AVMA Workforce Report Confirms Excess Capacity in U.S. Veterinary Profession

Join the Member DiscussionA major study released today by the AVMA and conducted by IHS Healthcare & Pharma in partnership with the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the State University of New York estimates an excess capacity of veterinary services in the United States. Specifically, the report indicates that the U.S. supply of veterinarians in 2012 was 90,200, and that supply exceeded the demand for veterinary services by about 11,250 full-time equivalent veterinarians.

The excess capacity estimated in the report does not mean that 11,250 veterinarians were unemployed during the study period, but that 12.5 percent of veterinarians’ capacity to provide services was going unused. If current conditions continue, the study projects that this is likely to persist into the foreseeable future.

A veterinary workforce survey used as a part of the study asked respondent veterinarians working in clinical practice to characterize their local veterinary market and their practices’ capacity and productivity. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said that they believed they were working at less than full capacity. One question the AVMA hopes to answer going forward is why some clinical practices are working at full capacity and others are not.

The workforce study was conducted using expert analysis and the best available existing data collected by the AVMA, federal agencies and other organizations, as well as the aforementioned veterinary workforce survey. However, during the study major gaps in data were identified.

As a result of the national study, the AVMA also announced that it has developed a new computer software model that will help paint a clearer picture of the current and future veterinary workforce. The Veterinary Workforce Simulation Model, an AVMA-owned, proprietary software, will play a key role in helping the AVMA and its recently established Veterinary Economics Division produce ongoing updates that will enable the association, veterinarians, veterinary educators and other key stakeholders to better understand issues pertaining to the supply and demand for veterinarians and veterinary services, as well as overall veterinary economics. The improved ability to collect, measure, track and analyze this data will help fill long-existing gaps in important information that affected this study and others in the past.

We want to emphasize that the report and its findings are a starting point and not the end of our efforts to ensure adequate access to veterinary services and the economic viability of the veterinary medical profession.

We invite AVMA and Student AVMA members to comment on the findings through our NOAH Discussion Groups. The 2013 U.S. Veterinary Workforce Study, as well as a companion report issued by the AVMA Workforce Advisory Group, titled “Implications of the 2013 Veterinary Workforce Study and Recommendations for Future Actions,” are available on the AVMA’s website.

87 thoughts on “AVMA Workforce Report Confirms Excess Capacity in U.S. Veterinary Profession

  1. Pingback: Big Veterinary Confirms VBB’s Assertion | Get Vet Clients

  2. Could have saved you folks (AVMA Executive Board) alot of money and time with this “study”.
    Step One: Take out any issue of the AVMA in 2003, turn to the classified section and count the number of opportunities for employment.
    Step Two: Take out any issue of the AVMA in 2013, turn to the classified section and count the number of opportunities for employment.
    As a 40 year member of the AVMA, I beg you to go back to the organization that supported the practitioner first and foremost. Your actions over the last 15 to 20 years have been centered on growing academia and partnering with corporations. Shame on you for abandoning the core of your very existence….the private practitioner. And further shame on you for creating an employment environment that has and will stifle new graduates.

    • Don’t you just love the silence on the other end of this blog. First they don’t listen to us, then they get all excited about “opening the lines of communication” with message boards and such. Then when we start giving them our opinions…..silence.

      • As a 40 year member of the AVMA, I beg you to go back to the organization that supported the practitioner first and foremost

        I wish I could have seen that.

  3. Does the AVMA have any comment to address the concerns of their members relating to this extremely important issue? (besides the old song and dance about the COE stuff)?

    • Please note that I will continue to respond where I can to questions about the study and the WAG recommendations. I have initiated the special series Exploring Veterinary Economics to provide more detailed information about the study and the economics of the veterinary profession. If you have specific questions about the study or economics in general I would be delighted to attempt to provide a response addressing those questions. I will be posting a new article every two weeks at https://www.avma.org/PracticeManagement/BusinessIssues/economics/Pages/Exploring-Veterinary-Economics.aspx.

      • Thank you for your response. I would like to say that I appreciated the review of prior work force studies that was recently published in JAVMA. I think it is important for all to see that these issues did not just present overnight, but have been building for decades. In evaluating the lack of action by organized veterinary medicine in relation to these past studies, I am sure you can understand that some animosity exists between the AVMA and its members.

        I did read the article that you wrote regarding excess capacity. As non economists, it can be a little tricky to get the concept. How does one come up with what a veterinarian could or should produce as it relates to capacity? Taking into consideration that for most, our business model is extremely ineffecient, how much of an impact could that have on the currently calculated excess capacity?

        I did notice that it appears that the study is missing a worst case scenario, where demand for our services continues to drop and veterinary numbers increase at much greater than historical rates. How would these numbers change if we took that into consideration?

        Finally, when dealing with such an imbalance between supply and demand, or capacity and demand, could the imbalance be realistically addressed by only changing one of the variables in the equation?

