OF THE ALMOST 300 RESPONDENTS TO THE 2005 VETERINARY Economics Student Study, 85 percent plan to go into practice, be it small animal, mixed animal, large animal, food animal, or exotics.
The remaining respondents say they're considering posts in the military, other government branches, research, and so on.
Once in practice, they're likely to stay there. Among respondents to "The State of the Veterinary Profession," a study
conducted by DVM Newsmagazine in 2006, 72 percent intend to stay in private practice for their entire career. Only 6 percent can say for certain they don't
want to stay in private practice, while the remainder aren't decided.
Yet it's important to remember that many students still haven't decided on their calling. As Christine Towey, a second-year
student at Washington State University, says, "There are so many different options, why close myself off?" Towey, who recently
attended the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Experience (VLE), a one-week program aimed at developing leadership within the profession,
leans toward small animal practice, but she's also interested in large animal practice and agriculture, working at a pet food
company, or a government post.
Another VLE participant, Jennifer Bennett, a third-year student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, leans toward mixed
animal practice, but she's also interested in public health and academia. Yet another, Jacqueline Parr, a student at the University
of Guelph, leans toward nutrition research, but she's only finished her first year, she says, so that may change. "Whatever
I do, I need to be passionate about it," she says.
Weighing the options
Some good news: These students who say they're keeping their options open leave the possibility of practice ownership on the
table for discussion. "If I do go into small animal, I definitely want an ownership interest," Towey says. In fact, an informal
sample of 28 students in 2006 shows that 52 percent want to own someday.
Not surprisingly, given this interest in ownership, 85 percent of the students sampled say they'd like to work at a privately
owned practice. (See Figure 1 for more about what students want in practice.) And practicing veterinarians share this preference
toward independence; when asked in the DVM Newsmagazine study how they felt about corporate ownership, 60 percent of respondents say they're somewhat or strongly opposed. Another
28 percent of respondents say they're neutral.
Figure 1 Students' ideal practice
Going into specialty medicine is another option for to-be veterinarians, and 30 percent of the students we talked to plan
to become boarded specialists. Their top choices: behavior, laboratory animal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology,