For those of us entering the veterinary field, with soaring tuition and paltry starting salaries, the current Presidential candidates’ lack of attention towards postgraduate education is alarming. Undergraduate college credits? Extended Pell grants? Great, wonderful. But for those of us going past college into veterinary school, where average four-year loans for tuition and bare-minimum living expenses is anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000…what are you going to do about us?
After graduation with a loan amount of $120,000 (the average – out of state students pay double that), the average 10 year repayment plan requires about a $1,700 per month.
Now, let’s consider the salary of a newly graduated veterinarian: around 50-60k a year.
Tack on over 20k a year in loan repayments and you’re earning 30k for a four year professional medical degree. This is no where close to the kind of expenses that you have to incur during college, including the cost for History tuition in Singapore and other expenses.
Are you serious? Why is no one doing anything about this?
It is no wonder that veterinarians are inexorably drawn to only the most lucrative areas such as urban and suburban small animal medicine. Equine medicine is struggling to remain stable. Food animal medicine has plummeted, and we can only imagine how that will eventually affect the food supply. The James Herriot days are over friends – you’ll be scraping by pulling that trick. Graduating veterinarians are realizing that the amount of debt we are in because of excessive tuition is dramatically affecting our job choices.
It is actually combination of tuition inflation and starting salaries that don’t reflect what we did to get this degree. We are doctors./ We aren’t technicians, we aren’t assistants. We spent 40 hours a week in class and 30 hours outside of it studying and working. We are surgeons, anesthetists, dentists, counselors, general practitioners, pediatricians, obstetrician/gynecologists, optometrists, researchers, educators, safety inspectors and just about everything in between.
Whenever people complain about how much it costs at the vet, I grind my teeth. First of all, nitwits, it is because you have health insurance – that’s why you don’t have to pay for much. A blood panel for a person costs hundreds of dollars – for an animal, we’re talking double digits. It IS cheaper than yours – but all you see is the numbers. You know why we need to charge for things at these prices? Because we need to make out payments for our X- ray and anesthesia machines. We need to pay our technicians, assistants, receptionists, and assistant veterinarians. We need to be able to afford all of the medical equipment like instruments, needles, cages, vaccines, suture, disinfectants, medications, all the things that allows us to perform quality medicine so that YOUR animal, be it a horse, dog, cat, goat, rabbit, or bird gets the care it needs. We don’t do it to line our pockets. We do it to keep the clinic afloat. Look at the average salaries for veterinarians. Starting salaries average around 50 to 60k. Most established veterinarians are in the 70-80 K dollar range, minus the huge chunk (as much as 20K) that is deducted to pay back loans.
So: general public, presidential candidates, education boards: stop ignoring us! We aren’t just the puppy and kitten docs. We inspect your dairy and meat cattle to make sure you don’t get sick. We participate heavily in the reduction of animal-to-human transmissible diseases. We are involved in laboratory animal research to use animals as models for human disease. And we treat such a huge variety of conditions for every species of companion animal that it blows my mind, and I’m not even technically done with school yet.