        I am encouraged that a fresh set of eyes might help us get past the status quo thinking of the last 30 years that has led us to where we are today. You definitely have your work cut out for you.

        I look forward to your input and wish you the freedom to find solutions to our profession’s major problems.

        • Why does demand for our services drop? Easy answer because the services we perform are not protected and have not been protected by the AVMA or our state boards

      • So in just a few weeks you are an expert on veterinary economics. I do hope you understand how licensing veterinarians creates a state sanctioned monopoly of which the AVMA is a part through establishing the accreditation standards used by the state boards. I learned that from Milton Friedman’s CAPITALISM AND FREEDOM. i AM ALSO AN ECONOMIST MYSELF.

  4. This is not the fault of the AVMA. I, and many practice owners have wrestled with these issues for the 31 years since I graduated. The veterinary profession problem is that we have defined a veterinary degree as being small animal private practice for 85% of us. The equine and food animal businesses are quite different over the last decades, but where has our profession extended its reeach into forgein food animal, public health, biomedical research? Collectively, we have not leveraged our talents to expand the universe of veterinary services to the general public. We all need to change and define our profession more broadly so that there are new areas of employment for our members.

    Complaining about the AVMA will not effect colleges; as pointed out they do their own thing for their own purposes. We must make it possible for our members to move to related endeavors that use our veterinary training while not practicing small animal medicine for the general public.

    • Chip,

      I agree with most of what you say. We do need to better market our degrees and our profession. The only point that I disagree with you is the point about the AVMA’s culpability in this. They have had decades of work force data to understand the trends of supply and demand and what have they done? If they would have just been more proactive with sharing the information so that the schools and the AAVMC could not continue to manipulate a “shortage”, we would all be better off.

      So, they might not have caused it, but they have done precious little to help up to this point.
      Greg

    • CHIP–VETERINARY COLLEGES ARE NOT SEEKING APPLICANTS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH,BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH ETC., FOR THE MOST PART. VETERINARY MEDICINE IS ATTRACTIVE FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE TO WORK WITH “COMPANION ANIMALS”. I CONTEND THESE ASPECTS OF MEDICINE(PUBLIC HEALTH,RESEARCH) ARE NOT AS REWARDING,AND THE COMPENSATION STINKS FOR MOST OF THESE DISCIPLINES! IF VETERINARY APPLICANTS WERE REQUIRED TO DO PUBLIC HEALTH ON GRADUATION, THE VETERINARY COLLEGES COULDN’T MEET THEIR QUOTA . WHICH REMINDS ME,.. “VETERINARY COLLEGES DO THEIR OWN THING FOR THEIR OWN PURPOSES.”THIS IS A SIMPLE CASE OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND,NO MORE,NO LESS! OH,BUT DON’T BLAME THE AVMA, THEY HAVE A MORE SERIOUS PROBLEM…. “DIVERSITY”

      • Dr. Sheffield,

        I, for one, have an issue about reading (and writing) messages that are in ALL CAPS.

        There is a key on the left side of your keyboard marked “caps lock” – if you’re using an i-phone, it’s that arrow on the left that points upward. Either way, ALL CAPS is considered “YELLING” in the digital text world.

        Unless you are intentionally yelling at everyone here on this message board, I would kindly ask that you respect your fellow professionals and show an understanding of message board etiquette when you post your thoughts.

        Respectfully,

        Dr K

    • The fault of the Avma is a weak lobby and a co dependency to strong lobbies like Farm Bureau , National cattle men’s beef association , southern states Walmart etc.These companies have lobbied to sale veterinary products and support practicing veterinary medicine without a license and diminish the value of veterinary care. The Avma has allowed this to occur . A 12 % oversupply of veterinarians would not matter if over the counter syringes antibiotics and other medications were prohibited from being sold OTC . This is a failure to protect the practice of vet medicine. If you disagree with me see how much chiropractors and pharmacist are being paid . Then explain to me how these professions continue to prosper even though they do not have the education to perform surgery or dispense medication without a prescription our Avma is a weak protector of our profession .stop blaming oversupply.

  5. I am a 2010 graduate who has struggled to find decent work and mentoring ever since. I knew how much the student loans would be and thought long and hard before going to veterinary college, but never expected to have so much trouble upon graduating. In veterinary college they jumped and screamed about the need for public health and large animal veterinarians, so I tried taking the public health route with no success. I just received the news last week that my contract will not be renewed on the only decent job that I have had since graduation due to slow business. The chances of me finding a new position in the short term are probably slim as I am 5 months pregnant. I am seriously starting to consider other work, but cannot envision myself doing anything else. The problem is only getting worse as most of the schools are increasing their class sizes! The condition of the profession is very strained and it is we, the newest generation, of veterinarians who are paying the price.

    • Elaine,

      Email me at Paul@vin.com or post here the type of work you are looking for — and in what region of the country.

      I’d be happy to try to help or find others to try to help.

