There is good news for this year’s class of vets: the economic outlook for entering the profession looks bright. Demand for veterinary services is still high (and growing), the job market for new vets looks upbeat, and the global economic landscape is rebounding as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19.
As veterinary practices face an increase in customer demand, new vets in our profession are likely to be enthusiastically welcomed into the workforce, with higher starting salaries than graduates of the last year.
Promotion 2021: an unprecedented experience
With their final year of study fully completed during the pandemic, the class of 2021 has had an experience like no other class before. COVID-19 has affected everything from clinical experiences to day schools and even graduation itself.
We know from our annual survey of fourth-year veterinary students that many graduates from last year were concerned about how COVID-19 might affect their jobs and career prospects. Fortunately, their fears largely did not materialize. AVMA research has shown that only 6.3% of 2020 graduates had reduced or withdrawn offers due to the pandemic. Overall, employment rates and wages for the Class of 2020 have kept pace with what one would expect in a non-pandemic year.
The AVMA survey of the promotion of graduates of 2021 is still ongoing, so we do not yet have concrete data on the offers they received, their salaries or any concerns they might have. What we do know is that the profession still needs new veterinarians to fill positions in the face of the growing demand for patient care.
Strong demand for veterinary services
As pet owners spent more time with their pets during the pandemic, they also spent more money on their pets. In 2020, Americans spent $ 103.6 billion on pet care and products, up from $ 97.1 billion in 2019 and $ 90.5 billion in 2018, according to the American Pet Products Association. This number is expected to rise again in 2021 to reach $ 109.6 billion. Of that, $ 32.3 billion is expected to be spent on veterinary care and product sales, up from $ 31.4 billion in 2020.
In line with this trend, veterinary hospital revenues in the past 12 months increased by 13.6% and visits by 3.6% compared to the previous 12 months. (You can see this updated daily data on avma.org/IndustryTracker.) In some states, the year-over-year revenue increase was over 18% and the increase in visits was over 8%.
This increase in spending on pet products and services could suggest an optimistic landscape for veterinary graduates starting their careers this year.
High probability of employment, good salary outlook
Several factors suggest that the job and salary outlook for the 2021 class looks encouraging. First, for reference, we have seen over 93% of graduates obtain a full-time job or continuing education position within 2 weeks of graduation every year since 2016. With the current high demand for services veterinarians, this year’s graduates might hope to see a higher starting salary than last year, when the average starting salary for graduates getting full-time jobs was $ 91,892.
Additionally, 2020 data from the AVMA Veterinary Career Center showed more job vacancies than job seekers during the year. Given the economic outlook, it seems likely that the ratio could rise further in 2021, thereby improving the prospects for job seekers.
Unemployment figures also appear optimistic, approaching pre-pandemic levels. As of mid-April, new unemployment insurance claims were at their lowest level since the start of the pandemic and continued to decline. Not only does this bode well for veterinarians looking for employment; more people employed also means more people able to afford the necessary health care for their animals. Looking ahead, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the United States will add 6 million jobs between 2019 and 2029.
High hopes for an economic recovery
Keys to finally resuming pre-pandemic routines, the United States rolled out COVID-19 vaccines in mid-December 2020. By the end of April 2021, about half of all eligible Americans had received at least one dose. vaccine, and nearly 30% of the total United States population had been fully vaccinated. As this number increases, the economy is expected to continue to grow.
In fact, there are already signs of increasing consumer confidence and spending. At the end of March, consumer spending was showing the first signs of year-over-year growth since the start of the pandemic. In addition, a March survey by McKinsey & Company found that more than half of American consumers expect their spending to increase later in the year as they “splurge” and treat themselves to celebrate the expected recovery. High-income millennials intend to spend the most.
Best wishes, class of 2021
Persevering through the pandemic, our profession welcomes a new wave of promising veterinarians in the labor market. Fortunately, it appears the economic outlook may offer some hope for these newly trained vets as they launch their careers. As long as these trends persist, this year’s new vets can expect to pick up the slack amid high demand for pet care, steady job growth and an improving economy. As the future of our profession, we can’t wait to see all that you will accomplish.
Bridgette Bain, PhD, is Associate Director of the Veterinary Economics Division at AVMA.