Veterinary workforce model: Data to prepare for the future

Veterinary workforce model

In this article:
  • Discover data and insights that can help guide strategic business decisions in your career and practice.
  • Explore veterinary trends and projections using an interactive workforce dashboard.
  • Understand how AVMA’s economic research uncovers market trends that all economists to make projections about the future of the veterinary profession.

Are we in a veterinary workforce crisis?

Practices are busier than ever, and our teams are feeling overworked. A data-based understanding of our current reality can guide us to a solution.

Read more

Preparing for the future is a critical part of building strong and sustainable veterinary careers and businesses. Knowing what to expect in the days, months, and years ahead is a first step. The next is using that information to base strategic and tactical decisions that enhance our opportunities for success.

AVMA has developed a veterinary workforce model that guides veterinary practitioners in making those strategic decisions. The model provides a detailed sketch of the veterinary trends and patterns likely to take shape over the next decade.

Key insights

Based on the latest economic and industry research—including AVMA's Pet Demographic Survey, biennial economic survey, and census of veterinarians—the AVMA workforce model provides projections on future supply and demand of veterinarians and veterinary services in these categories:

  • Veterinarian population, species focus, and average salary
  • Livestock and pet populations
  • Demand for veterinarians
  • Owner demographics and attitudes
  • Expenditure and services of dogs and cats

Here are some key projections:

  • The number of active veterinarians in the U.S. is expected to continue increasing through at least 2030, with substantial increases in companion animal practitioners and small increases for food animal, equine, and mixed animal veterinarians.
  • The average starting salary for companion animal veterinarians is expected to rise from $88,000 in 2020 to $102,000 in 2030, and for food animal veterinarians from $80,500 to nearly $94,000. In the public sector, a net gain of veterinarians will be driven by more people working in higher education, industry/corporate, and nonprofit practice.
  • The U.S. dog population is expected to increase from 85 million in 2020 to over 100 million by 2030. The cat population is expected to grow from 65 million to over 82 million by 2030.
  • The proportion of households owning a dog is expected to grow from 38% of all U.S. households to 45% by 2030.

Explore and use the data

If you're an AVMA or SAVMA member, the interactive workforce dashboard allows you to explore this data in depth. View nationwide industry trends and patterns, and drill down to your specific location, practice type, and areas of interest to discover the information most pertinent to you. You can use this knowledge to plan business or career strategy, identify untapped opportunities, and implement new or improved programs and services to enhance patient care and strengthen client relationships.

Wondering how to begin? Consider these questions as a starting point to help you pinpoint practical implications of the data and begin considering how you might incorporate them in practice:

  • Will my sector or area of specialty change significantly over the next 10 years? If so, how?
  • How might changing population demographics influence pet owner behavior?
  • Will my clients' preferences shift? Do I have everything in place to meet their changing needs or should I be exploring new systems and offerings?
  • How can I continue providing the greatest possible value to patients and clients?
  • Are there specific areas where I might want to put more marketing or operational dollars?

Here are examples of practical applications:

Wellness visits for dogs

What the data say: AVMA projections show the share of dogs receiving wellness exams has grown rapidly from 78% in 2011 to 90% in 2016. That number is expected to grow more slowly through 2030, ultimately reaching 96% of dogs.

What it means: This tells us that most dogs are getting the preventive care they need to live long and healthy lives. It shows that our efforts to educate pet owners about the value of regular veterinary care are having a real influence on the care their pets receive. It also tells us that wellness checks as an area of service represent only limited growth potential over the next decade, because a relatively high proportion of the dog population already receives them.

What you can do: Veterinarians who see a high proportion of dogs should be exploring other ways beyond wellness visits to provide value to patients and clients. This can take many forms. It could mean expanding telehealth offerings to make it easier for clients to get their dogs care when they need it most. Or perhaps it's offering clients the convenience of purchasing products—like food and medication—directly from you, without having to hunt for them online. Knowing that wellness exams will remain a steady but mostly stagnant area of service should spur you to think of creative ways to meet the changing needs of patients and clients.

Wellness visits for cats

For cats, on the other hand, wellness visits are expected to continue growing through 2030, reaching nearly 80% (up from around 65%). This makes them an area where you may want to continue focusing for your feline patients. If you don't already see a large number of cats, this could be a possible growth area.

Client communication

What the data say: Most Americans consider their pets to be family members and this trend will continue. For dogs this number is expected to rise to nearly 96% by 2030 (from 86%) and for cats to 84% (from 80%).

What it means: Our clients love and cherish their animals. This positive change in owners' relationships with their pets could imply an increase in the demand for pet health care.

What you can do: Understanding the attitudes and priorities of our clients can inform our marketing and communication strategies. Use this information to hone in on what your clients need and value most and make sure that you, as the veterinarian, are doing everything you can to meet those needs. The workforce dashboard allows you to explore this data on a state-by-state basis to gain deeper insight into the household demographics and characteristics in your area.

Explore dashboard

AVMA's projections may change over time based on new research, economic trends, or other variables. Our ongoing research about the profession will keep the dashboard updated, so you can return to it over and over again as a powerful business tool.

Whatever direction the research points you to, AVMA also has a wide range of free tools and resources to help you get there. Visit avma.org/PracticeManagement to view them all.

 

There are some forecasts that contain more uncertainty in the projection levels that should be used or interpreted with more caution. Data points such as dental visits, cat population projections, equine data, and pet data at the state levels may have small sample sizes and limited data availability, creating higher levels of uncertainty. In general, a five-year moving average has been used to smooth the data to allow for some variability in animal types seen from year to year.

This work was developed in collaboration with the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services (WAESS) organization.

Learn more: CE webinars

Explore economic trends and learn practical strategies to embrace innovation, improve your bottom line, and grow practice profitability.

Watch now

tool-box

More economic tools for your practice

Market share estimator
Early-career salary estimator