Across the US, a shortage of veterinary specialties and a host of other factors have increased job opportunities in veterinary care.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the BLS, the employment outlook for veterinarians is projected to rise 19% by 2031, making it one of the fastest-growing industries/occupations in the country. Over the next decade, up to 4,800 veterinarian jobs are projected to be open to qualified candidates across the country.
Within the same period, job opportunities for vet technicians are also projected to rise by at least 20%.
According to the assistant professor at Ross Vet, Dr. Andrea Peda, there is an ever-growing need for veterinary specialties and is not limited to one specialty. Medicine, biomedical research, and shelter medicine are among the many branches that are among demanded jobs in the veterinary care industry.
The demand for vets and specialists in veterinary care directly affects the increasing pet care industry, which was valued at $86.8 billion in 2021, among other factors, and this figure is expected to rise.
An increase in pet-related spending is the top driving force in demand for vets.
More than 70% of American families have a pet of some kind, spurring the pet care industry to an $86.8 billion industry in 2021. Dogs and cats account for the highest number of pets in the US – with 2 out of 5 families having a pet dog and 1 in 3 families having a cat for a pet.
Recent data reveals that pet expenses by an average American household are $1,332 a year and is projected to hit a CAGR of 5.3% by 2025. Pet owners in America also pushed the pet insurance industry to more than $1.99 billion in 2020 in written premiums alone. This enables pet owners to secure top treatment from specialists for their pets.
Traditionally, veterinarians are primarily involved in diagnosing and treating pets and animals. However, there is a shift in the treatment of animals. The treatment options for pets in veterinary care have also increased with the advances in technology and healthcare.
New technology and treatment options in diagnostics enable veterinarians and specialists to treat pet diseases that were not common a couple of decades ago. This means specializing in oncology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, cardiology, and orthopedics for pets’ holistic treatment and well-being.
As Dr. Joan Hendricks, Dean of UPenn’s vet school, says, “veterinarian’s job is really to care for the entire humanity by taking care of animals; we often talk about only one health – but there’s human, animal and environment and we serve all of that.”
Along with the increase in pet owners and their spending, the demand for vets and specialists increases exponentially. Depending on the role and specialty, the salaries of vets, technicians, and specialists can reach up to six figures.
The demand for vets in the US is so high that it is not uncommon for graduate students to hold two jobs straight out of college. The shortfall of veterinarians and specialists is not excluded from private practices but from universities as well.
Dr. Calvin Johnson, a board-certified anatomic pathologist, says that demand for veterinary care specialists are not limited to one department or branch. “Every specialist in high demand.” He says. “Most veterinary colleges constantly search for a specialist – through multiple search methods.”
Similarly, Dr. Cathy Carlson at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine shared her experience in saying that pathologists with research degrees and experience are extremely difficult to recruit.
Several heads of veterinary colleges also reveal their frustration of searching unsuccessfully for specialists in cardiology, neurology, ology, and experts in diagnostic imaging.
The AVMA attributes the shortages of vets and specialties to a lack of residency training programs.
The US is among the countries that are adding vets and specialists to the workforce at a very fast pace, with up to 47,693 veterinarians currently employed. However, only a fraction of them falls into the specialist category meaning that the demand exceeds the supply by a long shot.
“We don’t have the capacity at present to train enough radiologists to meet the demand,” said Dr. Drost at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Staffing problems are also cited as one of the main reasons for shortages in veterinary care.
As Dr. Louis DelGiudice, National Emergency Specialty Director, shares that in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, stories of emergency veterinary clinics shutting down or turning away their furry patients have been rampant across the country, which has been a very sad thing.
An increasing number of veterinarians and specialists in veterinary care are also dealing with burnout and concerns for their mental health, leading to high turnover.
Among veterinary students, their challenges include dealing with an endless amount of information, the rigors of training, and vet school expenses.
A recent report states that an additional 41,000 and 133,000 vet techs are required to fill the workforce in the United States, meaning that aspiring veterinarians and specialists have a lot of career options.
Despite the challenges, experts in the veterinary industry are making every effort to increase the workforce.
For instance, the American Veterinary Medical Association has teamed up with the Veterinary Medical Association Executives with an innovative multi-year program called Journey for Teams to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion in the veterinary profession in the US.
Aspirants in veterinary medicine are also constantly empowered by experts through training and conferences in veterinary care that are held annually – virtual, in-person, and hybrid.
The BLS also projects that employment opportunities for aspiring vets and specialists in veterinary care are also increasing because of treatment options available to pets and the aging pet population.
As more families in the US and pet owners consider pets as part of their family, the job opportunities for veterinarians, technicians, assistants, and specialists in veterinary care will continue to increase. The demand for animal companion care and increased spending on pet care will also drive the work demand for those who love working with animals and making a career out of it.