What you need to know about paying for veterinary school

Published on October 22, 2015
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#VetEconFact InfographicAre you concerned about students getting into veterinary school without understanding the financial realities of life as a veterinarian, or without having a clear plan to pay off student debt on the salary of a veterinarian? You’re not alone.

We unveiled a new YouTube video at our AVMA 2015 Economic Summit yesterday that aims to educate pre-vet students and current vet students about student loan debt and personal financing. The video offers advice on how to make paying for school more manageable so students can graduate with less debt and be financially confident while pursuing their dream.

Among the facts covered in the video, “What You Need to Know About Paying for Veterinary School”:

  • 75% of veterinarians are concerned about their ability to repay their student loans.
  • The average debt for a student graduating from vet school is $135,000, while the average starting salary is $67,000.
  • 52% of recent veterinary school graduates surveyed said they would not go to vet school again if they had it to do over – because of their financial situation after graduating.

You can watch the full video on our YouTube channel, or at the bottom of this post. The point isn’t to scare students away from the veterinary profession. We know that being a veterinarian can be the most rewarding work in the world. Rather, the video aims to educate students about the need to understand money and finances, and motivate them to take charge of their financial health early on. We advise prospective veterinarians to:

  • Take money management classes.
  • Research the student loan process and learn about student loans.
  • Attend a veterinary school where you can qualify for in-state tuition rates.
  • Take time off between undergraduate school and veterinary school to make and save money.
  • Make a budget now, and practice living within its constraints.
  • Apply for scholarships.
  • Borrow only what you absolutely need.

Please share this video with your colleagues, current veterinary students, and anyone you know who is considering veterinary school or has a child doing so.

More news from the Economic Summit

We also shared a great deal of other information at yesterday’s summit, including data from our 2015 series of economic reports. Other organizations and individuals working on issues related to veterinary economics also made presentations, including the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, several universities, and representatives from private industry.

Among the data shared by the AVMA:

  • Veterinary salaries are rising.
  • Unemployment among veterinarians is at about 4 percent.
  • The debt-to-income ratio of graduating veterinary students is hovering right around 2:1.

Summit presenters all agreed that the veterinary profession has the opportunity and ability to increase demand for veterinary services.

“We can increase clients and patients; we can increase services and products; we can increase visits; and we can increase compliance,” said Michael Dicks, Ph.D., director of the AVMA Economics Division. “And one way to do that is for practices across the country, big or small, to collect client data through practice information management systems. This approach can accurately measure clients and patient numbers and services used, it can recapture inactive clients and it can increase new clients with the help of multiple marketing efforts.”

What else is AVMA doing?

One focus of the AVMA is on improving education about personal finances. Our new video is one example of that focus. Another is our continued emphasis on encouraging member veterinarians and veterinary students to use the AVMA’s personal financial planning tool – at AVMA.org/MyBudget. Tailored to the specific financial needs of veterinarians, the tool helps you create a personal budget to pay off student debt, meet your other expenses, and also save for the future.

We’re also setting priorities as to what areas of research most need our attention. “For instance, we are beginning to really dig deep into learning why some practices are doing so well and others are struggling,” said Dicks. “We need to look at what’s happening at these practices to determine why they are so successful. We haven’t been focused on practices; we have been focused on the markets. Now, we are turning our focus to the practices.”

If you’d like to learn more about what happened at the economic summit, please read our press release about the meeting. If you haven’t already read the free executive summaries of our six 2015 economic reports, we strongly encourage you to do that as well.

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