Caleb: 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’ll be talking about the state of veterinarian job offers in today’s job market. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.
Stacy: Hello, Caleb. As always, I’m glad to be here with you.
Caleb: Stacy, Let’s tackle this topic of veterinarian job offers in today’s marketplace. What specifically are we going to cover today?
Stacy: Compensation is an important topic in the Veterinary profession right now. The cost of labor is going up. Salaries and overall compensation is increasing.
Caleb: I would imagine that the shortage of qualified candidates in the job market is causing this.
Stacy: Yes, that’s right. That’s one of the factors that’s driving the market at the moment. I’ve talked about this before, but the market is dictated by the Law of Supply and Demand. The less of a supply you have of something, then that something becomes more valuable and also more expensive. Right now, there is a shortage of veterinarians in the market. As a result, the veterinarians that do exist are more valuable, and as a result, they’re more expensive.
Caleb: And they’re more expensive in terms of what it takes to hire them?
Stacy: Yes, that’s correct, and we’ve seen this at our recruiting firm.
Caleb: So, what we’re going to talk about today is based on your personal experience as an executive recruiter and search consultant in the Veterinary profession and what you are seeing right now.
Stacy: Yes, that’s correct. This is information based on experiences that we’re currently having in our search firm, with candidates and employers, so it’s the most up-to-date information possible.
Caleb: Where would you like to start today, Stacy?
Stacy: I’d like to start by pointing out that no offers have been accepted by veterinarians in the past year below $100K base salary or guaranteed salary that we have seen.
Caleb: Does that include new graduates?
Stacy: Yes, that certainly includes new graduates! In fact, I can’t remember the last time in the recent past that a new veterinarian graduate didn’t receive an offer of $100K or more. Not only that, but these graduates are also receiving these offers before they even graduate from school. We have seen offers get accepted in some cases almost a year before some veterinarian students graduate from veterinary school.
Caleb: So, veterinarian students are receiving offers while they’re still in school, before they graduate from veterinary school?
Stacy: Yes, that’s right. In addition, these students and soon-to-be graduates are asking for and expecting starting salaries in that range. Some of them are asking for starting salaries as high $150K. They’re well aware of the conditions that exist in the market. They know about the supply and demand. They have the leverage, and they’re putting that leverage to use in their negotiations with employers. But it doesn’t stop there.
Caleb: What do you mean Stacy, but it doesn’t stop there?
Stacy: Almost 100% of all the offers made include a sign-on bonus. The size of the bonus is typically $10K to $20K, but sometimes the offers are even bigger than that?
Caleb: When is that?
Stacy: Candidates can receive substantially bigger sign-on bonuses or actually what we call retention bonuses when they commit to staying with the employer for multiple years. The more years that the candidate commits to, the more money they can receive in the form of a sign-on or retention bonus.
Caleb: Wow, that really illustrates the extent of the candidate shortage. It seems as though employers are doing anything and everything to make sure that they get the candidates they want.
Stacy: Right. And they’re doing everything they can to make sure that when they get them, they keep them for as long as possible. There’s one thing I know for sure. Any practice that is paying their veterinarians less than $100K in guarantee base salary is at risk of losing their doctors. It’s as simple as that. There are employers out there that are willing to pay a lot more than that to hire a veterinarian
Caleb: This is enlightening. What other information do you have about Veterinarian job offers in this market?
Stacy: I have much more, starting with the fact that general practice veterinarian doctors with three or more years of experience are seeking $130K or $140K, plus production. We’re seeing offers on both coasts of the country, specifically San Francisco and New York, between $250K and $300K in some cases for experienced doctors who are medical directors or leads doctors in the practice.
Caleb: That would make sense. If students and new graduates are receiving offers of between $100K and $150K, then those doctors with experience would receive offers with even more money. And the cost of living on both coasts are higher than it is in other places in the country.
Stacy: Yes, that’s absolutely the case. And that’s something employers in the Veterinary profession need to be aware of.
Caleb: What else are you seeing in the job market right now Stacy?
Stacy: Emergency veterinarians are asking for at least $200K and sometimes more than that. They’ve told us that they can earn more money doing relief work, so the salary has to make sense for them to take the position as an employee vs doing relief work.
Relief veterinarians step in for full-time veterinarians when they are away from their practice, for whatever reason. They’re also hired to assist at a clinic when they have a higher than usual caseload.
Caleb: I would imagine with the demand for Veterinary services, relief veterinarians are very busy right now.
