Survey shows—Veterinarians really like their jobs
and are a pretty happy bunch
(Schaumburg, Ill.) October 29, 2008—There is no way of knowing how many little boys and girls dream of growing up to be veterinarians … but it’s a whole lot. A recent survey of the profession shows that kids have got it right, veterinarians love their jobs.
The 2007 Member Needs Assessment, conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), surveyed members regarding job satisfaction and happiness. That data was then compared to existing job satisfaction data taken from a study published by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago in 2007. That comparison revealed that veterinarians have a very high level of job satisfaction (3.55), just behind Clergy (3.79), teachers (3.61) and psychologists (3.59), but above physicians (3.47) and lawyers (3.33). The average rating in the NORC study for all jobs was 3.30, which makes veterinarians well above average.
“To state it as simply as possible, I’d say that veterinarians just like their jobs,” explained Dr. Robert A. Dietl, chair of the AVMA Membership Services Committee. “Veterinary medicine is very diversified, so there are many opportunities to find your niche. If I got out of veterinary school and tried large animal medicine out in the country and I didn’t like it, I could try small animal veterinary medicine, or research, academia or I could go into corporate medicine. There are a lot of opportunities in veterinary medicine, so you don’t get pigeonholed in a career you don’t enjoy.”
“There is a great deal of innate integrity in the profession,” explains Dr. Charles M. Hendrix, former AVMA vice president and former chair of the AVMA Wellness Committee. “Studies have shown that veterinarians are highly respected by the communities they serve. People like us a lot, and that can make you happy.”
Another interesting detail to come out of the AVMA study is that the veterinarians with the highest job satisfaction are food animal veterinarians (3.69). In fact, when compared with the rankings in the NORC study, farm veterinarians ranked third in job satisfaction, just below the clergy and physical therapists, while companion animal veterinarians scored a 3.52 job satisfaction rating. This high level of satisfaction is interesting because there is a growing shortage of food animal veterinarians, in spite of efforts to recruit more students in that practice area.
“I’ve always thought that the best way to attract young veterinarians into the field of food animal veterinary medicine is to simply expose them to the joys and satisfaction of this type of work,” explained Dr. James Cook, AVMA president, who works on farm animals in his practice. “I know that it’s incredibly rewarding and that’s why the job satisfaction numbers are so high.”
The AVMA survey also revealed that veterinarians are also a fairly happy group, although their ranking dropped slightly when compared to the NORC study. The profession’s happiness score of 2.30 was below that of lawyers (2.37) and physicians (2.39). Average happiness for all jobs on the NORC study was 2.23, meaning that, at 2.30 veterinarians were happier than most people.
Dr. Dietl explains that one of the reasons veterinarians may report that they are less happy than they are satisfied with their jobs may be their income. Veterinarians are not as highly paid as physicians or lawyers.
“I think economics are a major factor. With the economy as it is today, I think veterinarians would probably report they weren’t as happy today as they were last year,” Dr. Dietl explains. “The rising cost of education makes it even more of a struggle for young veterinarians. I graduated in 1966 with little to no debt, but today students graduate on average $120,000 in debt. So if we want veterinarians to be happier, we need to do something to improve the economic viability of the profession.”
AVMA research also shows that very few veterinarians choose to leave the profession. The AVMA, which represents 85 percent of all U.S. veterinarians, conducts exit surveys for members who decide not to continue as part of the Association. For the veterinarians who tell the association why they’re leaving, the most common reason cited is retirement—22.6 percent in 2008. The least common reason, “No longer employed in a field of veterinary medicine,” which indicates they might have chosen to leave the profession, drew only 6.1 percent of the comments.