There are way more veterinarians than there is work for them to do, according to a recent survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association, as the nation's veterinary schools continue to crank out graduates.
A report from the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates the supply exceeds the demand by the equivalent of 11,250 full-time vets.
"There is a palpable tension," says Christopher Byers of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. "Right now, as a profession, we have so many veterinarians who are not being utilized to their full capacity. And now it is our job to figure out why that is and to come up with ways to rectify that."
He says vets don't have high unemployment, but the underemployment is significant. More than half say their practices are not at full capacity owing to a variety of factors, including that the sour economy has led many to forgo pet ownership as well as preventive care. "There are a lot of veterinarians having big red flags go up in their head, questioning why we have more opportunities for veterinary training when the demand isn't there," Byers says.In case you didn't know (I didn't), there are around 61,000 employed veterinarians in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Having a 17% surplus seems a bit high, but I'm no labor economist.
I think it is worth noting that veterinarians may not be the best source of unbiased information (i.e. they have their interests, too -- low unemployment, full offices, higher wages.) That said, I was rather amused to read the justifications from a veterinary school administrator:
So now, the schools are in a bind — tuition money on one side, market realities on the other. Dan Givens, an interim dean at Auburn University, says veterinary medicine is a calling that attracts people no matter the economics. And, he says, given public health threats, too much talent in the workforce has upsides.
"If we had a new foreign animal disease come into the United States, the excess capacity would be a great blessing for us, because we would be prepared for this huge surge in need," Givens says.I'm so pleased that our (expensive, unnecessary (?), ineffective) insurance policy for a new foreign animal disease is the wasted human capital represented by underemployed veterinarians. Yay.