Episode #263 – Exploring the Future of Veterinary Hiring in the Next Decade

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #263 - Exploring the Future of Veterinary Hiring in the Next Decade
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Joel: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health executive recruiter and Veterinary recruiter Stacy Pursell of The VET Recruiter provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health and Veterinary industries. The VET Recruiter’s focus is to solve talent-centric problems for the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. In fact, The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary companies hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

Today, we will be talking about the future of Veterinary hiring in the next decade. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Joel. As always, I am glad to be here with you.

Joel: Stacy, this seems like it is a big topic. We have touched upon Veterinary hiring on our podcast before. What is different about today’s episode?

Stacy: Well, Joel, not only are we going to look at current conditions, we are also going to address what the future holds for the Veterinary profession based on statistics from various sources. It will paint a very eye-opening picture of what to expect in the years ahead.

Joel: That sounds interesting! Where would you like to start Stacy?

Stacy: In the past, actually, because there has been a shortage of veterinarians in the job market for quite a few years now. Believe it or not, there was a shortage during the Great Recession over a decade ago. I first noticed the shortage of veterinarians around the year 2008. While many industries and professions were hurt by the recession, there was still opportunity within the Veterinary profession. That opportunity has only grown since then, and the latest worker and talent shortage has only made it more severe.

Joel: What about the Great Resignation? Has that added to it, as well?

Stacy: Yes, it has, and I am glad you mentioned that. During the past two years, more people have resigned their job in this country than at any other time in our nation’s history. And by all accounts, the Great Resignation is not over, either. Resignations are still high, and more people are quitting their jobs in pursuit of better opportunities. This has had an impact on the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession, as well.

Joel: Stacy, what is the unemployment rate in the Veterinary profession? It is low overall at the national level, but is it even lower for veterinarians?

Stacy: That is another great question. The short answer is that the unemployment rate in the Veterinary profession is nearly non-existent. In fact, according to Zippia, since 2013, the unemployment rate in the Veterinary profession has decreased from 1.0% to 0.2%.

Joel: 0.2%! Wow, you were not kidding about unemployment being nearly non-existent.

Stacy: No, I was not kidding. I cannot remember that last time I spoke with an unemployed veterinarian, someone with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. You might have a better chance of seeing Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster than seeing an unemployed veterinarian these days.

Joel: Stacy, we have discussed numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics before on the podcast? Can you refresh our listeners mind regarding these numbers?

Stacy: I certainly can, and I have some updated numbers to discuss. According to the most recent numbers released by the BLS in September of last year, Veterinary jobs are projected to grow by 17% between the years 2020 and 2030.

Joel: And these are veterinarian jobs only, correct? We are not talking about Vet techs or other positions?

Stacy: That’s right, just veterinarians, people who are a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. In terms of raw numbers, that equates to 14,500 more new jobs by the end of 2030 as there were at the beginning of 2020. In addition, according to the same BLS data there will be 4,400 job openings for veterinarians each year, on average, during the decade. This takes into account new job openings and existing jobs that need to be filled because someone left the position. These could include workers leaving for other opportunities; transferring to other occupations; and exiting the workforce, including those who leave through retirement).

Joel: So, if there are 4,400 open jobs every year during the decade, that is 44,000 jobs overall for the decade, correct?

Stacy: That is right. Of these 44,000, approximately 14,500 of them will be newly created positions, based on the BLS projections. This leaves 29,500 openings created due to departing employees in existing positions. But an open job is an open job, regardless of whether it is a newly created job or an existing position. An employer is still going to need to fill that open position with a veterinarian.

Joel: And if the unemployment rate in the Veterinary profession is non-existent and continues to stay that way, we will need 44,000 more candidates in the job market by the end of the decade, is that right?

Stacy: Right again.

Joel: And will there be that many more veterinarians in the job market by then?

Stacy: Right now, based on projections, the answer to that question is definitely not.

Of course, there are a certain number of people who retire in the Veterinary profession every year. According to an article in Today’s Veterinary Business last year, that number is approaching 2,000. Once you multiply that number by 10 to account for the years between 2020 and 2030, we have 20,000 less people working in the Veterinary profession due to retirement.

Joel: Stacy, could that number go up?

Stacy: It could go up. In fact, the number of veterinarians retiring every year has been increasing slightly every year for the past several year. The next number we want to look at is the number of Veterinary graduates entering the workforce on a yearly basis. According to data from the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, slightly more than 3,000 Veterinary students graduated in 2020.

Like retirements, the number of graduates entering the workforce has been rising a little big every year.

Joel: So, we are looking at 30,000 new graduates overall entering the workforce during the 10-year period.

Stacy: Yes, that is right. And the BLS has already factored retirements into its number of 44,000 open positions during the decade. So, with the unemployment rate basically at zero, we have 30,000 new graduates to fill 44,000 open positions.

Joel: There are not enough veterinarians.

Stacy: Not by a long shot, and that illustrates what the state of Veterinary hiring will look like in the next decade.

Joel: We are left with 14,000 open positions and no one to fill them.

Stacy: Correct! And let us say we take into account what few unemployed veterinarians there are—if there even are any. Let us say 4,000 of those 14,000 are filled by unemployed vets. We would still have 10,000 open positions with no one to fill them. And that would be the best-case scenario, by far, since I do not believe there are that many unemployed veterinarians in the workforce, nor do I think there will be that many in the near future.

Joel: If that is the best-case scenario, what is the worst-case scenario?

Stacy: Instead of 10,000 unfilled positions, you could have 20,000.

