The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports an expected 13,000 annual openings for new graduates, while only
12,700 possible qualified individuals enter the job market each year. (See "In Public Trust".)
"The work force that is in public health is starting to retire at pretty high rates, so we need to ensure students who are
in veterinary school and younger are turned on to other things that veterinarians do (besides private practice)," says Nina
Marano, DVM, MPH, Dipl. ACVPM, associate director of veterinary public health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Infectious Disease. "The shortages that are projected over the coming years are not only to fill current
spots, but because of the growth in the need for public health positions, too."
Table 5: Most populated cities
While avian flu, SARS, bovine spongiform encephalopathy and West Nile virus continue to make worldwide headlines, veterinary
positions in infectious disease and food production will continue to grow, experts say.
"Scientists, engineers, veterinarians and technical specialists likely will account for about 25 percent of all projected
jobs for college graduates in food, agriculture and natural resources system," according to a USDA career outlook report.
The most opportunities exist in precision agriculture, functional genomics, bioinformatics, forest science, plant and animal
breeding, biomaterials engineering, food-quality assurance, nanotechnology, animal health and well-being, nutraceuticals development
and environmental science, the report says.
Table 6: Top 20 states with the highest average annual veterinary job openings
"Colleges offering programs in veterinary medicine and in agriculture and natural resources will graduate between 55 percent
to 60 percent of the qualified applicants for these positions," USDA adds.
USDA employs roughly 1,000 of the 2,400 veterinarians currently working in public health positions (640 at APHIS). Its Food
Safety Inspection Service division expects to have about 500 positions open during the next five years.
Table 7: Fastest growing states (by numbers)
"Veterinarians are in a unique position to fill these roles because they are well suited to address problems in health management
and preparedness," CDC's Marano says. "The education that we get in veterinary school is based on population, and the recommendations
that they make are going to preserve the health of the rest of the populations."
Interest might be catching up with demand.
About 300 students from 28 North American veterinary colleges participated in a CDC career day in January to learn more about
opportunities in public health.
Table 8: Fastest growing large cities*
"We were overwhelmed by the response," Marano says. "It is a good time to consider this because with the unique training that
veterinarians have, they are well suited to face problems with health preparedness, and they can rise to the very top of many
of these organizations."