Generational shift: What does it mean for the veterinary profession?

Published on January 25, 2021
AVMA Chart of the Month

Did you know that millennials are about to surpass Generation X as the leading age group in the U.S. veterinary workforce? It’s true, as today’s Chart of the Month shows. This generational shift gives us a framework to explore how we can leverage the change to strengthen our veterinary practices and the profession.

Graph showing age of U.S. veterinary workforce in 2021

What the data show

As the chart shows, four generations are represented among U.S. veterinarians. In 2021, millennials (born 1981-1996) comprise 35.1% of the workforce, Generation X (1965-1980) 34.6%, baby boomers (1946-1964) 29.9%, and silents (1928-1945) 0.4%. Most new veterinarians entering the work force are millennials, while baby boomers and the remaining silents are moving toward retirement.

What does this mean?

We can expect this generational shift to bring significant changes to the profession. Each generation has its own cultural tendencies and characteristics, so we can anticipate that behaviors and attitudes of veterinarians will shift along with the age of the workforce. Here are a few areas in which we can expect change, and ideas for how each might present growth opportunities for practices and the profession:

Work-life integration

Millennials as a group prioritize wellbeing and a healthy work-life balance. As millennials make up a larger portion of jobseekers, it will become even more important for employers to offer a supportive work culture, engage the whole team in decision-making, and offer opportunities for individual growth and community impact. We can use this as an opportunity to examine our clinic environments and explore how to build a healthier work culture.

Mentorship

Especially as they’re entering the profession, millennials will be looking toward their more experienced peers for guidance and support, and as a group they value mentorship. Baby boomers and Generation X can fill this critical role, offering insight on everything from clinical skills to bedside manner and running a business. Practice owners and managers can foster this mentorship by building a strong, cohesive team. AVMA’s tools to strengthen the veterinary team are a great place to start.

Technology

Millennials comprise the first digitally native generation. They have a lot to offer when it comes to implementing new apps or adopting technology that can make our work easier, faster, and more efficient. Listen to their ideas and explore their suggestions. You may be surprised to discover new ways to improve practice efficiency along with work-life balance.

Client insight

Millennials aren’t just increasing in the workforce. They’re also a growing segment of the client population. That means our millennial colleagues hold critical insight into the needs and expectations of these clients, and can be an important asset in building and strengthening relationships with them. If we empower our millennial team members to contribute insights and ideas, they can help our practices grow.

Explore more with AVMA resources

AVMA’s chief economist, Matt Salois, Ph.D., addresses these issues in greater detail in an article published in the February issue of DVM360 magazine. These AVMA tools also can help you build stronger connections with millennial jobseekers and employees:

Comments

Gratitude

With just 0.4% of our colleagues still active from among the Greatest Generation, a consequential era will soon fade from living memory, and that generation's influence will become ever more remote from us. We owe these colleagues, at the very least, the honor of ensuring they are not forgotten, and something more, gratitude.

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