Starting salaries up for new veterinarians
The results of an annual survey conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reveal an economic mixed bag when it comes to what new veterinary graduates encountered in 2009.
The survey results appear in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in a Sept. 1, 2009, article entitled, "Employment, starting salaries, and educational indebtedness of year-2009 graduates of US veterinary colleges."
"There's good news, and there's not-so-good news in the survey," said Dr. W. Ron 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."
According to the survey, 79.5 percent of respondents received an offer of employment or advanced education by their graduation date, down about 11.5 percent from the class of 2008, most likely due to the economy. Of those who received an offer, nearly half received more than one. Eighty-four percent of those seeking employment accepted an offer. When it comes to salaries for these new hires, the average starting salary among all employer types combined increased 0.7 percent, from $48,328 in 2008 to $48,684 in 2009. Excluding those who continued their education through advanced study, the average starting salary increased 5.2 percent, from $61,633 in 2008 to $64,826 in 2009.
The average starting salary in the public-corporate sector decreased 7.3 percent in 2009, while the average starting salary in all types of private practice increased 6 percent. Average starting salaries in the private sector, excluding those for equine practices, ranged from a low of $63,172 for food animal predominant positions to a high of $72,318 for food animal exclusive positions.
Graduates entering equine practice, according to the survey, continued to earn less than their counterparts in other types of private practice, with equine practices offering an average starting salary of $37,854 in 2009. That's a decrease of 9.1 percent from last year's starting salaries in the equine field. In contrast, the average starting salary in companion animal exclusive practices was $69,154, which was second highest only to food animal exclusive starting salaries.
While more than half of veterinary graduates sought employment immediately following graduation, many others decided to continue their education through internships, residencies or the pursuit of other degrees, such as a master's or PhD. The proportion of graduates seeking advanced education increased by 9 percent from 2008.
Other graduates sought postgraduate education or training in an AVMA-recognized, board-certified specialty. Over a third of graduates, or 38.1 percent, indicated in the survey that they were planning on seeking diplomate status with such entities as the American College of Internal Medicine, the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, the American College of Emergency and Critical Care and the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, among others.
Most of the news coming out of the 2009 senior survey paints a positive picture for those entering the profession, but the AVMA remains concerned about student debt upon graduation.
According to the survey results, 88.6 percent of students had debt at the time of their graduation from veterinary school, and all but 9.6 percent of that debt was incurred while the students were in veterinary school. Average debt increased 8.5 percent between 2008 and 2009, with student debt averaging $129,976 in 2009, compared with $119,803 in 2008. Nearly a third of the students had an average debt above $150,000.
"Student debt continues to rise each year," DeHaven said, "and the AVMA, along with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and other veterinary groups, are working hard to find ways to alleviate some of the financial burden these new graduates carry with them out of veterinary school.
"Most students graduate college with debt," DeHaven continued. "That's a reality of life. But we need to focus on ways to help students 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."