Choice veterinary jobs hard to find in tough economy

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Choice veterinary jobs hard to find in tough economy

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Jun 01, 2009


Job search: DVM graduates, like Lee Ann Williams, find tight job market.
NATIONAL REPORT — As new veterinary graduates prepare to enter the work force this month, they are finding that jobs are not as plentiful as they had hoped.

Although experts agree that positions are out there, they may not be the right fit for all students. And while previous graduates may have had four or five job opportunities to choose from, this year's grads may only have one or two.

Despite the downtrodden economy, experts say there are many opportunities in the veterinary market, but a job search might have to be expanded geographically.


Smile: Lee Ann Williams, an '09 graduate of Virginia-Maryland Regional, was able to find a job through word of mouth.
Still, try telling that to the graduates who have yet to find a position or those who thought they had one, only to find they lost it.

Josh Bowden, a 2009 graduate of Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, was fairly confident he had secured a job in Wyoming, where he had completed a preceptorship.

He found out last fall that it wasn't going to happen.

"Because of the economy, it ended up falling through," he says.

Perhaps because Bowden was open to moving pretty much anywhere in the United States, he did find another job fairly easily. He will be moving to Missouri to work for a large hog-producing company starting June 1.

His classmates weren't all as lucky.

"I know of several people who thought they found a mixed-animal job, but the people they were talking with backed off. They were told they were not interested in hiring anybody because of the economy."

Not being able to pick and choose freely is frustrating for Bowden and his classmates.

"Even though we've always been told the last three years that there is a shortage of mixed-animal and food-animal vets, especially in rural areas, some of those jobs are harder to come by because of the economy," Bowden laments.

Lee Ann Williams, a 2009 graduate of Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, which is increasing its first-year class size from 90 to 95 students in the fall, knows about the trials of trying to find a job as a companion-animal veterinarian.

She searched five months before securing a position in a private practice in the suburbs of Richmond, Va., in May.

With no real job postings to speak of, a lot of her search included cold calls, sending unsolicited resumes and just word of mouth.

"I had a hard time," she admits.

But Williams also was looking specifically in the Richmond-area.

"Depending on which market you were looking in, some states had tons of jobs open," she says. "If you wanted to go to New York, there were plenty of jobs there. Richmond has been particularly hard-hit by the economy. No one is actively hiring."

Williams found her job because she "happened to know someone who knew someone" and was able to slip in before the job was posted.

A number of her classmates are still searching.

"We always hear that 'there are plenty of jobs out there,' especially for large-animal vets," she says. "I know of several classmates who are mixed-animal and are having a hard time."

While some could be having trouble because they are area-specific, she knows others who are not and they still haven't found anything.

"I didn't anticipate it being this difficult," Williams says of her search.

Some students, such as Jeanette Schacher, a 2009 Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine graduate and Jason Pieper, a 2009 Iowa graduate, opted to find internships upon graduation in order to prepare for a specialty.

Pieper, a small-animal veterinarian, landed one in Aurora, Ill., which is where he wanted to locate.

While getting the internship was fairly easy, given that he already had worked there, he knows of some mixed-animal and large-animal classmates who were having a difficult time finding work.

"Despite the shortage, there weren't that many jobs out there for them," he says.

Schacher went through the Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching program for her internship. While she landed the position she wanted in Washington, D.C., some of her classmates ended up not being matched at all. "One of my really close friends had a lot of problems finding a job," Schacher says.

"She wanted to stay in the Kansas area, but she's going to move to Omaha because it's the only place she could find a job."