Most starting salaries are up for new veterinarians, but the number of graduates who received job offers by the time they graduated has dropped, according to an American Veterinary Medical Association survey.
For instance, 79.5 percent of respondents received an offer of employment or advanced education by their graduation date in 2009, down about 11.5 percent from the class of 2008. The AVMA attributes the decline to the economy. Of those who received an offer, nearly half received more than one. Eighty-four percent of those seeking employment accepted an offer.
The average starting salary among all employer types combined increased 0.7 percent, from $48,328 in 2008 to $48,684 in 2009, according to the survey.
Excluding those who continued their education through advanced study, the average starting salary increased 5.2 percent, from $61,633 in 2008 to $64,826 in 2009.
When looking at various employer types, the average starting salary in the public-corporate sector decreased 7.3 percent in 2009 while the average starting salary in all types of private practice increased 6 percent. Average starting salaries in the private sector, excluding those for equine practices, ranged from $63,172 for food animal predominant positions to $72,318 for food animal exclusive positions, according to the survey.
Graduates entering equine practice were offered an average starting salary of $37,854 in 2009, a decrease of 9.1 percent from the year-ago period.
The average starting salary in companion animal exclusive practices was $69,154 in 2009, which was second highest only to food animal exclusive starting salaries, according to the survey.
The survey also included information about continuing education. For example, the proportion of graduates seeking advanced education increased by 9 percent from 2008. Other graduates, about 38.1 percent, sought postgraduate education or training in an AVMA-recognized, board-certified specialty.
Overall, the AVMA said that the survey results paint a positive picture for those entering the profession, but they remain concerned about student debt upon graduation. For instance, the survey revealed that 88.6 percent of students had debt at the time of their graduation from veterinary school, and all but 9.6 percent of that debt was incurred while the students were in veterinary school.
Average debt increased 8.5 percent between 2008 and 2009, with student debt averaging $129,976 in 2009, compared with $119,803 in 2008. Almost a third of the students had an average debt more than $150,000, according to the survey.
The AVMA, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and other veterinary groups are working to find ways to alleviate some of the financial burden these new graduates face, said Ron DeHaven, DVM, chief executive officer of the AVMA.
“Most students graduate college with debt,” Dr. DeHaven said. “That’s a reality of life. But we need to focus on ways to help students minimize and manage that debt while also working to increase their starting salaries. This is especially true for new veterinarians who commit to working in some of the nation’s most underserved areas.”
The survey results appear in the Sept. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in an article titled, “Employment, starting salaries and educational indebtedness of year 2009 graduates of U.S. veterinary colleges.”