Job Market for Uncommon Veterinarians Looks Good!


You’ve all heard of the top-tier journals Science and Nature, right? They’re the ones that will pave your way to academic stardom if you can manage to get your name published somewhere inside.

Nature evidently finds our veterinary profession newsworthy enough to run a feature summarizing the U.S. National Research Council’s recent report on Workforce Needs in Veterinary Medicine. Check out that link for the full report. I’ve skimmed bits of it and there is some really interesting and in-depth information on the future of our profession.

Back in October, however, Nature published this article titled, “Beyond the Farm: Veterinary expertise is an advantage for researchers hoping to stem disease outbreaks and bolster food safety.” A PDF of the article can be downloaded here.

The article summarizes the key findings of the NRC report while also bringing in some stories and quotations from individual veterinarians working in non-traditional fields.

So what do you need to take away from this news, and from the NRC report in general?

The job market for uncommon veterinarians is looking good!

You’ve probably heard lots of people throw around the “shortage” term when talking about our profession. Yes, there is a shortage, now and into the future. But it’s not in the market for small animal clinical veterinarians. It’s probably not even in the market (or lack thereof) for rural vets willing to do old-fashioned large animal practice. In Nature‘s words:

With the notable exception of clinical practice, shortages haunt pretty much all the sectors in which veterinarians typically look for jobs. Within government, academia and industry, alike, positions for veterinarians with master’s degrees or PhDs remain vacant.

Do you really need another graduate degree in order to be eligible for these jobs? No. There are plenty of veterinarians working in non-traditional fields with only the veterinary degree, so don’t lose heart. This article in an academic science journal naturally focuses on the benefits that might accrue to those who add an additional degree (like I wrote about last week) to their resumes.

Here are a couple more quotations that I found especially interesting:

“People have a very narrow view of what veterinarians do,” says Bonnie Buntain, a public-health expert at the University of Calgary in Canada who started out as a horse veterinarian. “Who would have thought that a horse vet from Hawaii would be guiding national regulations on food safety and humane animal treatment in Washington DC at the USDA, and then be offered a tenured professor position?”

Mary McConnel, a strategic initiatives director at Pfizer, says that her combination of a DVM and a master’s in business seemed to be in demand. As soon as she sent her CV to Pfizer, “they were after me like a bat out of hell”, she says. McConnel enjoys her job as a consultant for veterinary businesses, and the generous salary that goes with it.

I would highly recommend that you take a look at this encouraging article and the accompanying report. They’ve definitely inspired me as I wonder about what the future might hold for my own veterinary career!

What about you? Does this article give you any new ideas?

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21 Responses to “Job Market for Uncommon Veterinarians Looks Good!”

  1. daninicole14 January 16, 2013 at 3:51 am #

    Really enjoyed this post! There are so many things in those articles that I wish I had known a few years ago. I guess the important thing is getting the word out about the “uncommon veterinary fields” because so many people narrow the veterinary field down to just the clinical careers, and the world may be missing out on some great veterinarians that just didn’t want to go into clinical medicine. Thanks for the info and for getting the word out there! Now, this gives me a good topic to talk about during my interview next week (at least I hope I get the chance to talk about this).

    • Elliott January 16, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      I agree, great points. I think there are a lot of people in high school or college who think they might want to become a vet but then find that they don’t really enjoy the daily routines of a small animal clinic. Because that’s the only kind of vet they really know about, they move on and leave behind so many cool options about more unique ways they could use a veterinary degree.

      • Hunter February 6, 2013 at 12:54 am #

        I agree that most high school and undergraduate students don’t know about all the other possible careers for veterinarians. Unfortunately, for those of us who DO know about them and want to pursue that path, it’s a bit difficult to find job shadowing opportunities with an uncommon veterinarian. This site has been a great resource for me.

      • Elliott February 6, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

        Hunter, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you’ve been able to get some good ideas through my website! I agree that it can sometimes be tough to set up job shadowing experiences with non-traditional vets, or at least more difficult than just stopping by the local vet clinic to see if you can volunteer. That’s a big reason that I’ve set up my site — I want to get people like you thinking creatively about all the different options out there and give you the resources you need to actually go out and make it happen. In my experience, the vast majority of uncommon veterinarians are willing to take on an ambitious and hard-working volunteer. The hardest things are that they usually can’t pay you anything, and you might have to travel some distance from where you live to take advantage of the opportunity. That’s why some of the funding mechanisms I’ve discussed are so important, and I’ll try to continue to bring those front and center. Good luck!

  2. Michelle February 7, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Absolutely loving this site – thanks for putting together this great info! I’m hoping to go to vet school in the next few years, and I”m very interested in research opportunities afterwards, and possibly getting a PhD as well. I’m wondering, though, whether doing research precludes having a clinical practice?