      >>>Paul<<

      Paul D. Pion, DVM, DipACVIM (Cardiology)
      co-founder, VIN

  6. My comment is more about the statistical analysis represented in the article above – comparing the total number of veterinarians to the number of full time positions. They are certainly impressive (maybe even depressing) figures but there was a trend beginning to pick up steam when I graduated from Tufts in 1992… that of the part-timer; folks graduating from veterinary school with the intention of seeking only part-time positions.

    In order to validate the claims of this article, the authors need to also include how many of all veterinarians are intentionally part-timers (for any reason), how may are unintentional (couldn’t land a full-time position), how many are in early retirement (or even still own the facility without practicing veterinary medicine), how many changed to nonveterinary careers, how many gave up practicing to become company reps, how many facilities intentionally hire multiple part-timers instead of full-timers, how many have chosen to be relief veterinarians, and how many are self-employed traveling/consulting specialists (surgeons, ultrasonographers, etc…).

    I am confident that if these figures were included in the numer crunching, the dire figure of 11,250 would be considerably less and certainly more significant.

    Dr K

  7. As a career relief veterinarian I have experienced a huge down turn in my own business. I used to stay very busy, but the last two years have been rough. Now I am basically a part time worker, just in time for my second child to start college. The numerous private practices that used to keep me busy are very slow, which is why no relief work. I have advertised to find a job, no luck yet. Smaller practices are most interested in new grads to save money, and corporations want to force me to do preventive care on Sundays and Holidays. I have never minded doing emergency work on those days, because it is a necessary service and I can help people and their pets. But lining corporate pockets doing preventive care (that could be done any other day of the week) when I should be home with my family just rubs me the wrong way. Now I am trying to convince my daughter that going into veterinary medicine may not be the best idea. I will show her this article.

    • No easy solution for the over-supply of docs and abundance of the underemployed. Maybe market conditions will change in a few years to render this a less relevant discussion? My crystal ball sees a continued drop in demand for veterinary services (pet insurance and rewards programs may change this), more competition from the internet and shrinking pharmacy income. The profession will need to reinvent itself and evolve once again…just as we did 100 years ago with the advent of the Model T and less reliance on horse transportation. The oversupply problem will not be resolved until the federal governent realizes that they are sending us down this path by continuing to fund student loans and promote subsidized loan payback plans….when market conditions really don’t warrant the need. Big surprise the government is out of touch here! The colleges have no real motivation to decrease class size or tuition. They are in survival mode and the AVMA can’t really do anything about that. As long as the money is freely supplied to the students (ignoring the ethical debt question), everyone will be out there to get their “fair” share.

      • I would like to put in my 2 cents here. That free money you were referring to is not free by any means or stretch of the imagination. There is a 7+% interest rate on that loan the minute it is taken out + compound interests over 20-25 years. Many students are aware of that fact and the $1500-2000/month loan repayments after graduation. For some unknown reason, which in my opinion is financial illiteracy, they keep signing up and lining up to do so.
        I think AVMA can do plenty…at the very least they can stop accrediting new schools and adding to this problem.

  8. I would like to think that members of our profession, veterinarians who are defined by our intelligence and compassion, can solve this problem before it results in the inevitable conclusion. Our profession, and our representatives at the AVMA, naively allowed this to happen by letting corporations take over and insidiously destroy the profession from the inside out. Look what corporations have done to our economy, the banking industry, Wall Street, politics, media, health care, the supreme court (corporations=people), and ultimately our country. Now we are realizing that the AVMA and our universities are not immune to this corporate disease and corruption of greed. Are we really surprised that profits and financial gain are more highly valued than the survival of good veterinarians and the communities of animals/families we serve? Our current structure is not sustainable and I think we’ve known that for a long time. Now what do we want to do about it?

    • As a medical professional for humans and vet spouse, I have witnessed the changes in your profession for over 30 years. We have tried to hire vets to share on call and weekend duty at our practice in a growing suburban area. They want 9 to 5 weekdays and maybe 9 to 12 Saturdays, preferably part-time. When we started our practice, we knew that pets and clients have needs that don’t exactly fit that timeframe. It is the nature of the profession. The influence of the large corporations can be minimized if you refuse to work for them. To preserve your profession, pressure your AVMA, your state boards, and your alma maters to restrict the numbers of vet students accepted and make sure that they receive some business coursework- so the big corporations don’t have to think for them.

      • I would agree that the schools need to be more responsible for preparing the students for the realities of practice and warning applicants openly that the jobs might not be there when they graduate. Cutting class sizes and maybe even eliminating some of the recently added schools may be necessary. This is a lot of money to spend on an education if you can’t get a job.
        I have to say that I am an employer of 2 “part time” vets who have chosen to work only 30 hours a week to balance in kids and I have found this to be a great solution to the problem of balance. They do work one late night a week and one weekend a month, but take no call. I also work that schedule as an owner to be sure I spend enough time with my kids. I consider this to be a great advancement in the way practices are run. These are extremely committed, talented veterinarians who I trust with my practice completely.

