) fees over the next couple of years.
University of Sydney has followed other Australian universities and changed to a veterinary postgraduate doctorate degree that is six years instead of five. This may be beneficial for those wanting to change career from other areas but decreases the return on investment for those going straight from year 12.
Agrifood Environmental Scan suggests a labour shortage for large animal veterinarians, demand for aquatic health veterinarians and an oversupply of small animal veterinarians. A recent job search showed limited advertisements for aquatic veterinarians. There were less large animal than small animal veterinary positions advertised and recent sources suggest that large animal veterinarians receive lower hourly wages. Agrifood publications are utilised by the National Farmers Federation for workforce submissions.
Release of the full report on the latest Australian pet statistics is expected today. Unfortunately the government doesn’t include questions about pets in their five yearly census. Therefore the only figures on Australia are extrapolated from the Companion Animal Council/Animal Health Alliance report. This report surveys 1734 Australians (or 0.0000007% of the population!) and multiplies the data to estimate pet ownership for the 22.68 million Australian population. Previously we have shown that the number of veterinarians per cat and dog is rising dramatically.
JAVMA (closed access): Starting salaries in the US seem to mainly be dictated by the number of graduates taking lower paid internships with significantly higher weekly hour loads. More on interns is available in our previous post.
Journal of Association of Veterinary Students (JAVS), UK: “The AVS has acknowledged that the general consensus among the student body is that there is no demand for more veterinary graduates and the profession does not need a new veterinary school in the current climate. Although there will no doubt be enough applicants to the veterinary course to fill another veterinary school, the student body has concerns that there will not be enough veterinary jobs for new graduates to support the increase in 2019 when the first cohort of Surrey veterinary students graduate.“
JAVS, UK: Low wages, long course length and cost, high entrance requirements including practical experience, and pets becoming luxury items of the wealthy may be limiting the profession to kids whose parents are in the higher socioeconomic bracket. “Whatever the cause, we will qualify in a profession rapidly becoming dominated by middleclass white girls.“
JAVS, UK: “You’d be surprised by how many students and qualified vets are struggling/coping with some form of mental health issue while going about their day-to-day lives.“
JAVMA News: Long length of the veterinary degree and high debt is preventing veterinarians entering alternate fields such as public health. In Australia, veterinary ‘one health’ jobs are mostly in Canberra and another degree is usually needed. Therefore veterinarians wanting to help in this area are usually adding on a medicine degree to ensure more job options. The challenges of vets trying to find public health positions was also recently discussed on the Student Doctor Network forum.
UK RCVS Facts 2013: Page 5 shows an approximate 20% increase in the number of newly registered veterinarians in the United Kingdom since 2007 from 1280 to about 1560 in 2012. The population increase in this time was 3.7%. The number of veterinarians per capita has risen from 21.0 vets per million people to 24.7 per million. A new veterinary university has recently been approved in the United Kingdom which will affect this balance in future years.
Rural dentist and politicians are aware of an oversupply of dentists. The Australian Dental Association has expressed concerns about declining employment prospects of dental graduates. Dental graduate underemployment has risen rapidly to 16.4% in recent years. However veterinary graduate underemployment has risen even more rapidly to 19.2%. Negligible public awareness has been raised regarding declining veterinary job outcomes. Another concern raised previously by the Australian Veterinarian Network is the rise in over-servicing and declining animal welfare that can occur with an oversupplied profession. Recent concerns have been expressed about an increase in medical practitioners in some areas that are providing excessive diagnostics and treatments leading to increased patient costs without benefits to public health. Many animals are under serviced and owners leave their animals with untreated diseases due to costs but there are concerns that oversupply of veterinarians could lead to overservicing.
“A new proposal for a rural medical school has been met with strong criticism by health professionals and student bodies, who say it is not the most cost effective solution to bringing more doctors into rural Australia. Medical professionals and students are arguing that funding would be better spent toward providing higher quality specialised training and support for rural doctors.” TheWire. It is interesting to note that TWO rural veterinary schools were opened in recent years and there was no public opposition. Veterinary underemployment is now increasing and 50% of veterinarians leave rural areas within a few years of commencement. So increasing the number of graduating vets seems very ineffective for assisting veterinary care in rural areas where wages are often lower.
Australian 2013 veterinary students are preparing for graduation in the toughest veterinary graduate job market in Australian history according to GradStats data on underemployment. In recent times veterinary degrees have increased in length to 6 years, two new universities have started producing graduates, a third veterinary university is set to produce it’s first batch of graduates this year almost doubling the number of Australian veterinary universities in the last few years. At least one fifth of veterinary graduates were unable to find full time employment last year after four months and several were applying for veterinary nursing positions.
British Vet Record discusses how cost limitations often lead to euthanasia being the best option in many farm animal health situations. The lower standard of medicine due to cost constraints is one of several reasons for the high loss of veterinarians from rural areas within a few years of commencement. Other UK data highlights the large increase in veterinary university applicants, however it is likely that many of these are from less developed countries.
