Chart of the month: Job satisfaction rises for veterinarians

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AVMA chart of the month

Things may be better than previously believed when it comes to veterinarians’ career satisfaction and intention to leave the profession, according to a new study. 

The fourth edition of the Merck Animal Health Veterinarian Wellbeing Study, a biennial series conducted in collaboration with the AVMA, explored wellbeing and mental health in a representative sample of more than 4,600 randomly selected U.S. veterinarians. The results are illuminating.

What the data show

As today’s chart shows, fewer than 2.5% of practicing veterinarians under age 55 are very likely to leave veterinary medicine within two years. Although this number increases to 15% for those 65 and older, retirement is the most likely reason for leaving in that age group.

Likelihood to leave veterinary medicine

And there’s more:

  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) of veterinarians express overall satisfaction with their career. 
  • 92% are invested in their work and take pride in doing a good job—a rate higher than the most recent national data for the general population (88%).
  • 84% agree or strongly agree that their work makes a positive contribution to other people’s lives.
  • More than half of veterinarians say they have a high level of wellbeing and are flourishing in their careers.

Read more about the study.

What does this mean?

There are some nuances to these results. For example, veterinarians age 55 and older are more likely to be flourishing, as are veterinarians with no student debt. Older veterinarians are also far less likely to have serious psychological distress than their younger counterparts. And food animal veterinarians score lower on burnout than companion animal veterinarians, while practice owners score lower than associates. 

The findings directly counter assumptions of a pending exodus of veterinarians from the workforce.

Nevertheless, overall the survey findings directly counter assumptions of a pending exodus of veterinarians from the workforce. In fact, they provide a much more encouraging snapshot of current satisfaction levels. 

They also show that veterinarians, in fact, are not worse off than the general population in terms of burnout, although they do have higher levels of exhaustion—which can contribute to burnout.

This is not to say there’s no room for improvement. The flipside of these statistics is that many veterinarians are struggling, with certain groups—like those with less experience—more at risk of wellbeing challenges. 

What do we do with this information?

The connection is strong between job satisfaction/retention and mental health, wellbeing, and burnout. In terms of the latter three factors, the veterinary profession has come a long way since Merck’s first veterinarian wellbeing survey in 2017: 

  • Veterinarians are more accepting of the value of mental health treatment, more caring toward those with mental illness, and more comfortable discussing mental health topics with peers. 
  • More veterinarians who need help are seeking it, and more have health insurance and/or employee assistance programs that cover mental health.
  • More resources are available to assist those in need and foster psychologically safe workplaces.

Tools you can use

The AVMA has a wide range of tools to support wellbeing for every member of the veterinary team. For example:

Find more wellbeing resources at


Article: Job Satisfaction Rises for Veterinarians

While my research was limited to undergraduate years, I have serious concerns regarding making conclusions and assumptions about the veterinary profession as a whole from the numbers of vets polled. A quick search showed 126,138 practicing veterinarians in the U.S. in 2023, 75,349 of which were in private practice. The article states that 4600 vets participated in the poll. This is 3% of the practicing vet population, and 6% of the private practitioners. I don't know that generalizations about the profession as a whole should be concluded from this small sampling.

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