  9. I agree with many of the previous comments. Not only are the universities more concerned about there own financial well-being, the exam boards have failed to protect the veterinary profession and the public from unlicensed practice and the sale of prescription drugs without an adequate VCPR. This cumulatively distracts from the financial state of veterinarians and the quality of service being offered to the public. WLB

  10. As the co-owner of a midwestern mixed practice which does about 90% SA, I had an interesting winter as we advertized for a veterinarian. We have had difficulty in the past getting more than two or 3 applicants because of the need to do limited large animal emergencies. This year I had inquiries from over 25 applicants mostly students from 6 different states. Many had no interest in mixed practice but were applying to anything available in the hope of finding a job, The debt load of the students was frightening for me. Veterinary medicine has been very good to me in many ways. I worry that young veterinarians will not have the opportunities that I did. We had a young veterinarian start a practice in a neighboring town a few years ago. Unfortunately he was forced into bankruptcy.even though he was a good veterinarian. That is a sad commentary on our profession.

  11. One solution would be for veterinary colleges in the US to stop taking the non-stop flow of students from the corporate-school in the caribbean. (They probably won’t because this process has become a cash-cow for many of the veterinary schools who accept these students into clinical rotations for a fee.) The other is for the AVMA and veterinarians everywhere to start explaining the harsh realities of going to a veterinary school where the exhorbitant tuition results in debt the new graduate will be lucky to pay off before they can retire. The maximum amount of student debt for veterinary students were capped at some level where they could be reasonably paid off. Perhaps some the highest cost schools would then be put out of the business by simply marketplace economics if students are forced to pay 100% of the cost over a reasonable cap.

    • I assure you that veterinary schools will close all together if students were to pay 100% of the tuition themselves. No one has that kind of money except millionaires. Now, if you are talking about private loans, its actually not that different. As a matter of fact, private loans typically have better interest rates than government loans, but don’t offer the same leniency.

  12. I COMMENTED 5 YEARS AGO THE “AVMA WAS ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL ON THIS ISSUE” BUT THEY SAID THE NEED FOR RURAL VETERIANARIANS AND PUBLIC HEALTH WOULD CIRCUMVENT THIS ISSUE. WHAT IS EVEN MORE CONFUSING IS THAT AFTER ACKNOWLEDGING THE SURPLUS, THE AVMA RECENTLY SAID THERE WILL BE NO IMPETUS TO DECREASE CLASS SIZE FOR NOW!! SINCE THE CAREER LIFE OF A VETERINARIAN IS 25-30 YEARS, THERE WILL BE NO AMELIORATION IN OUR LIFETIME. I’M JUST SAYING….

    PS: I THINK THE SURPLUS IS MUCH MORE THAN THEIR FIGURE…………

    • Mark,

      I would have to agree with you. I have a hard time believing that this organization has my best interest at heart, considering that this is not new information and little to nothing has been done to help over the last several decades.

    • As a 2011 graduate, we were constantly being told there is a shortage, especially of large animal and public health vets. Being both (mostly public health) I would have to say there are few jobs available even with other advanced degrees on top of the DVM…and certainly not enough that pay in the range to actually pay down student loan debt.

      • C,

        The AVMA has recently established a new Economics Division and hired Michael Dicks, PhD to lead it. https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/130401m.aspx

        After a few brief discussions, I am very impressed with Dr. Dicks and have great hope that his “tell it like it is” approach will help future young colleagues not fall prey to the same wishful thinking that lead you and others who bought into the rhetoric you describe. A wishful thinking story that has been told by AVMA, AAVMC and veterinary schools since I was a veterinary student (1979-1983).

        Over the past few years I’ve tried to understand why our leadership preached this to students and the profession despite no data based in reality to support the vast opportunities and need they claimed to see.

        Ultimately I came to understand that these individuals — most who have not spent much time in the private sector — “see” 20,000 or so jobs in the world that they believe a veterinarian SHOULD hold. The problem is that those who control those jobs might not see it that way. They see MDs, MPHs, PhDs, as well as veterinarians and many others who can fill those jobs.

        As part of his due diligence to understand our situation and his new job, Dr. Dicks studied the literature on workforce issues in veterinary medicine over the past several decades, Dr. Dicks objectively summed it up better than anyone I have heard to this point:

        “One of the most frequent findings throughout the literature was the measurement of need, and this presents
        a new set of problems for the profession as a whole, particularly when that need is given as the needs of society.

        A great effort to meet society’s needs without any thought as to who will pay for the supply of services to
        meet these needs may have nudged the profession toward an excess of veterinarians.”

        I suggest you and all colleagues read Dr. Dicks’ review: http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/pdf/10.2460/javma.242.8.1051

        This paper is a breath of fresh air that I believe will form the basis of all future discussions on the topic.

        Not atypically, it took an outsider to come in with observations, that should have been obvious to most, for those in power (AVMA, AAVMC, the schools) to accept, or at least consider, that their way of thinking and acting might need to change. This hard truth that can no longer be denied through wishful thinking and lofty goals not based in societal or financial realities.

