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Veterinary students are entering a tight job market


The job he considered in Illinois offered a starting salary of $40,000, Bauman says, which is hardly enough to support a family carrying $150,000 worth of student debt. He landed the job at Lander for $75,000. Loan-repayment programs seemed like a promising option, but there are so many uncertainties, Bauman adds.

Loan-repayment programs provide students with maps of shortage areas, but don't give them much more guidance about how to get there and set up a practice.

"As a new grad, you're not just going to move into a shortage area and set up. You're looking for mentorship."

Plus, many of the rural areas advertised through the loan-repayment programs can't support a veterinarian, which is why they are shortage areas, he says.

"The other compounding challenge is, even if you move out there, there's no guarantee you're going to get the money. You're competing against other people who are applying for it," Bauman says. "So basically, you really need this program if you're going to make it in these areas, and you don't even know if you're going to get the money or not. To me, that was a big obstacle in applying for some of these areas."

Veterinary schools could do a better job of helping students navigate these programs and making sure the training they receive prepares them with the skills they will need to actually secure a job, he says. It wouldn't hurt to give students fair warning and teaching them to be realistic, Bauman adds.

"Probably what would help the most is raising the awareness of students starting vet school thinking it will be easy to find work," he says.

Krissy Netherwood, who will be starting her second year of veterinary school this year at UC-Davis, is already taking a hard look at the job market and trying to prepare herself the best she can. While her passion is equine medicine, Netherwood says she is so worried about finding a job after graduation, she is also taking courses in small-animal medicine.

"I have to make a living somehow. The debt we're supposed to have is roughly $200,000 and how are you possibly going to pay that back?" asks Netherwood, the daughter of a prison guard who makes $85,000 per year and never went to college. "It's kind of like a joke to me, but I feel like I'll never make as much as my dad does. You might as well have done something else."

"I think there's a big disconnect between the students and the schools. I wish the universities would do more to help us out," she says. "They're investing more in the future generation, but they're not here now. Why not help the people who are struggling now?"

Netherwood says she suggested UC-Davis institute mentorship programs between recent graduates and current veterinary students at the school, but nothing has taken shape yet. There are few resources in terms of job placement and career guidance—or at least that students know about and regularly use, she says.

Students who want to round out their education may have to look beyond university borders to professional groups and student organizations.

Ashley Craig, national president of the Veterinary Business Management Association, says in today's job market, new graduates need to set themselves apart with special expertise to make themselves more marketable. Having general business knowledge, for example, can help increase the amount of revenue a new graduate can bring into a practice and boost productivity, she says. Craig, who is going into her fourth year at Tuskegee University, is preparing for a career in equine medicine and says she's working toward securing an internship now in hopes the practice might like her enough to hire her afterwards.

"You really have to have a niche for yourself, something you can offer and bring to the table," she says. "It's not about being an average practitioner anymore; you have to be an exceptional practitioner."


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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