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Despite higher starting salaries and student debt, more DVMs are shunning the working world for the classroom

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Sep 02, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Schaumberg, Ill. -- Starting salaries -- and student debt levels -- are up for newly graduated DVMs, but more are opting to stay in school instead of entering the job market, according to a new study published Sept. 1 by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The study, published Sept. 1 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association under the title “Employment, starting salaries, and educational indebtedness of year-2009 graduates of U.S. veterinary colleges,” sheds a positive light on the job market for new veterinarians, though the AVMA still has concerns about its newest members and the amount of debt they are being handed along with their diploma.

“There’s good news and there’s not-so-good news in the survey,” says Dr. Ron W. DeHaven, AVMA chief executive officer. “While most starting salaries are up, there are some areas that saw declines. And while the vast majority of these new veterinarians are getting jobs, we saw a drop this year in the number of graduates who received job offers by the time they graduated. That is a serious concern, considering that educational debt continues to climb.”

The average starting salaries for all veterinary employment types reported by new DVMs in the study was up 0.7 percent over last year, from $48,328 in 2008 to $48,684 in 2009. For those who did not pursue advanced studies, average starting salaries were up 5.2 percent, to $64,826 from $61,633 last year. The public-corporate sector saw a drop of 7.3 percent, while private practice new hires saw salaries increase 6 percent. Equine practice salaries for new hires started at $37,854, a decrease of 9.1 percent from last year, compared to $69,154 for new companion-animal veterinarians up to $72,318 for exclusive food-animal veterinarians.

Job offers are non-existent for some new graduates, but others are finding them in abundance, according to the survey. Nearly 80 percent had job offers by their graduation day, down 11.5 percent from last year. But more than half of those who did receive offers got more than one, and 84 percent of new graduates who got job offers by graduation accepted them. The number of new DVMs who shunned the job market for continued education increased by 9 percent over last year.

Additionally, about a third of new graduates indicated a desire in the future to pursue additional board-certified specialties in the future, despite the survey’s acknowledgement that 88.6 percent of students had debt at the time of graduation. All but 9.6 percent of those students, however, only incurred their debt while they were in veterinary school. But debt increased 8.5 percent over last year, with the average student owing about $129,976 upon graduation. More than a third of new graduates owed more than $150,000. “Most students graduate college with debt,” DeHaven added in a statement accompanying the survey results. “That’s a reality of life. But we need to focus on ways to help student minimize and manage that debt while also working to increase their starting salaries. This is especially true for new veterinarians who commit to working in some of the nation’s most underserved areas.”