        Having said that, I have great confidence in the resiliency of our profession. We will ultimately come through this stronger than ever.

        I view it as my, and all colleagues who have enjoyed the tangible and intangible rewards of this profession over the past several decades, duty to work to ensure that we leave to your generation and those who come after, a profession in better shape than the one we inherited.

        I don’t think we have been doing a very good job in this arena. We need to pull together to fix that — for you and all our colleagues.

        All the best.

        >>>Paul<<<

        Paul D. Pion, DVM, DipACVIM (Cardiology)
        co-founder, VIN
        Davis, CA

  13. Like others, I have been saying this to our local veterinary college for years, to no avail. It is hard to watch them rip off these young (usually) folks.

    The only real solution is to have some of the veterinary colleges close. That won’t be an easy proposition as everyone will become protectionist of their college and ask someone else’s to close.

    Reducing class size isn’t a viable option. The budgets of the vet colleges have been cut dramatically. The reason they have expanded class size is because they can’t pay the bills any other way. Thus only closing a few colleges will be an economically viable means of achieving the objective of reducing the number of new veterinarians entering the workplace.

    I don’t believe the AVMA can do anything about this problem. The AVMA can only establish the standards the veterinary colleges must adhere to but if a college achieves those standards then I believe the are legally obligated to approve a college’s legitimacy. I would be surprised if reducing the number of veterinarians being produced would be a legally sustainable argument in court.

    Sadly, this must go to its economically logical conclusion, which goes as follows:
    no vet jobs = bad press(NY Times article and more) = discouraged students who look for alternative career options = reduced qualified applicants = not enough incoming students to keep the vet school afloat = closure of the vet school.

    Adding to this problem is the Ponzi scheme that is going on in the specialty veterinary arena. It is not economically viable to have some many specialists being produced. Already they are having challenges getting enough caseload to render a salary premium to cover the additional education. Their solution is to have much less compensated residents to help carry the work load. Those residents will eventually finish their specialty training and go into practice. Each of them will need even more residents. All of these need very cheaply paid interns to funnel cases to the highly compensated specialists. It is only a matter of time until this pyramid scheme collapses.

    Sadly, dark days are on the horizon for small animal private practitioners, especially those in urban areas. Rural areas may survive healthily longer.

    • You need to establish that veterinary clinics have to have majority ownership by a dvm or vmd

      • I am not sure I appreciate how one can legally change the practice act to prevent graduates from accredited schools to be prevented from entering the state. I don’t see how the AVMA can make a change to a state’s practice act. All avenues that I see along these lines appear to be discriminatory. Maybe you can enlighten me on how your proposal would work in a legally defensible manner.

        Someone else mentioned that the graduates from the school in Mexico City was turning out deficiently skilled graduates. If that is so, and I have no personal knowledge to say one way or the other, then I think you could adjust the practice act to prevent those deficiencies and have it be legally defensible.

      • Alabama vet bill 156 would have made it more difficult to undermine the integrity of true vet practices it did not pass google it and I think you will appreciate the concept.

  14. After 20 years of steady, full-time employment in the profession, I again find myself in the job market. The changes have shocked me. It has been extremely difficult to find any opportunities in private practice in my area. It seems as though the way of the future is vaccine clinics tucked into pet supply stores and mobile spay/neuter services. I fear the traditional private practice is becoming a thing of the past.

    • I was in the same situation, in the same time frame. I hated my job in a large corporate practice (you can probably guess) the hours were horrible for a parent, the pay and benefits kept getting worse and worse and the corporate drama and non veterinary stress was unbearable. I found no other opportunities, so it took a year but I opened my own, if I couldnt find a job I created my own.

  15. I agree with all that is being said, however, I am trying to fill two open positions and can’t get a candidate to take the jobs. I am offering the national average salary, but they are finding jobs that pay $20,000 more. How does a small clinic compete against the wages offered by the big corporations?

    • Working conditions and flexibility with time. Unfortunately for a small size practice – you sometimes can’t afford to be flexible or to create the “glitzy” working conditions of a corporate practice with deep pockets.

      • some of those corporate jobs are not very glitzy, every weekend open till 7pm or later on saturday and all day on sunday and they are not very good at finding coverage for earned days off. Often leaving new grads or younger doctors on their own without guidance, training or mentoring. They often offer a very high salary for the first 6 months then you go on production and so your salary is affected by overstaffing of doctors, a practice that is under staffed, and all the give aways, you end up working for them and and client for free, may of their salaries will drop at or below what you may be offering. Look for and recruit those doctors who have left these practices or are looking to leave them, many of them are looking for a high quality private practice without all the added stress and rules from the corporation, salary isn’t always as big of a concern if they can have a good quality of practice, be appreciated, have a fair compensation for work done and have a reasonable schedule to allow for a personal and family life. If you notice in some areas of the country the corporations cannot fill their positions even though many doctors are still looking for employment, they are the only ones hiring.

