Should I go to vet school?

Should I go to vet school?  Where?  When?

Answering these questions for the kids in the practices where I worked led me to put together these tuition sheets  showing publicly for the first time, how much it costs start to finish to obtain a DVM in North America. Shameless plug- this fall's update will include the EU/AU/NZ schools!  This set of spreadsheets has now gotten over 32,000 views on SDN, The Student Doctor Network, where you can also read this interview.  

 So, if the economics are ugly and the job prospects are dismal- how can the amount of time, effort and money it takes to get into and through vet school possibly be justified? 

Veterinary medicine is, and to me always will be, the most wonderful possible marriage of art and science.  People and animals are a magic combination, one that weaves a rich, strong and beautiful tapestry that stretches back to the cave paintings at Lascaux, and will stretch as far forward.  The next twenty years will be hard, don't get me wrong, hard for all of us in veterinary medicine.  Ultimately both we and the society we serve will be the better for it.
You can get into the profession and establish yourself and make a decent living- maybe even a really good one.  The odds are against it but there are actions you can take along the way to tip the odds in your favor.  So if you think you want to join the profession of veterinary medicine, I won't tell you not to.  I will tell you that
2) LIVE POOR for a while
3) HAVE A PLAN but
Before you get into vet school see if you can
  • Put it off a few years to save up 
  • Join the military
  • Learn spanish and get into UNAM
  • Move to another state and establish residency
  • Move to Canada and establish residency- very difficult but they graduate with little debt and can come to the US
  • Price overseas schools- many are cheaper than non-resident US tuition; try to find one that still guarantees your tuition won't go up while you're in school
  • Earn in the summers: work the pipeline, frack shale, dig graves, be a nanny
  • Pursue a dual degree- many PhD/DVM programs offer a stipend and a tuition waver
While you're in school try
  • Getting a scholarship- I got an AABP Amstutz Scholarship, as well as several others. 
  • Working nights, weekends and holidays
  • Having two, three, four roommates
  • Buying clothes at goodwill
  • Sharing books
  • Eating all the free meals you can, courtesy of the dog food companies and student clubs
  • Living on tuna mac if there's no free meal
  • Doing without a car
  • Doing without trips home 
  • Doing without (fill in the blank)
  • Doing whatever it takes
2) LIVE POOR until you have debt paid off, whether it is student loans, practice loans, house loans or car loans.  Think staycations and more tuna mac. Put off getting a pet.  Put off having kids.  Then continue to live poor until you have some money in the bank.
3) HAVE A PLAN NOW.  Very, very few will be able to make a living as a regular general practice associate fresh out of school.  
  • Start finding your niche while you are in school.  Seek out additional experiences, go to office hours of your favorite profs and ask questions, be in clubs, be on teams, take summer internships, do extra reading, get involved in research- anything that give you an edge.  
  • Start defining and developing the skills that make you more productive for whoever hires you.  
  • Identify who might hire you.  Start networking now.  Spend time getting in touch with and keeping in touch with, people who know and do cool stuff in diverse fields.
  • Get and use some financial management skills.  Know how to figure out what you're worth, at home and on the job.  Know how to negotiate a contract, and know how to ask the boss for a raise.  Owners make a lot more than associates.  Learn the business skills that will make you successful as an owner.   You need to know what a pnl is.You need to be able to generate one, and understand how what you do affects it.
Now, having said all that, no battle plan survives the battle.  You probably will not do at graduation what you thought you would.  Be prepared to relocate, take a job in another field, take a job that has serious things about it you don't like.  Learn how to work productively with people and policies that you don't like and have no control over.  
Despite grim odds and scary financials, the veterinary profession is still be a fulfilling career, a rewarding job that offers a full and satisfying life.  You can be 
  • a practice owner with partners who share your vision, watching your practice grow and flourish over the years. 
  • a caregiver, saving lives and alleviating suffering.  
  • an industry executive, bringing products and services to market to improve peoples' lives and make shareholders happy. 
  • a researcher making new discoveries- or discovering completely new fields of academic endeavor.  
  • a teacher watching the light bulbs come on over students' heads when they finally 'get it'- whatever it is- and swelling with pride as their accomplishments improve their lives and the lives of countless animals over the years- because of you.
It is hard.  
It's easier if you avoid debt, live poor at first, plan constantly and stay flexible along the way.  
Good luck, and let me know how I can help!


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Showing 12 reactions

commented 2019-02-07 10:22:33 -0500 · Flag
Thank you for that info .

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commented 2017-07-26 04:48:19 -0400 · Flag
Please guide me about the school and all tips for the betterment in the life of the students. The inclusive terms have been argued for the visits of for vital teems for the future times. Now it has been engaged on the pretext of the historical terms for the people.
commented 2017-07-26 04:48:17 -0400 · Flag
Please guide me about the school and all tips for the betterment in the life of the students. The inclusive terms have been argued for the visits of for vital teems for the future times. Now it has been engaged on the pretext of the historical terms for the people.
commented 2016-12-08 15:42:35 -0500 · Flag
The questions would be a) are the answers available by request? b) if not, why?

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commented 2016-10-23 05:34:15 -0400 · Flag
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commented 2016-06-09 08:17:34 -0400 · Flag
Really a nice post.

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commented 2015-01-02 12:14:29 -0500 · Flag
Thank you for that info
commented 2013-02-25 08:14:16 -0500 · Flag
The questions would be a) are the answers available by request? b) if not, why?
commented 2013-02-25 08:11:39 -0500 · Flag
The answers do not seem to be on the VIRMP website. I have no idea how to get the answers other than putting the questions to the VIRMP. Perhaps the author of the terrific NY Times article could contact them?
commented 2013-02-25 06:20:46 -0500 · Flag
Julio, those are great comments. If you can’t find the answers here maybe we can work together to get them. Interested? Let me know [email protected]
followed this page 2013-02-24 19:40:57 -0500
commented 2013-02-24 19:40:35 -0500 · Flag
Why is there no transparency for VIRMP data?
How many applicants per for x number of defined slots?
Percent acceptance rate?
Accepted applicant profiles (vet school, GPA, class rank, etc)?
Percent who complete an internship and/or residency?
Percent employed after internship/ residency training and salary ranges?
Just vet data
Uphold the standards of veterinary medicine