JAVMA News: Bird ownership declines by a massive 20% between 2006 and 2011! Likely reasons are similar to the decline in ownership of dogs and cats which are mostly due to concerns about being able to provide a high quality of care for the animal. David Mellor also discussed in the book, Sciences of Animal Welfare, how non-pet owers make their choice out of concern for animals (animalcentric decision), whilst pet owners make their choice based on seeking personal happiness (humancentric decision). The Humane Society survey found that people chose not to have pets because they didn’t have enough finances to support the animal or they don’t have enough time to care for the animal to a high standard due to travel and work. But possibly the most relevant information from the decline in bird ownership and the limited amounts of money people are willing to pay for bird health is that veterinary students need to match their job aspirations with the job market. More than two thirds of vets work with companion animals (dogs, cats, horses). Production animal (mainly Dairy) surgical and medical needs are low and declining due to the negligible economic value of one animal and increasing herd sizes. The opening of two production animal universities has added significant competition to the job market in this domain. Rural production animal hourly wages are lower than companion animal veterinarians suggesting low demand for rural veterinarians. Areas like birds, fish, and wildlife medicine are extremely restricted due to the low funding for these animals and vets must be willing to travel to get a job. Vets that choose these paths are likely to have limited options and find difficulty with career advancement. But all fields of veterinary medicine seem to be saturating with the low wages and increasing underemployment in Australia.
Sydney Morning Herald (broken link, awaiting repair): concerns over the increasing length of veterinary degrees in Australia leading to increased debt without improving job prospects.
NPR, USA: There’s Not Enough Work For Veterinarians. 152 comments
Renowned veterinary business consultant and author, Mark Opperman, has added his voice to the concerns regarding the rising debt and poor job outlook for veterinarians in the United States. DVM 360
Texas University Adjunct Professor, Dr Jim Humphries, on the Veterinary News Network: “it is alarming to discover that veterinarians are FOUR times as likely to take their own life as the general public… Only 45% of students graduating from veterinary school have a job, and all of them have an average of $150,000 in student debt. Our young colleagues are starting with a very stressful life.“
Australian Veterinary Journal (AVJ) News (closed access). The last few editions have included discussions on discounts and charges at vet clinics. Most increases in health costs are due to the advancements in diagnostics and treatments allowing for improved quality of life. However some veterinarians offer reduced prices. It is possible that practices where this occurs are often under management by older veterinarians. Recently there has been more business emphasis within veterinary education and through non-veterinary qualified practice managers. Whether discounts promote poor financial responsibility for pet owners is open to debate. However increased costs of pet health care could potentially lead to ongoing declines in pet ownership due to affordability. Pet insurance seems to offer something in this area. Many pets currently have untreated conditions such as gum disease and arthritis due to cost issues.
The most recent AVJ also reiterated the Australian Veterinary Associations push for a stock-flow model regarding veterinary numbers. Stock and flow models usually examine labor supply (graduates, immigrants) and attrition (retirement, career change). Whilst stock-flow models are useful to predict future numbers of veterinarians compared to present they seem to be deficient for determining appropriate numbers. Therefore it is important for veterinarians to ensure the AVA analyses wages, underemployment, student debt, excess capacity, and attrition due to poor remuneration. Action needs to be taken now to alert people of the employment prospects and formulate solutions.
Some have suggested that many veterinary jobs can be found in the public/government domain. However this line of thinking has various flaws as seen in veterinary employment trends both in Australia and overseas. The Australian Veterinary Association has recently expressed concerns about the retraction of government support for veterinarians.
British Veterinary Record research survey highlights the poor mental health of veterinary students (not open access). A follow up article discusses the importance of such research for encouraging people to seek help. It is quite likely that the type of students selected into veterinary courses are predisposed to mental health issues. Most veterinary faculties now have campuses outside of cities meaning that students must leave their social support of family and friends. For those graduates that move to rural areas, isolation stress can be compounded. The study pressures with intense hours including night shifts plus exams are further stressors. Another stressor is finances with vet students spending many years at university and in the final years of practical rotations they are usually unable to do part time work due to their constantly changing location. Finances are likely to be stretched further after graduation with the low veterinary wages and high cost of living in Australia. When vets commence work they often have to deal with owners that can’t provide proper treatment to animals due to limited finances which may place more emphasis on economic issues. One suggestion to improve veterinary finances is to reduce the length of the veterinary degree to four years after finishing year 12.
Another recent British Veterinary Record article highlights how economic development is one of the most important methods to help animals, particularly in developing countries. Read more here on how animal owners with more income provide better animal care. If we want to help animals most in need, is it best to help people out of poverty (and therefore allow them to provide better animal welfare)?