  16. I am very discouraged at the lack of opportunities for older veterinarians. I have been told 1. Why should I hire you when I can pay a new grad $50,000.00/year? and 2. We’re looking for a younger veterinarian who might want to buy into the practice.

    Also, just look at the numbers of relief veterinarians listed in our newsletter. (Lots). These are often veterinarians out of a job or under employed.

    Who is going to address this problem?

  17. My suggestion is that all of us begin to write our elected representatives to stop funding the veterianry schools until they reduce class size.

    • I COMMENTED 5 YEARS AGO THAT THE AVMA WAS “ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL ON THIS ISSUE”. THEIR INSISTANCE ON A NEED FOR RURAL VETERINARIANS AND PUBLIC HEALTH EMPHASIS WOULD CIRCUMVENT THIS PROBLEM, BUT EVEN MORE CONFUSING IS THE FACT THAT AFTER ACKNOWLEDGING THIS SURPLUS, THE AVMA RECENTLY STATED THERE WILL BE NO IMPETUS TO DECREASE CLASS SIZE FOR NOW! SINCE THE AVERAGE WORK LIFE OF A VETERINARIAN IS 25 YEARS,THERE WILL BE NO AMELIORATION IN THIS SITUATION IN OUR LIFETIME! I’M JUST SAYING…

      PS: I THINK THEY HAVE UNDERESTIMATED THE SURPLUS,ANYONE CARE TO OPINE?

  18. This just confirms what all of us practice ownbers have said for a long time. Academic people don’t care about the result of the oversupply that they are producing. This is an actual quote: “the market will take care of them.” The New York Times considers a veterinary education a very poor investment. This study confirms it.

  19. Another unfortunate extension of this trend is the availability of veterinarians for the low-cost spay/neuter/vaccination business. We used to be able to spread out the cost of caring for sick animals over the lifetime relationship we developed with that animal and its owner. With the revenue from those proceedures along with flea/tick/heartworm preventives we could offset some of the costs of labwork, hospitalization, medications, veterinary fees etc. for the critical patient. With the advent of internet sales and the opening of a low-cost spay/neuter clinic 8 miles down the road that ability has been taken away from us. Increasing fees on sick patients is the necessary result. As fees go up so do the number of people choosing euthanasia rather than appropriate treatment. Then who have we helped?

    • I agree with your assessment. These are changing times and it is in our best interest to work together to affect change and not as a bunch of individuals trying to work our way through all these changes in our profession. Hopefully, the AVMA can help bring our profession together to help us all.

    • You my friend have hit the nail on the head. We now have non veterinary owners hiring veterinarians to work in low cost spay neuter clinics. These clinics are considered non profit and there is no way an established practice can compete with these clinics. State boards have to address these issues.

      • In what way can State Boards address this issue?

        I concur that the non-profits have made a huge negative impact on the profession. I am just not sure the State Board, the AVMA, etc. can legally prevent these places. All of the court cases I am aware of have endorsed the presence of these organizations.

        So I ask again, in what ways can the State Board legally do something about this?

  20. I would image that most of this problem is occuring in the the small animal world as my husband is extremely busy with his mobile large animal practice. Also, if this is truely the case why on earth would we open more schools and increase the number of students at the current schools, as my alma mater has recently done? Are we really that ignorant? Even I saw this trend coming several years ago and can’t believe those in academics and at the AVMA didn’t.

    • Debbie,

      You need to redefine “we” as you’re using it. That “we” is not the veterinary profession. Rather, it is self-serving universities looking out for their own best interest rather than that of the profession.

      Scott

      • I suppose you’re correct. Just wish money wasn’t always the underlying motivation. It would be nice to hear an explanation from someone in academics.

  21. If so many practices and veterinarians are not working to capacity, why is the AVMA so gung-ho about accrediting foreign schools! Could it be for the revenue these colleges can bring in???

    • Just like anything else, education is a business. More students, especially out of state students, more money for the universities.

  22. My concern that if our own Veterinarians and new graduates are not able to work to capacity why are we still allowing so many work visas for foreign veterinarians to come to the US to work. It is my understanding that these are only to be issued if a position cannot be filled by a domestic veterinarian, that the foreign doctor has skills over and above the average doctor and that they are compensated at greater than the national average.Any thoughts??

    • I can tell you one reason there is pressure on the AVMA to accredict foreign universities is that the corporate practices have so many slots to fill that they cannot get enough applicants (Someone above alluded to the long hours, weekend shifts and high production expected with too many DVMs in one hospital as a reason for phenomenal turnover rates.) These corporate practices have gone to Mexico for example and funded their vet school in Mexico City which is now accredicted. I have lived and worked in Mexico and can tell you that their graduates are in no way as qualified as U.S. graduates in medicine and surgery; nevermind the language barriers they often come here with. I have also lived and worked in other countries and have seen first-hand how their DVM’s have less skill than my unlicensed technicians who I have trained from scratch.

