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For year-2019 graduates of US veterinary medical schools and colleges who had accepted a full-time position in private, public, or corporate practice or an advanced education program (n = 2,375), mean starting annual salary was $70,045. Excluding salaries for individuals who were pursuing advanced education, mean starting annual salary for graduates who had accepted a full-time position in private, public, or corporate practice was $86,031.
For the 2,720 year-2019 graduates who reported information on debt, mean educational debt accumulated during veterinary school was $149,877 (median, $156,597). Mean educational debt for the 2,224 (81.8%) year-2019 graduates who had educational debt was $183,302, compared with a mean of $183,014 for year-2018 graduates who had educational debt. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2020;257:292–297)
For year 2021 graduates of US veterinary medical schools and colleges who had accepted a full-time position in a private or public practice or an advanced education program (n = 2,448), mean starting annual salary was $80,844. Excluding salaries for individuals who were pursuing advanced education, mean starting annual salary for graduates who had accepted a full-time position in a private or public practice was $98,088.
For the 2,771 year 2021 graduates who reported information on debt, mean educational debt accumulated during veterinary school was $156,221 (median, $160,000). Mean educational debt for the 2,322 year 2021 graduates who had educational debt was $186,430, compared with a mean of $188,853 for year 2020 graduates who had educational debt.
Mean full-time starting salary among all types of employers combined (private, public, or corporate practice and advanced education programs) was $65,896 in 2018. Excluding salaries for graduates pursuing advanced education, the mean full-time starting salary was $82,425.
Mean educational debt accumulated during veterinary school for all respondents (n = 2,758) in 2018 was $152,358 (median, $159,000). Mean educational debt among the 82.7% of respondents who had debt (n = 2,280) was $183,014 in 2018, an increase of 9.8%, compared with the 2017 value.
To determine whether career choice and starting salary of new DVM graduates in the US were associated with their educational debt accrued during veterinary school.
Up to 48,527 fourth-year students at US veterinary schools who responded to the AVMA Senior Survey in 2001 through 2021 and accepted a full-time position or advanced education opportunity.
To determine whether career choice was associated with educational debt, multiple linear regression was performed, controlling for graduation year, gender, age, marital status, having children, tuition level, and school location. The correlation between educational debt and starting salary was also determined.
On average, mean educational debt increased by $6,110 each successive year. A mean of 60.5% of respondents accepted positions in private practice (public practice, 3.3%; advanced education, 36.2%). Respondents choosing public practice had a mean of $24,913 less debt than those choosing advanced education, controlling for other factors. Respondents choosing public practice also had less debt than those choosing private practice, but debt did not differ significantly between private practice and advanced education. The correlation between educational debt and starting salary was significant but low (r = 0.177).
Findings suggested that the amount of debt incurred during veterinary school was associated with new veterinarians’ career paths. Notably, graduates with higher debt levels appeared to seek higher paying jobs or clinical training that might lead to higher paying jobs, leaving public practice—a field in which critical needs have been identified—underrepresented despite the availability of loan forgiveness programs and other incentives.
To characterize and compare fourth-year students of US veterinary schools graduating with and without related educational debt (ie, DVM debt) from 2001 through 2020.
45,756 fourth-year veterinary students who participated in the annual AVMA Senior Survey from 2001 through 2020.
Survey data were summarized for variables hypothesized to be associated with DVM debt. Multivariable modeling was used to investigate associations between these variables and the likelihood of graduating with DVM debt.
Mean DVM debt increased fairly steadily from $56,824 in 2001 (n = 1,587) to $157,146 in 2020 (2,859). Of 45,756 students, 6,129 (13.4%) had no DVM debt. Attending Tuskegee University and having children (both men and women) were associated with an increased likelihood of DVM debt. Attending certain other veterinary schools and more recent survey year were associated with a decreased likelihood. For 2020, the likelihood of DVM debt decreased with increasing percentage of tuition paid by family and increased with increasing percentage of tuition paid by educational loans, being a woman with children, and increasing total cost of attendance. No association was found with state cost of living index or per capita income.
Results suggested a growing rift between US veterinary students who cannot afford tuition and fees without accumulating financially concerning levels of debt and those who have the financial ability or family situation to fully fund veterinary school. Efforts should be undertaken to recruit across socioeconomic statuses and provide meaningful scholarships to students with greatest financial needs to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in veterinary medicine.