Joel: Okay, now that is crazy.

Stacy: Not as crazy as you might think, and one reason is that people continue to spend more and more money on their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, more than 67% of American households own at least one pet, and that’s another number that continues to rise.

Joel: People are literally spending billions of dollars on their pets every year, aren’t they?

Stacy: Yes. The amount of that Americans spend on their pets grew from $90.5 billion in 2018 to $103.6 billion in 2020. And Veterinary care and Veterinary product sales accounted for roughly 30% of that amount. And speaking of the next decade, according to a report recently released by Mars Veterinary health, pet healthcare spending in the United States will increase 33% between 2019 and 2029.

Joel: They will increase by a third? During the same timeframe that there will be 14,000 open veterinarian jobs?

Stacy: I know. Almost does not seem possible, but that is the case.

Joel: What kind of effect is this going to have?

Stacy: Well, as you can imagine, it is going to have a profound impact on pets and the availability of Veterinary care. According to Banfield Pet Hospital, there could be as many as seventy-five million pets without Veterinary care by 2030. And this is because there simply will not be enough veterinarians in the workforce to address the health needs of these pets.

Joel: I cannot even imagine seventy-five million pets without Veterinary care. And it is not because the technology does not exist. It is because there are not enough veterinarians.

Stacy: That is right. These numbers tell the story of what is amounting to a Veterinary hiring crisis in our country. The shortage of veterinarians has existed for several years and has been getting steadily worse. Now it appears as though it is going to become worse still during the next decade.

Joel: What should the members of our listening audience do?

Stacy: For Veterinary professionals, there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for them to grow their career. With as many opportunities that exist, they can grow their careers in a number of different ways. They can tackle new challenges, work with forward-thinking companies, and operate new technology.

Joel: And there’s more money, too, right?

Stacy: Yes, there is more money to be made in the Veterinary profession right now. I have helped candidates negotiate starting salaries that were much more than what they were currently making. And don’t forget about sign-on bonuses and other perks that go along with accepting an offer from another employer.

I have been an Animal Health and Veterinary recruiter for 25 years, and I can say with certainty that there is no better time to explore opportunities in the job market and grow your career than right now. In my opinion, now is the time to be proactive and not reactive. Proactive people enjoy more success, especially when it comes to professional development and career advancement.

Joel: What about employers? What do you recommend they do considering the circumstances?

Stacy: They have to become experts in terms of Veterinary hiring?

Joel: Experts? What do you mean by that?

Stacy: I mean a few things, actually. There are five keys to Veterinary hiring in this current market. The first one is to recognize the conditions that exist in the job market and are likely to exist in the future.

The second step is to make communicating and engagement a priority during the hiring process. When you engage candidates, you are generating genuine interest in them for the position and also the overall opportunity. The third step is moving more quickly. Speed is of the essence in the job market right now. You can’t “drag your feet” during any part of the process. If you do, then you could lose out on a candidate.

The fourth step is to become a master at negotiation, or at least, as close to a master as you can become. As I mentioned earlier, top candidates are commanding quite a bit of money to fill open veterinarian jobs. There is a lack of candidate supply in the marketplace, so the candidates who do exist are going to be more expensive. There is no way around that.

And the fifth step is to proactively onboard with excellence. I have said this before on the podcast, but it bears repeating. The onboarding process does not start with the candidate’s first official day of work. Instead, it starts as soon as the candidate accepts your offer.

Joel: Stacy, is that because of “ghosting”?

Stacy: Yes, that’s one of the reasons and a big reason. Just because they accepted the offer does not necessarily mean they are going to show up for their first day of work. They are probably going to receive a counteroffer from their current employer. They could also be interviewing with other employers, and as a result, they could receive another offer during whatever time period exists between offer acceptance and their first day of work.

Joel: Stacy, we are just about out of time for today. Is there anything else that you would like to add before we end today’s podcast episode?

Yes, it may obvious, but I want to reiterate that the margin for error when it comes to Veterinary hiring right now is zero. And based on everything that we’ve discussed today, it’s likely remain at zero for the foreseeable future. This is why I say that organizations must become experts at hiring. They have to expend a certain amount of time, energy, and effort if they want to have a chance to hire veterinarians in this market. If they don’t put forth the effort and make the investment, then they will be at a disadvantage in terms of Veterinary hiring. And that will cost the, both in the short term and also in the long run.

Joel: Stacy, thank you so much for all of this great information about the future of Veterinary hiring during the next decade. And I want to remind our listening audience that there is additional information The VET Recruiter website The VET Recruiter’s services for both Animal Health and Veterinary professionals and employers.

Stacy: Yes, that’s right. We have information for both Animal Health and Veterinary professionals and employers on our website. There is a lot of great information, including interview tips, candidate resources, and a library of articles and blog posts. I also encourage website visitors to sign up for our newsletter. We put our hottest jobs in the newsletter when we send it out each month, along with career tips and Animal Health and Veterinary hiring trends.

Joel: Stacy, how would you recommend that someone contact you if they have questions or need help?

Stacy: There are multiple ways that you can contact me. First you can send me an email at stacy@thevetrecruiter.com or they can call The VET Recruiter office at (918) 488-3901. And of course, they can also visit The VET Recruiter website at www.thevetrecruiter.com. You can register your profile and upload your resume.

And of course, people can connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also follow The VET Recruiter on a number of social media channels, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Joel: Once again, the website address for The VET Recruiter is www.thevetrecruiter.com. Stacy, as always, thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: It has been my pleasure, Joel, and I look forward to our next episode of the “Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider”!