  23. An absolutely stunning report from Captain Obvious.

    We in practice have all been saying this for many, many, MANY years.

    Now . . . . for the real problem here: money! Vet schools are paid by the number of butts in the seats and the number of students graduated. They have no reason or desire to decrease the number of newly graduated veterinarians and there is no way anyone can MAKE them change before the profession as a whole is destroyed. Since they are not a “real world” part of the profession, they have no concern about the oversupply of practicing vets and accept no responsibility for the problem or its solution

    The AVMA is a toothless tiger which can rant and rave all it wants to no avail. They have no real influence here that would truly alter the course of events. All they can do is wail and complain and wring their hands on the sidelines as they hope and wish for a rosier future.

    It is up to us in practice to dissuade as many starry-eyed kids as possible from entering the college of veterinary medicine and to withhold our financial support from the old alma mater.

    Just show the kids this report for starters! And be sure to show it to their parents as well.

    • Bravo! I’ve been saying this for 46 years! Still, we have kids shadowing many/some us in our practices and we continue to support our alma maters financially. From Pogo, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us!’. Hello?! Anybody home?

    • Bravo! I’ve been saying this for 46 years! Still, we have kids shadowing many/some us in our practices and we continue to support our alma maters financially. From Pogo, ‘We have met the enemy and he is us!’. Hello?! Anybody home?

    • Oh my gosh!! I just read the official AVMA response to the workforce study. Their plan is to form some committees and study the problem some more!

      I would like to ammend my “toothless tiger” comment to “useless, neutered, toothless tiger”.

      As with most bureaucratic machines, they confuse and equate “studying” a problem with “fixing” a problem!!!

    • I have recently done some work to dissuade a stellar employee at my practice from becoming a vet. I didn’t approach it from a biased perspective (I think), but rather encouraged her to look into the facts of the profession carefully before going into it. She did, and she is now thinking about other careers. Such incidences are tragic consequences of this fiasco of veterinary oversupply. She is brilliant and talented and caring and empathetic and . . . the list goes on. She would have made a great vet, but she deserves a better life and I’m glad that she isn’t sufficiently starstruck to become a vet no matter what the cost. I couldn’t sit by idly and let her throw her future away without encouraging her to do her due diligence.

      • Eric,

        It is sad that many colleagues find themselves talking young people out of joining our profession. We need the best and brightest to keep joining our profession. Having said that, I agree it never has been and never will be the right choice for everyone with a passion for animals.

        The VIN Foundation (a 501(c)3 ) has put together resources to help colleagues have a conversation with those interested in a career in veterinary medicine and those close to them You can find a brochure to download, a cost of education map, a student loan repayment simulator and more at http://wwwIWantToBeAVeterinarian.com — with more resources at http://www.VINFoundation.org .

        There is hope for the short-term. President Obama’s submitted budget includes some provision for relief of student debt repayment debt forgiveness taxes. I don’t think there is a strong possibility it will pass to be law, but that it is even on the table and open for discussion is a surprise to me. If enacted, this could be a major ssource of short-term relief for our graduates. It doesn’t change the capacity excess issue — and we shouldn’t for a moment allow us to relax our pressure on each other and our organizations to seek solutions to the underlying problem of high debt, low salary plaguing those entering our profession.

      • I am having that same conversation with my daughter, who is starting her freshman year in college next year. She is going to start with an engineering major, but I am hearing rumblings about vet school. I never thought I would say this but I really hope she loves her engineering courses. What a shame!

      • As small children, kids all go through a stage of “I wanna be a __fill in the blank___ just like you dad/mom”.

        I knew 15+ years ago when I heard that from my own kids that I had to (gently) dissuade them from joining the veterinary profession even then. I have seen the writing on the wall for quite some time.

        Now one is a school teacher, one is a pharmacist, and dad is quite happy with the way things turned out.

        I made a good choice more than 30 years ago, but I would NOT make the same choice for a career today.

        With the job situation, student-loan debt situation, the general economic situation, and now the (finally) documented over-supply situation I don’t see how one can recommend the veterinary profession to anyone today and maintain a clear conscience?

      • Sad to say, but I am one of those students (I don’t mean the brilliant part) who is very discouraged. I have 4.0 GPA in physics and biology and 1000s of hours in mixed animals. I have done a ton of research on the future prospects of vet medicine and what I found terrified me. My technical and analytical brain would not let me do this to myself, no matter how much my heart screamed at it.

  24. One would think that this excess of veterinarains would be a blessing for those “baby boomers” now planning on retiring and selling their practices to a new generation of graduates. Unfortunately the problem only gets worse as it appears that the recent graduate “employee vets” don’t want to take on the responsibility of ownership so in time when the older owner vets just retires and close their practices for lack of buyers, there will be even more unemployed vets (former associates who did elect ownership) out there on the streets. Very disheartening.

