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Attitudes toward becoming a veterinarian in a group of undergraduate agriculture and biomedical sciences students

Russell F. Daly DVM, DACVPM1 and Alan K. Erickson PhD2
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  • 1 Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007.
  • | 2 Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007.

Abstract

Objective—To assess the level of interest of university students enrolled in veterinary science courses toward becoming a veterinarian, reasons supporting or discouraging their interest, when those attitudes were formed, and future plans for those pursuing veterinary medicine as a career.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample—585 university students in South Dakota enrolled in 2 veterinary science courses over a 6-year period.

Procedures—Each year, students enrolled in the 2 courses answered survey questions pertaining to their interest in becoming a veterinarian, background, and future plans.

Results—Most students enrolled in these courses desired to become a veterinarian at some time in their lives. Females were more likely than males to indicate veterinary medicine as their current career choice. Most students developed their interest during grades 10 to 12. Females developed an interest in veterinary medicine earlier than did males. Enjoyment of animals, intellectual stimulation, and the opportunity to actively work outdoors were cited frequently as reasons for interest in veterinary medicine. Increased duration of education, high educational costs, and preveterinary coursework difficulty were major reasons for disinterest in becoming a veterinar-ian. Of students pursuing the profession, desired practice type correlated strongly with previous animal experience.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Considering that most students, especially males, developed their interest in veterinary medicine during grades 10 to 12, elementary school may be the best starting point for exposing students to veterinary medicine. To increase interest in large animal practice among students entering veterinary school, livestock experiences should be provided to children with no farm experience during their elementary, middle, and high school years. In our survey population, cost and duration of veterinary education had a significant negative influence on student interest in the profession.

Abstract

Objective—To assess the level of interest of university students enrolled in veterinary science courses toward becoming a veterinarian, reasons supporting or discouraging their interest, when those attitudes were formed, and future plans for those pursuing veterinary medicine as a career.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample—585 university students in South Dakota enrolled in 2 veterinary science courses over a 6-year period.

Procedures—Each year, students enrolled in the 2 courses answered survey questions pertaining to their interest in becoming a veterinarian, background, and future plans.

Results—Most students enrolled in these courses desired to become a veterinarian at some time in their lives. Females were more likely than males to indicate veterinary medicine as their current career choice. Most students developed their interest during grades 10 to 12. Females developed an interest in veterinary medicine earlier than did males. Enjoyment of animals, intellectual stimulation, and the opportunity to actively work outdoors were cited frequently as reasons for interest in veterinary medicine. Increased duration of education, high educational costs, and preveterinary coursework difficulty were major reasons for disinterest in becoming a veterinar-ian. Of students pursuing the profession, desired practice type correlated strongly with previous animal experience.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Considering that most students, especially males, developed their interest in veterinary medicine during grades 10 to 12, elementary school may be the best starting point for exposing students to veterinary medicine. To increase interest in large animal practice among students entering veterinary school, livestock experiences should be provided to children with no farm experience during their elementary, middle, and high school years. In our survey population, cost and duration of veterinary education had a significant negative influence on student interest in the profession.

Contributor Notes

Presented in part at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Summit, State College, Pa, June 2010.

The authors thank Amanda Oppold, Nicole Hanson, and Hannah Brockshus for assistance with data entry and Dr. Howard Wey for statistical assistance.

Address correspondence to Dr. Daly (russell.daly@sdstate.edu).