Hong Kong Veterinary Association is taking steps to highlight some of the international concerns about veterinary supply and demand: rising student debt and trouble finding jobs. Australia, United Kingdom and the United States are the examples provided. This coincides with plans in Hong Kong to build a new veterinary university that would significantly alter supply balances.
From July last year but this blog, HSTDVM, delves into some of the finances of vet care with an example from a veterinarian where euthanasia was required. Many vets have commented on this article. Although vets may join the profession to help animals, their employment contract and need to ensure business survival means that they can often only help the animals of owners with sufficient finances. Euthanasia and substandard treatment are quite common because many lower socioeconomic areas have significant pet ownership. More about the links of finance and animal welfare below.
With 20% and rising underemployment of veterinary graduates it is important to assess alternative options. Some of the better veterinary students may also consider non-clinical work as they feel their contributions to society can be enhanced in alternative areas. The end of Winter is the best and maybe only opportunity to apply for Summer internships. This must be done at least 18 months before graduation otherwise many of these alternative fields become unviable without completing another entire degree. See the non-clinical careers section for more info. As we approach the end of the year some final year students may consider an internship. Although 9 in 10 interns initially seek to become specialists, less than half complete fellowships. Therefore the negative impacts of internships which offer less general practice experience, lower wages, and very long hours must be assessed.
Age and gender of Board positions in Australian veterinary groups may impact on decisions made as per current discussions in the United States on VIN News.
Vet graduates struggling to find employment due to large surplus, Moree Champion: “Mr Hunter, co-owner of the Moree vet centre hopes Ms Fischer will find her dream job, as she “bubbles with enthusiasm”, but he also knows it won’t be an easy task in today’s climate.
Before 2010 there was a huge demand for vets in remote areas, but a ‘selective intake’ program put in place to focus on producing vet students from the bush has been successful.
“Before 2010 we once advertised for three years without success, but for the last vacancy we had, there were 30 or 40 applicant,” Mr Hunter said.”
Last month we reported on the large rise in veterinary university enrolments in Australia despite declining employment prospects. It appears veterinary enrolments are having the largest rise out of any course in the United Kingdom as well. This fits with research from the Grattan Institute showing that students don’t really consider unemployment levels and income when selecting a degree. Many students complete at least one or more university degrees to gain enough marks for entry into a veterinary degree, some never managing to achieve entry. The United Kingdom has recently attempted to reduce public funding towards these permanent students by only providing government assistance to a student’s first bachelor degree. This has led to many students that attempt fundraising activities searching for donations to get them through veterinary university. More information on students seeking donations can be found here.
“People since they were 5, they’ve shaped their entire lives — school, volunteer, work experience — toward becoming veterinarians. Even when this new information comes in that says, ‘Hmm, perhaps this isn’t the right thing,’ they use all their coping and denial skills to say, ‘It’s not going to be me’ and they entrench deeper.” Lori Kogan, psychologist, Colorado State University. VIN News full article available here.
Australian Dental Association: “There is clear evidence that Australia has a growing oversupply of dentists.” Veterinary graduate outcomes are far below those of dentists.
Opening of new TV series, Vet School, on ABC 1. Whilst many veterinary TV shows avoid the tough but routine life of a vet, this show has done justice already with the first episode. Vet student, Susie, is welcomed to the reality that many pet owners will place their own welfare over that of their pets and choose not to pay for diagnostics and treatment. This explains the large quality and remuneration gap between vets and doctors. Vets must be prepared for the fact that humans are placed as a priority over animals. Episode 2 covers euthanasia.
Australian Medical Students Association opposes new medical school due to concerns about lack of internship places related to large increases in medical school graduates in recent years. The number of veterinary faculties has almost doubled in recent years and veterinary graduate unemployment has spiraled out of control.
New Zealand Veterinary Council Workforce Survey. From April but somehow slipped through the cracks so we’re putting it in with the July News. Unfortunately wages aren’t listed in this survey so it is difficult to utilise it for supply/demand analysis which is dictated by price. Of note is that at least one third of New Zealand veterinarians stop their registration 2 years after graduating. It is quite likely that low wages and oversupply are forcing them to leave the country or change profession. The survey also details how females are working less hours later in their career. We have previously shown how low wages can encourage those performing child care duties to work part time for longer because they are unable to pay for child care. As veterinary wages are so low it is likely that their partner will earn more and continue working while the veterinarian (male or female) will be responsible for child care.
Veterinary degrees with an average student debt of 28 years have been labeled as one of the three worst degrees for debt in the US. It is similar in Australia with at least 6 years out of the workforce and there is also rising unemployment of graduates in Australia.
With the exploding debt of US veterinary students, VIN has introduced a needed analysis of expected university and living costs in various locations. This comes on the back of news that more US veterinary schools are opening despite an excessive number of veterinarians.
The AVA has just released their election platform which includes asking for a government analysis of the veterinary workforce. Interestingly the government did a workforce report on dental supply and demand but the Australian Dental Association suggests it lacked some vital information. The question also remains that with the current dire wages and rising underemployment of veterinary graduates, whether action should be taken now on oversupply before waiting many months or years for a report which may have shortcomings.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has vowed to “Provide prospective students with a realistic assessment of the academic, financial, and competitive challenges involved in becoming a veterinarian.” At a time when average vet graduate debt has risen to $150k with seven or more years at university out of the workforce and a challenging employment market this would seem to be a good move.
Another mention about Australian veterinary graduate oversupply in the main media, The Australian. This was in response to government data that shows a 20% increase in veterinary student enrolments. Add this to veterinary graduate underemployment that has quadrupled in the last 5 years and it seems time to fasten those seat belts! The moral of the story is that prospective students should ensure they have sufficient funds to support another degree in addition to their veterinary one.
British Veterinary Association provides a reply that is at odds with the RCVS (registration body) optimistic interpretation of the veterinary graduate survey in vetsonline.com:
“In reviewing the situation over recent years, it was discovered that the percentage of veterinary graduates leaving their first job within three months were:
7.7% for 2010 graduates
15.9% for 2011 graduates
42.6% for 2012 graduates
Perhaps most worrying is the statistic that the percentage of graduates leaving their first job within the first three months has significantly increased. The main reasons cited are poor management and temporary contracts. The trend towards temporary contracts is very worrying in terms of job security for those just starting out.“
Australian medical students are being very proactive in trying to ensure employment prospects for medical graduates don’t deteriorate. They are seeking to prevent the opening of new medical schools which could lead to an oversupply of graduates. Medical graduate underemployment is on 2% but veterinary graduates are on 20% according to GradStats. The predominant cause of this seems to be the 50% increase in the number of Australian veterinary graduates in recent years. Veterinary students seem to lack a political voice in Australia.
Dr Andy Roarke from the US tells owners that ‘you get what you pay for‘ with vet care. Unfortunately many owners leave their pets suffering to avoid vet expenses. Veterinarians spend excessive amounts of time negotiating costs with clients and are often unable to use the skills they have been taught due to lack of funding.
RCVS comissioned IES United Kingdom graduate veterinarian survey. Increasingly veterinary graduates are securing short term contracts instead of permanent positions. Unfortunately this survey doesn’t include numbers of part time and full time vets or wages so isn’t very useful for supply/demand analysis.
It appears that some veterinary graduates in the UK are also seeking work as veterinary nurses due to lack of jobs: “Our most recent advertisement for an equine veterinary nurse has attracted interest from a handful of recently qualified vets desperate to find work. This employment problem is not confined to internships; some of our recent interns have found it very difficult, if not impossible to find a job in horse practice, once they’ve completed their internship.” Ausvetnet has previously reported similar issues in Australia and the United States due to a burgeoning veterinary graduate population. The report by BEVA mainly focuses on the fact that there is a significantly higher number of veterinary students that want to work with horses than there are jobs available in that sector.
“Australia’s veterinary schools, which have increased from four to seven, are producing too many vets. Many have poor job and career prospects. Do our veterinary schools have an ethical responsibility to advise applicants for veterinary courses that many graduates will have poor career prospects after graduation? A high proportion of those entering veterinary courses will be much better off choosing other careers; even taking apprenticeships in trades. A mere handful will become owners of substantial practices.” Synstrat Management Newsletter
AVA conference talk synopsis by Rebekah BrownJim Stowe’s Recommendation: “Ideally close 4 veterinary schools in Australia (although he admits this is extremely unlikely to happen).”Jim Stowe’s Prediction: “The veterinary profession as we know it will not exist twenty years from now. It will either degenerate into a relatively unprofessional cheap service for pet owners as a cute cottage industry or it will become a varied and enviable profession dedicated to the care of every animal species on the planet.“
There have been unfortunate reports that the suicide rate for veterinarians has risen this year. OneLife and the Australian Veterinary Association are working to provide support.
Australian Veterinary Association releases workforce report. When one analyses a report, consideration must be given to who sits on the committee that commissions the report and their financial advantages regarding recommendations. The conclusion states there is ‘insufficient evidence’ on supply and demand, that increases in females will lead to less full time employees, and that there are concerns about supply for rural practice. It is quite unusual that the report didn’t utilise basic economic theory in their summary whereby price (wages, underemployment) represents the best determinant of supply and demand. With the severely low wages of veterinarians and rapidly rising underemployment of graduates a massive oversupply would be the likely conclusion. The American Veterinary Medical Association, British Veterinary Association, and Australian Dental Association have expressed concerns about oversupply with better markets than Australian veterinary graduates. The report also overlooks concerns that rural oversupply is likely worse than metropolitan oversupply because hourly wages are lower as is the case for rural veterinarians in other countries such as the United States due to the low value of farm animals and the distance between animals.
Australian Dental Association has some wise word “To claim there is a shortage of dentists when recent graduates can’t get jobs is pure nonsense“. The number of vet graduates unable to find full time jobs has quadrupled to almost one in five over recent years.
Psychological Medicine Journal, Cambridge, suggests that veterinarians have high risk of suicide in the United Kingdom. The article highlights socioeconomic factors as a large determinant for suicide in occupations. Of interest is that during the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 there was lots of animal death but buoyant veterinary demand. This article and another one suggest there were no increased veterinary suicides during the outbreak and that veterinary suicides were lower around this period compared with the 1980’s. Although various factors have been associated with the high veterinary suicide rate, these two articles add weight to the theory that economic factors are major. This creates cause for concern when considering the declining employment prospects of Australian veterinarians.
United Kingdom veterinary students call an end to the creation of new veterinary universities which are leading to a declining quality of the veterinary profession. Veterinary Record. Australia has 30% more veterinarians per capita than the United Kingdom.
Australian Medical Students Association calls on government over internship ‘crisis’ due to rising numbers of medical students. Medical graduate underemployment is on 2% whilst veterinary graduate underemployment is on 20%.
Median general veterinary practitioner wages in the United States are $88,000. JAVMA
“Concerns have been raised about consistency and quality control for internships, as currently no processes are in place to accredit these programs.” It is quite likely that many intern positions provide no extra support or learning compared with other jobs. The American Veterinary Association has a policy on interns (not legally enforced) trying to promote higher standards. There is one gamble interns aren’t taking, they are guaranteed a lower wage of $25k versus $65k in associate roles. Several graduates are probably forced into these lower wage intern positions due to surplus veterinarians and decreased job options. Further evidence is also provided showing that internships are a bad idea unless aiming for residency and specialist accreditation: “I feel like if you just want the experience, to see more cases, have someone supervise you, you might be better to do private practice, because you get more normal cases, more case responsibility, and probably a little higher caseload, depending on where you go”. More on intern abuse here. JAVMA News.
New North American group, Save the Veterinary Profession, has created a petition to reduce the excess numbers of veterinarians.
The trend continues as more veterinarians study medicine to become human physicians: Toowoomba Chronicle. More on career changers in the below post.
Lowest Paid Jobs in Australia (News.com.au): “Veterinary nurses – $41,376 per year
Veterinary nurses care for animals under treatment and in temporary residence at veterinary facilities and assist veterinarians to perform procedures and operations. The average yearly salary of the veterinarians they assist is $57,439 [probably worse than nurses considering they have studied at university for 6 years without an income].”
Perfect Storm Looming for Veterinary Industry according to Sam Bowden of United Vets Group. He utilises research from the most recent IBISWorld report on the Australian veterinary industry which shows declining profit margins and pet numbers in Australia to raise concerns about the future of veterinarians in Australia.
Dr Paul Davey receives Order of Australia medal for his efforts to combat veterinary suicides related to poor remuneration, long hours and exposure to animal death. West Australian, Yahoo News.
Veterinarians are still listed on the 2013 skilled occupation list. The AVA submission suggested oversupply and poor employment prospects for veterinary graduates whilst the National Farmers Federation has suggested shortages. Meanwhile the pharmacy students created a petition to remove pharmacists from the skilled shortage list. They were successful and pharmacists have been removed which is quite unusual considering their graduate underemployment is on 1.9% and veterinarians are on 19.2% according to GradStats.
Median wage of Australian veterinarians under $60,000. AVA Workforce Survey 2012
United States is starting to see some of the issues encountered in Australia: veterinary graduates only being able to get jobs as veterinary nurses and animal welfare compromise due to underemployed veterinarians with low experience. JAVMA (closed access)
Another example of a veterinarian changing career to medicine. More about career changing here.
“Those studying first-year veterinary science need to reevaluate whether they truly want to spend [five or six] years in a demanding course which will lead to poor career outcomes for the majority. Many first-year students will do themselves a favour if they change to a course offering much better employment prospects on graduation. Only a tiny proportion will gain good positions in busy veterinary practices offering them a wide range of experience. Most recent graduates will be wise to consider changing into another occupation within the first year after graduation, when university graduate career entry positions may be attainable in large businesses.” Synstrat Management
New graphs added below including comparison of vets with medical practitioners, and trend of vet numbers vs cat and dog numbers.
The Age: Vets, one of the longest degrees with the lowest wages. Human doctors among the highest earners.
Nerdy Vet Blog covers: Reasons NOT to be a vet
JAVMA News suggests United States veterinary students are concerned about employment prospects and high debt. The AAHA State of the Industry Report suggests veterinary revenues rose 5.6% over the last year. However revenue is still down compared with 2008 and with an inflation rate of around 2% since 2008 plus massive increases in the number of graduating veterinarians, the scenario is much much worse. This would suggest a decline in revenues relative to inflation of around 8-10% over the last 5 years with more veterinarians trying to get jobs.