    • Elliott February 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

      Hey Michelle, great to hear from you. I’ve seen two primary ways in which vets can be involved in research while still doing clinical medicine and surgery. One is to be on the faculty of a vet school, where you can do clinics in the teaching hospital while also being expected to carry out more clinically-oriented research. The other would be as a lab animal veterinarian, where you are involved in the clinical management of a large number of different species and can also play a role in the research if you want. I’m sure there are some regular private practice clinicians who also successfully do their own studies, but I think this is pretty rare. Anyone else have ideas?

      • Matt December 18, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

        Yeah but how do you find what amounts to an entry level veterinary position in industry? If you go searching for ones, they frequently want lots of experience with pathology/toxicology, board certifications, experience with certain processes, or both a PhD and DVM. It seems difficult to break into industry even for a vet that might have great clinical experience.

  3. Todd May 11, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    Run from veterinary medicine while you can. The AVMA and schools are destroying this profession. It’s not worth it, in my opinion. Worst career decision I ever made.

    • Elliott May 14, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Todd. I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience with the profession so far, and I would love it if you would elaborate on it. One of the coolest things about our profession for me is the diversity of career tracks within it. If you’ve had some bad experiences in one area, what stopping you from branching out into something completely different? I hope that my site can help you figure out how to do just that, but feel free to contact me personally and we can brainstorm together too.

      • Jenko August 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

        Hey, I quite agree with you Elliott, there are several opportunities to branch out. For instance, I am in research/academia field in Africa, almost done with a PhD but I am considering less research intensive areas…honestly I see the opportunities there. In the case of Todd, the AVMA is a good marketing tool in the middle east, might be worthwhile to take a career break there, earn good money and have time to think about the way forward.

      • Elliott August 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

        Thanks for chiming in, Jenko. I would be interested in hearing more about your work and career path sometime!

  4. Richard Noel October 5, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Great info, and I agree with your optimism about the profession.

    • Elliott October 5, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      I’m glad to hear it, Richard! There are so many interesting ways that we can use our educations in meaningful ways.

  5. Allison November 21, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    As a first year vet student constantly reminded of the $300,000 price tag on my education, along with the mortgage-like loan payments, this post is a silver lining through the doom and gloom. Thank you for the motivational push- as always, I continue to enjoy the message that you put out there. Thank you!

    • Elliott November 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      Thanks for chiming in, Allison! I’m glad to be a positive voice, even as I try to remain realistic at the same time.

  6. Meow November 26, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    Thank you for this interesting post! I might sound a little backward: I have just received a full time position as a scientist in a pharmaceutical company. Meanwhile, I have also received some interview invitations for vet schools recently. Now I hesitate about whether if I should go for it (vet school). I want to be a lab animal vet, but now it’s almost like whether to take home $70K per year by working, versus owing $70k loan per year to go to vet school and then be panic to look for a job after graduate. What do you think?

    • Mariah February 24, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

      I would love to know what you chose to do. If it were me I would probably work for a few years to get the experience in if the research I was going to be doing was personal related. Then I would be a much candidate. I wonder if that was what you were thinking.

      • Mariah February 24, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

        If the research was Veterinary* related. (auto correct)

  7. Mariah February 24, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

    I’m very excited to attempt a dual degree DVM/PhD. I’ve only recently graduated from community college and was accepted to Temple where I will study Biology and Public Health. I don’t know whether I want to become a veterinary microbiologist or a public health veterinarian but ever since my first microbiology class I knew I was interested in pathogens, disease, and public health. I have been following you because I am interested in the Vet Corps and preparing to commission one day but the Health Care recruiters office in Cherry Hill, NJ has yet to answer my phone calls ): I need to know if ROTC is a good option for me or if I should wait until I further my education. I wish I could fast forward my life or see the future but figuring it out is definitely fun too. Also, I read almost everyday about my interests. I know that other people wait until too late to find certain information and regret their choices later or have regret. I feel being proactive puts me ahead of the crowd. I would like to speak to you one day even though I always read your blogs and podcasts when they come in my google searches. Thanks Dr. Elliot Garber. PS what is your rank these days or are you out?

    • Elliott April 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

      Thanks for these comments, Mariah. I had a tough time deciding on which path to take myself, but I’m glad I committed to veterinary medicine. It has given me a lot more diversity in experiences than I would have been able to have otherwise. I think ROTC is a great option, but it does come with a little risk that you might have to serve your four years before going back to grad school. I’m still a captain (O-3), but I’ll be in the zone for promotion to major this year.


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