The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting that by 2026 over 50,000 new jobs will be available in veterinary occupations, including veterinarians, vet techs, and vet assistants. That's a 19 percent growth rate, which is three times the average rate of growth. There are several reasons for this increase. The pet population is growing, and people are spending more on their pets. About 66 percent of US households now have a pet as compared to 50 percent in 1988 – and some of those pets have Instagram accounts with millions of followers! Also, as the life expectancy of pets increases, more healthcare is needed for these extended family members (known as pets). Insurance and diagnostic tests for pets such as MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays are more accessible as well.
While there are different jobs in the veterinary industry, let’s focus on becoming a veterinarian. The demand for veterinarians is most noticeable in rural areas where there has been a shortage for several decades. Within the last two years, 187 areas were identified by the US Department of Agriculture as lacking adequate access to veterinary services. This shortage is caused by many factors affecting veterinary students including difficulty for rural students being accepted to veterinary programs, increased college debt, lack of curriculum, and a growing number of college graduates who want to live near a city. Although about 30 percent of vet students indicate an interest in working in rural areas when they start school, less than 10 percent follow through. In addition, there aren’t enough veterinarians entering the field to replace those who are retiring.
Usually when people think of vets, they think of those who treat companion animals like dogs and cats, but there are many different types of jobs available for veterinarians. About two-thirds of US veterinarians work in a clinical practice. Some exclusively treat exotic pets, horses, or farm animals. Some veterinarians teach veterinary students and research ways to treat animal health issues. Others work for pharmaceutical firms to develop or test new drugs.
As vets take care of animals, they are also taking care of humanity. Veterinarians spot foreign animal disease and report issues to public health officials. This is especially important since livestock is used for food.
Veterinarians who work for government agencies fill many different roles. Those working for the EPA study how pesticides affect animals. At the FDA, veterinarians evaluate medicines and pet foods. Those working at the CDC investigate diseases to prevent outbreaks. At the USDA-FSIS, veterinarians ensure that our food supply is safe, and at the USDA-APHIS, they test vaccines and enforce laws for humane treatment of animals. Veterinarians that work for the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps work on biomedical research and take care of food safety. Military veterinarians help to rebuild animal care systems in war-torn or undeveloped countries.
This is a great field to consider if you are a student who enjoys biology and math, interacts well with people, has problem solving skills, and has compassion for animals. The average salary for a veterinarian according to the BLS is $93,830 but can be much higher. Most vet students already have job offers by the time they graduate.
You should be aware that it can be challenging for veterinary students to keep up with all the information they are required to know. The information doubles every few years because biomedicine changes and develops. Veterinarians have as much information to learn as medical doctors.
Because there are only about 4,000 seats available for vet students each year, veterinary school can be very competitive. Students must first complete the basic undergraduate prerequisites and may be required to take the GRE. After finishing veterinary school, students can pursue a specialty such as animal behavior, surgery, or pathology.
And if the Secret Life of Pets is accurate, our pets need veterinarians to support their active lifestyles.
Feel free to contact your CAA Coaches if you have any questions about your career options. We’re here to help!