The Current State of the Veterinary Profession = Plenty of Opportunity

by Stacy Pursell, CPC, CERS

The VET Recruiter®

Much has happened in the employment marketplace overall and in the Veterinary profession specifically since the start of 2020.

As recently as just a few months ago, it was a candidate-driven job market. In fact, while the National Unemployment rate was hovering around 4%, the unemployment rate in the Veterinary profession was anywhere from 0.5% to 1.5%.

Then the pandemic hit. The Stock Market took a hit. The National Unemployment Rate soared. However, while some professionals lost their job within the Veterinary profession, job losses were not as great as they were in the marketplace overall.

In fact, what happened within the Veterinary profession differed from practice to practice. What one practice was doing was not what another practice was doing, and vice-versa. I spoke with one veterinarian who said his practice was up 25% since the pandemic. Another practice owner I spoke with said his practice has been up by 50% during the pandemic. I have spoken with others who say business is great. Some say business is the same as it was last year at this time. On the other side of the coin, I have spoken with veterinary practices that are down 15% to 20% in terms of business.

Once again, it is true that some veterinary practices instituted a hiring freeze when the pandemic initially hit, and the lockdowns were put into place. However, that is not indicative of every employer in the Veterinary profession. In fact, there are more than 2,500 positions listed on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website right now. And I know for a fact that the jobs that are listed on the AVMA website are not all of the open jobs total within the profession, and there are even more than that.

Telemedicine and virtual care in the Veterinary profession

One thing that I’m seeing is that the type of jobs that practices are filling are beginning to change. For example, I recently received my first job order for a full-time telemedicine veterinarian. This is someone who will practice veterinary medicine, but will specialize in doing it in a remote fashion, working from home. I expect to see more and more of these types of jobs popping up, and it makes perfect sense that they would. The need to hire has not stopped for many veterinary practices, but their hiring needs are continuing to evolve and change with the times.

What else has evolved and changed are the ways in which Veterinary practices are hiring. In the weeks following the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, many employers were opting for video interviews via Zoom, Google Meetings, and other online platforms. We had one candidate who interviewed through a drive-in window at a veterinary practice. Other clients recorded a video of the inside of their veterinary practice to show candidates where they would be working if they were hired. This is an excellent strategy because candidates can see the practice without having to physically travel there.

Even during the lockdowns, I still had some candidates who took flights in order to interview in-person, and I also had some candidates who drove many miles back and forth from the employer to interview. More employers are starting to become more comfortable bringing candidates on site for interviews, although many are still conducting video interviews to screen and evaluate candidates.

So the question becomes, where do we go from here? Well, we received some good news last week, when it was reported that 2.5 million jobs were added to U.S. payrolls during the month of May. As a result, the National Unemployment Rate fell from 14.7% to 13.3%. These numbers largely defied expectations and could be considered a step in the right direction in terms of the recovery of the economy overall and the job market.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic and what has been happening with the economy and the marketplace, the Bureau of Labor Statistics still believes that the veterinary profession will grow during the next several years. According to the latest information released in April of this year, the BLS expects Veterinary jobs to grow by over 18% between the years 2018 and 2028. That translates into approximately 15,000 new jobs within the profession during that timeframe.

There is also opportunity due to the fact that pet adoption is on the rise. This is a trend that is directly linked to the pandemic and the lockdowns that have been happening. Since people have been staying at home more, more of them have been opting for pet ownership as a way to have more companionship and connection. And there’s more good news on top of that, as well, since we could see a rise in preventative care visits by pet owners in the months and years ahead.

That’s because according to a recent survey by Banfield Pet Hospital, 84 percent of respondents say they feel more attuned to their companion animal’s health after spending more time with them. Sixty-seven percent say they plan to make changes to how they care for their pets moving forward. But the eye-opening statistic is that 20 percent of owners report they are committed to taking their pets to the veterinarian for preventive care checkups more often after the pandemic than they did before.

The bottom line: opportunities, but also challenges

The bottom line is that there is still plenty of opportunities in the marketplace. For employers, that opportunity takes the form of top talent, superstar candidates who were available prior to the pandemic and are still available. For job seekers and job candidates, that opportunity includes new and exciting positions with forward-thinking organizations.

However, just because there is opportunity in the marketplace, it does not mean that there are not obstacles or challenges. Just because more people are planning to bring their pet to the veterinarians for preventative care does not mean they necessarily have the money to pay for that care. Even though the unemployment rate has fallen 14.7% to 13.3% does not mean that everyone can afford to pay for Veterinary care. The number of pet owners who are not able to pay for care is increasing, but veterinary practices are making an effort to inform them about their options, including deferred payment and extended payment plans.

So all in all, there is plenty of good news in the Veterinary profession in terms of hiring and employment. And as I’ve mentioned, there are also plenty of challenges. The key for practices will be to meet the challenges with creative solutions, whether it is the challenge of interviewing candidates during a pandemic or offering different payment options to pet owners who are bringing in their pets for preventative care.

As long as there are creative solutions to these challenges, there will continue to be plenty of opportunity in the Veterinary profession for both employers and veterinary professionals.

If you’re looking to make a change or explore your employment options, then we want to talk with you. I encourage you to contact us or you can also create a profile and/or submit your resume for consideration.

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We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of Animal Health and Veterinary organizations. If this is something that you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.

Copyright © 2020 The VET Recruiter 

The VET Recruiter is The Animal Health Executive Search Firm and The Veterinary Recruiting Firm

Stacy Pursell is an Animal Health Executive Recruiter and Veterinary Recruiter and Workplace/Workforce expert for the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession