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Comparison of long-term financial implications for five veterinary career tracks

Meg E. GordonOffice of the Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

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James W. LloydOffice of the Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

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Donna L. Harris-KoberOffice of the Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

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Abstract

Objective—To compare present values of expected income streams for 5 distinct veterinary medical career tracks.

Design—Present value model.

Sample Population—AVMA survey data.

Procedures—Present values of expected income streams (net of debt repayment) were created and ranked. Sensitivity to each independent variable was assessed.

Results—Career present value at 34 years after graduation (CPV34) was highest for board-certified specialist (SP; $2,272,877), followed by practice owner (PO; $2,119,596), practice owner buying into practice after 10 years (PO-10; $1,736,333), SP working three-fouths time (SP3/4; $1,702,744), and general practitioner (GP; $1,221,131). Compared with CPV34 for SP, other career tracks yielded values of 93.3% (PO), 76.4% (PO-10), 74.9% (SP3/4), and 53.7% (GP). The model was robust to debt, interest rate, loan term, and discount rate but was sensitive to mean starting incomes and mean incomes.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Greatest return on time and money invested by a veterinary student is through practicing full-time as an SP or through being a PO. Being an SP or SP3/4 was substantially more lucrative than being a GP and was comparable to being a PO. Practice ownership and working as an SP3/4 may be options for balancing financial gain with free time. Specialty training and practice ownership may be career tracks with the best potential repayment options for veterinarians with a large educational debt. Regardless of the amount of debt, the type of practice, mean incomes in a particular field, personal lifestyle, and professional interests are important factors when deciding among career tracks.

Abstract

Objective—To compare present values of expected income streams for 5 distinct veterinary medical career tracks.

Design—Present value model.

Sample Population—AVMA survey data.

Procedures—Present values of expected income streams (net of debt repayment) were created and ranked. Sensitivity to each independent variable was assessed.

Results—Career present value at 34 years after graduation (CPV34) was highest for board-certified specialist (SP; $2,272,877), followed by practice owner (PO; $2,119,596), practice owner buying into practice after 10 years (PO-10; $1,736,333), SP working three-fouths time (SP3/4; $1,702,744), and general practitioner (GP; $1,221,131). Compared with CPV34 for SP, other career tracks yielded values of 93.3% (PO), 76.4% (PO-10), 74.9% (SP3/4), and 53.7% (GP). The model was robust to debt, interest rate, loan term, and discount rate but was sensitive to mean starting incomes and mean incomes.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Greatest return on time and money invested by a veterinary student is through practicing full-time as an SP or through being a PO. Being an SP or SP3/4 was substantially more lucrative than being a GP and was comparable to being a PO. Practice ownership and working as an SP3/4 may be options for balancing financial gain with free time. Specialty training and practice ownership may be career tracks with the best potential repayment options for veterinarians with a large educational debt. Regardless of the amount of debt, the type of practice, mean incomes in a particular field, personal lifestyle, and professional interests are important factors when deciding among career tracks.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Gordon's present address is 860 Cays Rd, Sequim, WA 98382.

Dr. Gordon was a third-year veterinary student at the time of the study.

Address correspondence to Dr. Lloyd (lloydj@cvm.msu.edu).