Latest Journal of the Association of Veterinary Students UK suggests too many veterinarians in the United Kingdom making jobs scarce plus high debt is creating troubling times.
Veterinary Team Brief: High veterinary suicide risk is attributable to low wages, high debt, long working hours, euthanasia, isolation and perfectionism.
Over the last few decades the percentage of veterinarians in government roles has decreased partly due to privatisation and centralisation. Many from human health fields command higher respect in terms of zoonotic diseases. ABC has just reported the closing of an agricultural rural biosecurity laboratory.
“That is, you need to earn a gross salary averaging $100,000 annually to justify investing in a degree in veterinary science…Probably of more concern is that a salary ceiling seems to be reached about five years after graduation. This ceiling seems to be around $75,000 to $80,000.” AVA News
Wallstreet Journal: 2013 AVMA workforce study suggests there is an oversupply of 11,250 veterinarians in the US. JAVMA News suggests there has been a 50% increase in veterinary graduates between 1991 and 2015 with only about a 25% increase in population and declining pet numbers per capita.
Government ensures human healthcare spending is done accountably and that diagnostics and treatments with no benefits are avoided. Medical research creates many ‘solutions’ that provide negligible benefit including some new types of blood products and excessive use of CT scans for people with headaches. When a profession becomes oversupplied with practitioners and there is no accountability, there is an increased likelihood of over servicing using products with no proven benefits. See more below.
Australian veterinary practitioners are providing reports that veterinary graduates are applying for jobs as veterinary nurses because they can’t get jobs. This is artificially raising the employment rate. There has also been reports of graduates seeking volunteer work at veterinary clinics which is potentially an illegal method to find employment.
New AVA student president, Catherine Bishop, wants to address oversupply of veterinarians: “I think that the veterinary students in Australia are facing new challenges, like increasing numbers of graduates competing in a limited job market and I hope to be able to discuss these issues, as well as others, as they arise,” Catherine said.
Veterinary oversupply and unemployment has hit mainstream media in The Australian newspaper. Too many vets: enough to make a horse laugh
Hong Kong Veterinary Association survey suggests overwhelming consensus against need for new veterinary school. Hong Kong has traditionally been a place where Australian veterinary graduates get work but employment prospects could be considerably hampered with a new veterinary school.
South China Morning Post: Leave research to medical schools, says chief vet. No need for new Hong Kong vet university.
JAVMA Workforce History: Much of workforce research on veterinarians in the United States has failed to include demand. This can be seen in reports stating we need lots more of ‘x’ type of vets but failing to analyse wage trends. Adjusting supply of veterinarians without accounting for demand can lead to unemployment and declining wages relative to inflation. Also discussed is how human health degrees are more respected and better paid than vets in public health fields such as government.
AVJ article suggests female veterinarians with two or more children are less likely to be stressed. One possible reason is that they are more likely to have a spouse which can provide financial assistance compared with childless women who are more likely to be single. Financial assistance is important with many vets taking on $150-250k of debt for their studies in Australia and the increasing unemployment levels of graduates.
AVMA releases US wage data: $100k for companion animal veterinarians (owners and associates), $160k for industry, $138k for specialist university, $148k for specialist private. Australia has at least 30% more veterinarians per capita than the US which would explain the $15-30k higher wages in the US for companion animal vets. US university debt has increased at much faster rates than wages and currently averages $150k. Australian graduates have between $50-250k of debt plus the 5-6 years without income whilst at university. The debt depends on whether they are on a government HELP loan ($50-60k), domestic full fee (approx 30% of students, $150k) or international full fee (approx 30% of students, $250k). Industry jobs are far more plentiful in the US with most pharmaceutical companies having head offices located there. Specialist earning power in Australia is again lower due to the high number of veterinarians per capita.
Veterinary Team Brief discusses the causes of increased suicides in veterinarians. Finances appear to be one that is rising in prominence.
VIN News provides some investigative journalism seeking perspectives from universities and veterinarians across the country on the recently unfolding but long standing catastrophic decline of the veterinary profession in the USA.
Australian Veterinary Association survey. Currently the biggest concern appears to be “Increasing numbers of veterinary students”.
UK debate on need for new veterinary school. Note that author is an academic.
Bioveterinary degree. Only 29.4% employment after graduation in the UK. Some of those jobs include sales, copy editor and retail. Many had to do further education to improve their employment options. Those considering Bioveterinary or veterinary bioscience degrees need to think closely about their backup plans.
Median veterinary assistant job wage in North America is US$25,500. In Australia the MINIMUM wage is AU$28,282 for veterinary receptionists which is significantly better. Australian veterinary nurses are also often paid similar or more than veterinarians on weekends and for overtime.
