5 tips for rewarding job searches

dvm360dvm360 May 2024
Volume 55
Issue 5
Pages: 60

Understanding your choices and reviewing options are important for securing the right fit

Veterinary job search

Photo: Katcha/Adobe Stock

Wherever you are in your veterinary career, looking for a new job can be simultaneously exciting and daunting. There’s a lot to consider—much more than just what kind of work you like and what type of position you want. From geography to lifestyle to workplace culture, many factors influence what position ultimately will give you the greatest satisfaction. Here are some tips to guide you, along with recent data and resources from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) that can aid you in understanding and reviewing your choices.


The wealth of veterinary job opportunities across the nation makes geography a good starting point for any job search. Certain locations may appeal for personal reasons—like family and social support, climate, recreational opportunities, cultural amenities, and overall quality of life. There also are practical considerations, including the local job market, cost of living, housing expenses, and commuting needs or options. Indeed, the same compensation has different purchasing power and supports a different standard of living depending on where you are.

For help with the practical part, or simply to sate your curiosity, the AVMA’s new online JobFIT tool (avma.org/JobFIT) for job seekers can help. This free tool lets you see veterinary jobs across the country, juxtaposed with local data such as housing prices, cost of living, and more. The information is displayed in map form and you can zoom in to view at the county, community, or even neighborhood level.

Mentorship and onboarding

Another important factor to consider in evaluating job options is the amount of support you can expect while transitioning into your new role. In fact, mentorship is the No. 1 reason new veterinarians accept a particular job offer1 and it can be an important component of onboarding programs for new team members at any experience level. Both can be key to setting you up for success and happiness in a new role. Therefore, it’s worth asking potential employers (1) whether they have a mentorship or onboarding program, (2) what that program consists of, and (3) when and how your mentorship or onboarding will be revisited and reviewed.

A strong mentorship program starts with an agreement between the mentor and mentee that includes clearly defined goals, such as building the mentee’s skills, confidence, and competency. A strong onboarding program will have a well-defined plan and outline the activities and goals for the employee over a specified period. This should include whatever the newcomer needs to thrive in their role, such as staff introductions, a designated onboarding buddy, a facility tour, clear role expectations, gaining clinical experience, training where needed (eg, new medical records software), and access to the resources needed to perform effectively. Discover what is effective onboarding and how to implement it in the CE webinar, Onboarding on Purpose, at avma.org/Axon. It’s the first in a series that explores how to join a new team and advocate for your needs as a new employee.

For additional support outside the workplace, free mentoring is available to any AVMA member in their first 10 years as a veterinarian through the MentorVet Connect program. Find out more at avma.org/Mentor.

Compensation and benefits

Our earnings and benefits are important to our financial health, job satisfaction, well-being, and ability to pay off any student loans. Yet job seekers and employees alike often are uncertain about what compensation and benefits are appropriate based on skills, qualifications, location, and other factors. Benchmark data can help.

Compensation and benefits can be compared with industry averages or summaries to help you gauge the competitiveness of a job offer or your current compensation. In addition to JobFIT, where job postings may feature potential salary ranges and benefits, these resources can offer important insights:

  • The AVMA’s salary estimator for early-career veterinarians (avma.org/SalaryEstimator) provides potential salary ranges based on different scenarios. This gives a rough idea of what the average veterinarian in their first 10 years after graduation might receive under specific circumstances.
  • The AVMA 2024 Report on the Economic State of the Veterinary Profession2—free to AVMA members—includes information on the various types of benefits veterinarians receive and on compensation in various types of roles and practices.

This information is just a start. It is also important to consider what matters to you in terms of lifestyle and other personal preferences. For example, a job seeker with multiple dependents may highly value an employer that provides health and dental insurance covering the whole family. A veterinarian who wants more control over their earning potential may prefer production-based compensation over straight salary. For help navigating the different compensation schemes, visit avma.org/JobNegotiation.

Work-life balance and schedule

AVMA surveys have shown repeatedly that work-life balance is important to many veterinarians1,2 and that hours worked can be a pain point, with long hours associated with lower satisfaction and burnout.3,4 Don’t be afraid to seek or negotiate a work schedule that supports your health, well-being, and preferred lifestyle. Flexible work schedules are now featured in many job postings in the AVMA Veterinary Career Center, and some employers even offer remote work.

While negotiating a work schedule, keep in mind that this may impact other aspects of your compensation package. A job seeker who agrees to work 3 days per week will likely find that they’re compensated at a lower rate or receive fewer benefits than someone working 5 days per week.

People and culture

One final—but critical—factor for job seekers to consider is the people and workplace culture of potential employers. A welcoming, collegial, and supportive environment can go a long way toward fostering your own sense of well-being, belonging, and satisfaction.

Once you have narrowed down your list of job opportunities, a great way to determine which opportunity might be the best fit for you is to spend some time with the employer, getting to know the people who work there, how they interact, how a normal day runs, and how the general workplace culture feels. Be sure to ask for details on team-building efforts and how the team strives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

A special note for employers

The AVMA offers several resources that can help employers attract and retain staff.5 To keep wages competitive and promote retention, employers are encouraged to factor in the cost of living in their area (as can be found in the AVMA JobFIT tool).


  1. Bain B, Ouedraogo FB, Hansen C. Wellbeing. In: 2023 AVMA Report on the Economic State of the Veterinary Profession. American Veterinary Medical Association; 2023:31-34.
  2. Doherty C, McKay C, Ouedraogo FB. 2024 AVMA Report on the Economic State of the Veterinary Profession. American Veterinary Medical Association; 2023.
  3. AVMA Trust. AVMA Trust 2022 Trend Report: U.S. Veterinarians’ Work-Life Experience. 2022. Accessed April 5, 2024. https://avma.avmaplit.com/acton/fs/blocks/showLandingPage/a/43421/p/p-00d3/t/page/fm/0
  4. Ouedraogo FB, Lefebvre SL, Hansen CR, Brorsen BW. Compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress among full-time veterinarians in the United States (2016-2018). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2021;258(11):1259-1270. doi:10.2460/javma.258.11.1259
  5. AVMA Veterinary Economics Division staff. How to attract and keep staff in a job seeker’s market. Dvm360. July 12, 2023. Accessed March 25, 2024. https://www.dvm360.com/view/how-to-attract-and-keep-staff-in-a-job-seeker-s-market

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