Today's post was inspired by an article written by David Segal for the New York Times. This article is long but it contains a lot of valuable information for those considering becoming a vet. Click here for the full article.
I think that it is is extremely sad that anyone that wants to work with animals gets paid so little. The cost of becoming a vet is extremely high while the starting salaries are relatively average for the general work force. DVMs are coming out of school with their debt to income ratio at 3:1. That is insane.
Photo courtesy of wikicommons
In the article, Segal states that the need for vets is declining in this country. While there are communities that are in desperate need of vets, most of the people in those communities are unable to afford vet care. A vet can see a need in a small, rural community and move there to open a practice, only to find out that the people coming to see them cannot afford to pay. I'm sure that the vet wants to help and offer their services for free, but with student loan debt approaching $300,000, they are not really in a position to do so. This reminds me of the book Water for Elephants, when the main character is left with nothing after his parents die because his dad was a vet and had been accepting vegetables from people's gardens for payment.
I think there needs to be a total overhaul of all animal related jobs. Choosing to work with animals should not be a financial death sentence. Sure, you can choose not to go to school and try to get a job working at a zoo (not as a vet) but most job postings nowadays specify that a bachelor's degree is preferred and desired. With the amount of competition for all zoo jobs, it might take a while to land a zoo job without a degree. The reality is that most zoo professionals are highly educated, highly skilled individuals. Long gone are the days when zookeepers were all burly men hired only to do physical labor. The zookeeping profession now involves daily animal training, enrichment and behavioural studies as well as knowing the warning signs of animal illnesses.
If you are able to come out of school with no debt then you can probably survive on these salaries. I know that people with debt still survive on these salaries but they often have credit collectors knocking on their door. Personally, I don't want to just survive, I want to get ahead and therefore had to leave the zoo profession, at least until I get my student loans paid off. People working with animals either need to be paid more or there needs to be more education about not taking out student loans for school. Something has got to change.