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education (limited access) suggests that veterinarians have failed by allowing too many US veterinary schools to setup in rural areas away from the more relevant employment areas of medical faculties and companion animals in the cities. Also discussed is the decline in public health, one health and government roles of veterinarians with a desperate need to revive these areas.
NY Times article on oversupply, unemployment and crippling debt of veterinary students in the US. Over 400 comments and some scary graphs. JustVetData rundown on the statistics. Student Doctor forum discussions by vet students about the NY Times article.
American Veterinary Journal (JAVMA) article (limited access) briefs on the severely low number of veterinarians employed by the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Veterinary debts may be too high to do further education to enter these public health positions and there don’t seem to be enough advertised for veterinarians.
The Australian reports oversupply of doctors leads to overservicing and excessive charges.
With 19% unemployment of veterinary graduates, final year veterinary students will need to look at non-veterinary careers. January-March is the usual time to apply for these alternate graduate positions. See more under ‘I’m a vet student, now what?‘
NY Times: Veterinary and law degrees seeing large drop in applications due to high debt and poor employment prospects. Could veterinary university faculties suffer the same ills as law faculties?
British Veterinary Record: English veterinarians warned not to build too many veterinary schools like Australia as it has led to massive deterioration in employment prospects and reputation equivalent to a trade.
JAVMA News: Declining number of people keeping horses due to costs. See myth 3 here for more about problems with equine veterinary jobs.
VIN News: More US veterinary schools planned despite uncertain job market.
Controversy over new Hong Kong veterinary university which may destroy veterinary career prospects. Veterinary graduate unemployment in Australia has exploded after student number increases. Hong Kong has been a place where some Australian veterinarians have been able to find employment.
Government makes 100 new graduate jobs for dentists (16% graduate unemployment). Vets unlikely to receive government assistance (19% graduate unemployment and rising)
JAVMA News: Total number of cats & dogs declines whilst veterinary visits increase marginally. Possible reasons for the decline could include higher density living (apartments), a mobilised workforce, concerns about confining/isolating an animal for many hours, costs, or time required to walk/feed/clean/train.
Australian Bureau of Statistics weekly earnings by occupation. Suggests an annual wage of $57,439 ($1104.6 per week) for full time veterinarians and an average of 37.7 hours per week plus overtime. This would appear to be an underestimate possibly due to a small sample size as indicated by the analysis of other Australian veterinary wage reviews below. The ABS does a more comprehensive salary survey during the year but vet wages may still have some uncertainty due to the small size of the profession.
British Veterinary Record (not free access): Veterinarian discusses how lawyers representing the RSPCA charge the RSPCA far more than veterinary employees.
Journal of American Veterinary Association (not free access): Veterinarian from the 80’s says ‘I told you so’ regarding oversupply and unemployment of vets in the US.
Veterinary Team Brief: Too many veterinarians in the US
Rural veterinarian moves to more urban location. Because veterinary salaries are so low it is common for them to follow a partner to better job opportunities. Sunshine Coast Daily
“Meanwhile, on her desk at the Green Country Veterinary Hospital, Tressler has a resume from a recent graduate who’s working at a convenience store.” Oversupply (severely low wages) of veterinarians in the US in ENID News again mislabeled as a shortage.
”…the ranks of government employed veterinarians in the field have declined significantly in recent years.” in The Land. More about loss of veterinarians in government here.
Australian dentists speaking out about oversupply in The Age. Dental graduate salaries are $80k and those unable to find employment are at 16% according to GradStats (also see the graphs below). Vets on the other hand are on $45k and 19%. Why is no-one speaking about veterinary oversupply?
Hong Kong veterinarian outlines how cheap veterinary care is compared with humans in the South China Morning Post SCMP. HK is cheaper than Australia for veterinary care.
Does a veterinary degree and working as a veterinarian prepare someone for doing a medicine degree? Online Australian forum discussion: Paging Dr – Veterinarians changing career to medicine
Synstrat Newsletter: Too many vets! Synstrat provides some great advice that many Australian veterinary students need to seek non-veterinary jobs at graduation. The below graphs show the quadrupling of veterinary graduate unemployment in Australia over the last 6 years. It is important that veterinary students consider non-veterinary options several years before graduation so they can get experience in these areas before applying for graduate positions.
Veterinarians changing career to school teachers and winning prizes in Western Australia: “It is particularly encouraging to see a couple of career-changers, who are bringing expertise from the veterinary and occupational therapy fields to the classroom, acknowledged at these awards,” More info about veterinary career changers can be found here.
Proposal for new veterinary surgery in North West England rejected due to potential business damage to other veterinary clinics and parking issues.
Australian Veterinary Association releases submission on skilled occupation list suggesting significant oversupply of veterinarians.
Veterinary Practice News weighs in on the unnecessary building of new veterinary schools in the USA. A veterinarian provides an increasingly common comment: “I no longer recommend a veterinary career to young people who ask me. That’s sad….”
