Veterinary student debt: How much is too much?
Q: Considering the low pay of starting salaries for veterinarians, how much debt should a student take on?
There isn’t just one rule of thumb that works for everybody, says Dr. Karen Felsted, CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. Some say you shouldn’t borrow more than your anticipated first year’s salary. Dr. Felsted says that’s a tough theory to apply to veterinary students. For example, a starting salary at an equine private practice may not look very promising but after your first year you could be making more than most in the veterinary profession. When it comes to student debt, Dr. Felsted says there are five crucial factors to consider:
1. What do you want out of life?
2. How much will that lifestyle cost?
3. What kind of work schedule would you prefer: part-time or full-time?
4. Do you plan on getting married and utilizing two sets of income?
5. How old do you want to be when you retire?
Students need to start thinking about these things at a young age, Dr. Felsted says, because once you’re in veterinary school there’s really no going back.
She suggests setting goals before heading to the bank for a loan. “A lot of goals are about money,” Dr. Felsted says. “For example, buying a house, a car, or raising children.”
After determining what kind of lifestyle you want, set a budget and decide how much money you can afford to borrow.