Just last week a friend approached me with a familiar question about how to help their child pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian. This time, he was interested in finding a local vet who would allow his child to visit the clinic to observe the action. That’s an excellent plan to follow in the beginning. During 30 years of owning a veterinary practice, we helped a lot of young students get a taste for life as a vet. Some by working part-time and some by just observing. Today there are two very successful veterinarians and two certified vet technicians who got their start at our hospital. I’d guess that means about 80% ended up doing something else. Either way, I’m glad we could contribute to their career choices.
The goal of today’s post is to help parents guide their young students who’ve shown interest in a career in veterinary medicine. As you might imagine, there’s a lot more to consider than, “Do I like what vets do?”
My purpose is not to discourage in any way. I’m certain that my career as a veterinarian was a calling on my life. And I’m still reaping benefits of being a part of this honorable profession. My goal is to help parents understand the value of planning ahead and figure out ways to overcome one of the “Goliaths” facing veterinary graduates of today. I am referring to student debt.
Consider the following statistics
- Mean debt for all new veterinarians … was $135,000 for 2014. You can read more here.
Specifically, veterinary starting salaries are up to an average of about $70,000. Unemployment is at about 4 percent, the number of applicants to available jobs has dropped to 1.5:1, and the debt-to-income ratio of graduating veterinary students is hovering right around 2:1. From AVMA Economic Summit, October 22, 2015
The rates for the 2015-2016 academic year on Stafford loans for veterinary students… will drop to 5.85 percent from 6.21 percent. Undergraduate Stafford loans will drop to 4.29 percent from 4.66 percent. The rate on GradPLUS loans also will drop to 6.84 percent from 7.21 percent. Quoted in this article.
I recommend watching this short video produced by the AVMA on veterinary student debt.
Please, don’t stop reading! You can slay this giant!
Just like any plan to achieve a financial goal, the earlier you start the process, the better. That’s why this post is written primarily for parents of young students in high school or junior high. Sure, wise parents do their best to build a nest egg for college tuition. That’s great. But the costs of attaining a degree in veterinary medicine pile-up after undergraduate tuition.
Although taking out a loan may be necessary, the amount can be reduced significantly by taking some steps now. The less student debt, the more enjoyable the career.
Teach your aspiring animal doctor to learn how to make sacrifices to reach their goal. Working almost anywhere to earn money for their education is a great place to start. Once they’ve observed a few weeks at a local clinic, encourage them to try to find work that pays the most. Just as long as it involves working with people.
A veterinary student, and ultimately a graduate who’s learned the value of making sacrifices will be a better veterinarian. Veterinary school is demanding. And veterinary medicine is a service profession; serving people and animals. So, sacrifices will be part of the deal all the way through.
Become an expert at applying for scholarships. The video makes it clear that most students wish they’d spent more time and effort in this goldmine where funds often sit for years without being used.
Please let me know your thoughts and ideas…
I’ve only scratched the surface, but hopefully this information will help you and your future vet get an early start on making a career the best it can be.
So, what would you add to my short list?