British Veterinary Record: Who needs more veterinarians? Professor Lanyon discusses the falsified reasons to create new veterinary schools and how the esteem of the profession is in decline with less applicants. (note: article is not free access)
Inside Higher Ed: US Professors debate need for new universities and poor employment prospects of graduates. VIN News also covered the controversy before the forum.
Veterinarian writes letter to editor in The Australian suggesting journalist may not have been aware of the low salaries that veterinarians earn (scroll down page to Pets and Vets).
GradStats employment data for all Australian university graduates. Veterinarians have continued to decline as shown in the graphs below.
American Veterinary Medical Association News: Large animal practice in decline. Australia highlighted as an example of what not to do. The massive increase in veterinary numbers in Australia is likely to create unemployment issues for graduates. There is less demand for large animal surgery and medicine due to coalescing of rural farms. Those seeking work assisting farm animals may be better placed taking a shorter 3 year Agricultural Science degree followed by a Masters in business management, epidemiology or public health by correspondence.
US students fight back with three articles about falsified rural ‘shortages’ and are very concerned about unemployment. SAVMA gazette. A growing problem: Too many veterinarians. And: Veterinary school proposal. And: Veterinary shortage?. And: Not enough jobs?
Chilean seeks creditor of $70,000 to allow him to finish his final year of veterinary science in Australia: ABC news
UK charity PDSA releases report suggesting prospective pet owners are uninformed about actual costs. Pet owner estimate of lifetime dog costs = £1-5k, Actual cost = £16-31k. Pet owner estimate of lifetime cat costs = £1-5k, Actual cost = £17k
British Veterinary Record: British Veterinary Hospitals Association (BHVA) agrees with BVA that another veterinary school in England is unnecessary as already graduates are unable to find veterinary employment. (note: article is not free access)
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association: letter to the editor suggests prospective vets should be warned about entering the profession. (note: article is not free access)
86% of pharmacists want their profession removed from the skilled occupation list. Veterinarians have higher graduate unemployment than pharmacists according to GradStats.
Synstrat Newsletter suggests Australian veterinary students need to seek NON-veterinary employment before graduation to avoid unemployment. This is discussed further in the post below: I’m a vet student, now what?
Australian Veterinary Association graduate survey results: concerns include wages and difficulty finding a job.
Synstrat Newsletter: Are there too many vet school places (in Australia)? (Synstrat has also addressed increasing dental student numbers)
IBISWorld Report on Australian Veterinary Market: 1.6% economic growth per annum expected (with a 50% increase in veterinary graduates)
British Veterinary Association speaks out against new vet university. First international vet association to take such a firm stance. See the Student Room for a vet student discussion on the issue. Reports on VIN News suggest it can take 6-9 months for vet graduates to find employment in the UK.
Australian government audit shows 43% of Queensland pharmacists being illegally underpaid. What is happening to vets?
British Medical Journal: Excess hospital capacity and supply driven demand (oversupply of doctors) leads to harmful overdiagnosis particularly of higher socioeconomic clients.
US Veterinary blogger describes the conflicts of interest and expanding numbers of veterinary students that are leading to an oversupplied workforce: Veterinarians Behaving Badly
Australian Veterinary Journal: How we make ends meet. Poor outlook for veterinarians.
Agricultural Science Journal: 50% oversupply of veterinarians in Australia
American veterinarians discuss high debts and poor job prospects particularly in rural areas despite biased suggestions of ‘shortages’
US Workforce study finds no shortage: DVM 360 News, National Academies Press Google Books
New Zealand is one of the most oversupplied (low salaries) countries for veterinarians where most leave the country or the profession. The New Zealand Veterinary Association delved into the issue: “Ricketts said vets leave the industry at a high rate for varied reasons, including salary, workload and work-life balance.” on TV NZ. Although they incorrectly suggest there is a shortage when the economics 101 supply/demand model says low incomes equals oversupplied.
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education: One fifth of Alabama veterinarians have considered suicide
Historical look at the US increases in veterinary student debt and the oversupplied job market.
2011: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention: Lack of alternative career options and finances may be part of the reasons for suicides in veterinarians.
2011: Large increase in Hong Kong veterinarians possibly linked with the increased number of universities in Australia a major training hub.
2010: United Kingdom veterinary survey, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons: “Nearly half of veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who responded to the survey say that if they had their time again, they would choose a different career.“
2010: United Kingdom British Veterinary Record: Veterinary suicides four times that of normal population and twice that of dentists.
2008: Australian Veterinary Journal: Large unemployment predicted for veterinarians.
2007: Australian Veterinary Journal: Only half of veterinarians would do the course if they had their chance again.
Large rise in the number of European veterinary graduates. Belgium, Germany and Austria are exporters of veterinarians as there aren’t enough jobs.