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Trends in gender, employment, salary, and debt of graduates of US veterinary medical schools and colleges

Carla Chieffo VMD, PhD1, Alan M. Kelly BVSc, PhD2, and James Ferguson VMD3
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  • 1 Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, New Bolton Center, Kennett Square, PA 19348
  • | 2 Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, New Bolton Center, Kennett Square, PA 19348
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, New Bolton Center, Kennett Square, PA 19348

Abstract

Objective—To characterize trends in gender, employment, starting salaries, and educational debt of graduates of US veterinary medical schools and colleges from 1988 to 2007.

Design—Meta-analysis.

Sample Population—Veterinary medical graduates from 26 or 27 of 27 US veterinary schools and colleges from 1988 through 2007.

Procedures—Data were obtained from surveys published in the JAVMA. A χ2 test for trend was used to analyze trends in choices of employment and educational indebtedness for the veterinary graduate populations over time.

Results—The greatest changes in employment occurred in predominantly large animal practice, which attracted 10.7% of new graduates in 1989 but only 2.2% in 2007, and in advanced study, which attracted 15.2% of new graduates in 1989 and 36.8% in 2007. In 2007, 75% of graduates were women, but this gender shift was not associated with the decline in the percentage of graduates entering rural practice. From 1989 through 2007, starting salaries in private practice increased at a rate of 4.60%/y. During the same period, educational debt increased at an annual rate of 7.36%, or 60% higher than the rate of increases for starting salaries. As a result, debt at graduation increased from 1.1 times the starting salary in 1989 to 2.0 times the starting salary in 2007.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Veterinary students are now more in debt than they have ever been. This trend together with a substantial increase in the rate of interest charged for government-backed education loans create conditions for new graduates that appear unsustainable.

Abstract

Objective—To characterize trends in gender, employment, starting salaries, and educational debt of graduates of US veterinary medical schools and colleges from 1988 to 2007.

Design—Meta-analysis.

Sample Population—Veterinary medical graduates from 26 or 27 of 27 US veterinary schools and colleges from 1988 through 2007.

Procedures—Data were obtained from surveys published in the JAVMA. A χ2 test for trend was used to analyze trends in choices of employment and educational indebtedness for the veterinary graduate populations over time.

Results—The greatest changes in employment occurred in predominantly large animal practice, which attracted 10.7% of new graduates in 1989 but only 2.2% in 2007, and in advanced study, which attracted 15.2% of new graduates in 1989 and 36.8% in 2007. In 2007, 75% of graduates were women, but this gender shift was not associated with the decline in the percentage of graduates entering rural practice. From 1989 through 2007, starting salaries in private practice increased at a rate of 4.60%/y. During the same period, educational debt increased at an annual rate of 7.36%, or 60% higher than the rate of increases for starting salaries. As a result, debt at graduation increased from 1.1 times the starting salary in 1989 to 2.0 times the starting salary in 2007.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Veterinary students are now more in debt than they have ever been. This trend together with a substantial increase in the rate of interest charged for government-backed education loans create conditions for new graduates that appear unsustainable.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Chieffo.