Employment Opportunities Outpace National Average

Veterinarian's Money Digest®January 2018
Volume 2
Issue 1

The job outlook for veterinarians is excellent, and veterinary schools are adapting to better prepare students.

The career landscape for incoming veterinarians is optimistic. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for veterinarians are set to climb 18 percent through 2026.1 Currently, the bureau estimates that there are 79,600 veterinary jobs across the country — a number that is expected to grow to nearly 95,000 by 2026. This expansion outpaces projections for the Bureau’s related category of health diagnosing and treating practitioners, which is estimated to grow by 16 percent, and more than doubles the average growth rate of 7 percent for all occupations.1

The anticipated increase in career opportunities will be a pleasant realization for graduates of veterinary medicine programs in the decade to come. Recent years have witnessed a steady influx of applicants at the country’s accredited veterinary colleges and universities, and the schools have begun to integrate nonmedical courses to better prepare future veterinarians for the business side of the profession.

Growing School Enrollment

Melinda Frye, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, associate dean of veterinary academic and student affairs at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, said the university’s veterinary medicine program — ranked among the top five in the country by U.S. News & World Report2 — has seen steady growth in applicants. “From 2014 to 2016, we ranged from 1,651 to 1,700 applicants, and in 2017 that number jumped to 2,183. This year we received 2,206 applications, [and] presently we have approximately 560 students,” she said.

A similar trend in growth is evident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, where Director of Admissions Jenna K. Henshue, MAEd, said the program has seen a moderate increase over the past five years in both applicants and admitted students. The class of 2021 currently has 96 students, with a total of 350 prospective veterinarians enrolled.

“Veterinary medicine offers a wide variety of rewarding career opportunities in many sectors of the profession, including clinical care, food security, public health and biomedical science,” said Andrew T. Maccabe, DVM, JD, MPH, chief executive officer of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.3 “Our responsibility to promote global health and well-being continues to grow, and it’s encouraging to see that we have a deep and talented pool of applicants who are willing to rise to the challenge.”

For the second year in a row, the association reported a year-over-year increase of more than 6 percent in veterinary school applicants.3 The total number of combined applications submitted to the 30 schools or colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States in 2017 was 36,638.

Broadening Curricula

At Colorado State University, the veterinary medicine program is preparing tomorrow’s veterinarians with an emphasis on One Health, a movement to forge all-inclusive collaborations with human and veterinary medicine. “We offer combined programs [and] have a one-credit required course in research,” Dr. Frye said. “This and other efforts aimed at exposing students to existing and emerging professional opportunities equip students to assume the increasingly broad array of professional roles for veterinarians today.”

With the continued growth of the veterinary field comes a new emphasis on providing students with financial and practice management skills that previous generations of veterinarians entered the workforce without. “We believe one-on-one advising best equips students to apply knowledge gained and to change financial decision making and behaviors,” Dr. Frye said. “In the third year, students complete a four-credit course on practice management and professional development. A few years ago, we developed an ad hoc professionalism group that developed ‘pillars of professionalism’ that are introduced to students at orientation. We emphasize well-being through college-wide initiatives, activities and curricular revisions aimed at integration and application.”

The University of Wisconsin’s veterinary program also focuses on addressing the nonmedical aspects of becoming a well-rounded veterinarian, according to Henshue. “Recent curricular and co-curricular initiatives have included further development of students’ wellness knowledge and skills, including both mental health and financial literacy,” she said.


  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational outlook handbook: veterinarians. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website. www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm#tab-1. Modified October 24, 2017. Accessed December 18, 2017.
  • U.S. News & World Report. Best veterinary medicine programs. U.S. News & World Report website. usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/veterinarian-rankings. Published 2015. Accessed December 18, 2017.
  • AAVMC reports applicant pool for veterinary college up 6 percent over last year [press release]. Washington, DC: AAVMC. aavmc.org/PressRelease/?id=406. Published November 21, 2017. Accessed December 18, 2017.
  • VMD staff. Top 9 highest-paying countries for veterinarians. Veterinarian’s Money Digest® website. vmdtoday.com/finance/top-9-highestpaying-countries-for-veterinarians. Published February 13, 2017. Accessed December 18, 2017.
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