    Steve Bowen, DVM

    • actually what I saw when I was looking for a practice a couple years ago that many “Boomers” decided to stay in practice longer and hold off retirement because of the decline in the economy their practice was valued as less so when I was looking there were no known practices for sale in a 25 mile radius. This caused me to open my own practice instead of buying theirs. If they stay in practice for even 2-5 years longer, that is surplus veterinarians for the next 2-5 years graduates.

      • This is so true. Who can retire? Most of us will keep working as long as we can. We don’t have a choice unless we are just lucky and have amassed more than most.

        So we have an oversupply on the front end and the back end AND we have more Veterinary Schools coming on line? Makes no sense at all.

    • The surplus of veterinarians is NOT a boon to the Baby Boomers looking to sell their practices.

      As noted previously, when a young vet searches for a practice and can’t find one due to Boomers hanging around longer, they open their own shop. That dilutes the already strained market making the financial picture of the Boomer practice worse. This worsening financial picture results in the Boomer hanging around longer hoping for brighter days ahead. Thus a downward spiral.

      Also, this study shows many new vets unable to get a job. If they don’t have a job they can’t service their debt much less save money to purchase a practice. So no windfall to the Boomer here either.

      To this I have heard Boomers say, “Well, there is always the corporate guys to buy me out.” If the corporate guys are the only option then they won’t need to buy the Boomer out. They will simply wait for the Boomer to retire and close the doors on their practice or die. Then they can cheaply step in and fill the void. Examples of this can readily be found in many communities.

      • I know that you have all heard the phrase “its the economy stupid”. This is not unique to veterinary medicine. We have oversupply everywhere. Has anyone seen the cost of non-veterinary schools lately? Still going up in tuition and costs at 8% per year. Kids are graduating and have no jobs. This whole downturn started when the economy tanked in 2008 and 2009 and there are no signs of improvement on the horizon. The veterinary profession was supposed to be “recession proof” but as we have found it is not the case. Consumers are different now and discretionary income is driving many choices. We have to operate smarter in the new economy. Operating smarter means understanding the things that drive the economy as it relates to veterinary medicine. The profession just cannot just react anymore to what is going on around it.

  25. Finally! I have known there are too many vets ever since I graduated from vet school in 2009. I do not currently work to full capacity, either. It took a long time to find a veterinary job. Vet schools need to downsize considerably or this is going to keep getting worse.

  26. The Higher Consternation: New Vet School Plans Press On Amid an Industry In Flux

    Four new schools of veterinary medicine are being considered, but is the timing right?

    By Drew Andersen
    Veterinary Practice News

    Posted: Nov. 21, 2012, 6:30 p.m. EDTis, of course, explains the logic behind building 4 more veterinary schools!

      • Yes, it does. We know that many veterinarians will change their degree of activity in the profession during their career, although there isn’t much data on the shape our veterinary careers.

        From the study: “While most veterinarians work full time, some are employed part time. We defined one FTE based on the average annual hours (2,313) worked across all active veterinarians (part time and full time) in 2012.

        Supply was defined as the number of veterinary service hours veterinarians reported as being at work or working and thus, assumedly, available and able to supply services. The FTE concept allowed us to compare current supply to future supply, and compare supply to demand using a standardized unit.”

        • Wow, 2313 hours per year is considered full time in this study. That’s 45 hours per week for 52 weeks per year. I know some do…but nobody I know.

          Joe Frost

  27. I am encouraged by the news. It is another piece of information that shows what many of us have been trying to tell our representing organization for years.

    I hope that we, as a profession, actually do something with this information instead of bury it like we have done with all of the other studies over the past 50 years.

    I hope that the AVMA decides to use resources to not only try and promote alternative veterinary careers but also to put a major effort into public education with regards to the services that private practitioners offer (remember, private practitioners make up a large portion of your dues paying members). Finally, I would hope that the AVMA would finally have the backbone to call the AAVMC out for the responsibility that they have in this mess that we find ourselves in.

    Sincerely,

    Greg Nutt

    • This is probably the same study that I saw, which also showed that the cost of schooling is going up AND the number of graduates is going up. This does not seem like a sustainable trend.

    • I agree – the AAVMC has much to answer for.

      I also agree that alternative careers are a good idea – I only practiced briefly then got an advanced degree and have had a great “alternative career” (outside academia). However, I did not have a huge load of crushing debt when I graduated from veterinary school and so I could afford to take out a reasonable student loan (and had part-time work) to go to graduate school. Many alternative careers require more education than that provided in a DVM program – some are degreed and others to just gain certification. It all costs money and veterinarians cannot take on that financial load if they are so burdened with debt that they can only afford to work full time.

  28. Shocker. Many veterinarians have been saying this for years and have been not-so-subtly dismissed by representatives of AVMA and Academia. #agenda

  29. ” The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design”

    Friedrich Hayek, THE FATAL CONCEIT

    Arrogance and ignorance often give birth to the unclaimed child, failure.

    Robert Nix, One of the Underemployed and Now Former Veterinarians