Stacy: They are very busy. They might be busier than they’ve ever been. So, asking for $200K is not out of touch considering the conditions that exist in the job market. Many veterinary practices across the country are overworked and at capacity, especially those practices that are not fully staffed because of the veterinarian shortage that exists.
Caleb: So, we have talked about base salary and sign-on bonuses. What else is involved in veterinarian job offers in this market?
Stacy: We need to talk about ProSal. ProSal is where veterinarians are paid on production and have a guaranteed salary.
It’s based on a percentage system.
Caleb: So, what are you seeing in the job market in regard to ProSal?
Stacy: We used to see ProSal between 18% and 22%, but now we’re seeing offers with ProSal of up to 25%.
Caleb: So that’s another aspect of veterinarian job offers that are going up because of market conditions.
Stacy: Yes, absolutely.
Caleb: Stacy, what are some things that veterinarians are negotiating the most about—besides starting salary and bonus, of course?
Stacy: Two of the things that we see veterinarians negotiate the most are more PTO or Paid Time off and more money for continuing education. Most of the offers we’ve seen have been three weeks and some have been four.
Caleb: So, work-life balance is more important to veterinarian candidates, too?
Stacy: Yes, and so is flexibility. The work schedule is very important in veterinarian job offer packages these days. Employers have to accommodate schedule demands. More doctors are requesting to not work on weekends. But it’s not just the weekends that veterinarian candidates don’t want to work.
Caleb: What do you mean?
Stacy: Well, let’s start with the fact that four-day weeks are becoming more common, and some practices are saying that 32 hours a week is considered full time. Despite that, we’re seeing some doctors who only want to work three days a week.
Caleb: Wow, three days a week! I’m guessing working only three a week would help a person’s work-life balance. Stacy, are there any other elements that you’ve been seeing in regard to Veterinary job offers?
Stacy: Yes, I’d like to say a word about non-competes, specifically that they’re becoming more unpopular with veterinarians. In fact, some veterinarians are refusing to accept them.
Caleb: Because they restrict veterinarians’ ability to take advantage of opportunities and grow their career?
Stacy: Yes, that’s right. And employers do not shy away from candidates who signed a non-compete with their previous employer. Some of them are even willing to pay to defend veterinarians in court who have non-compete clauses.
Caleb: Really? Wow. Employers really are desperate to hire veterinarians right now.
Stacy: They are. Everything we’ve discussed today is an illustration of that. What’s striking, though, is that it’s not just one thing that a factor in veterinarian job offers these days. It’s not just base salary, it’s not just ProSal, it’s not just schedule flexibility, and it’s not work-life balance. It’s all of these things, to one degree or another.
Caleb: And conditions aren’t likely to change anytime soon, are they?
Stacy: No, unless something drastic happens in the economy at large and the job market, there’s going to be a shortage of veterinarians in the profession for the foreseeable future. In fact, even if there is a recession, that is certainly no guarantee that there won’t be a shortage of veterinarians in the job market.
Before the pandemic started, there was already a shortage of veterinarians. As a recruiter working “in the trenches” of the job market, I first noticed this shortage of veterinarians around 2008, during the Great Recession. During that time, there were people in the profession who said there were too many veterinarians and that there would be unemployed veterinarians on street corners. But I knew that wasn’t the case. Our firm placed more veterinarians during the Great Recession than we ever placed in the years up to that point. There were recruiters in other industries like IT, Construction, and Aviation who had no jobs to fill and who looked at us and said, “How do you have so many jobs?”
Caleb: And one of the reasons that you had jobs was because you worked in the Animal Health industry and the Veterinary profession?
Stacy: Yes, because the demand for veterinarians was still strong during the Great Recession.
Caleb: Why do you think that was?
Stacy: I think it involves the relationship that people have with their pets. For most people, their pets are like a member of the family. In fact, for some, their pets are like their children, especially if they don’t have children of their own. So that means they care about their pets a lot. So, when tough times hit and sacrifices have to be made, pet owners are more likely to sacrifice things for themselves, rather than sacrifice things that their pets need.
Caleb: So, they take their pets to the veterinarian, same as before.
Stacy: Yes, that’s right. Some pet owners will even sacrifice themselves not going to the doctor before their pets do. In fact, if pet owners were willing to do that during the Great Recession, it would take something worse than the Great Recession happening in the economy and job market for them to not put a priority on their pets.
Caleb: And if there is no recession and or if there’s a mild one, there’s going to be a shortage of veterinarians for the foreseeable future, is that right?
Stacy: Correct. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the BLS in April of this year, veterinarian jobs are projected to grow by 17% between 2020 and 2030. We’re already two years into this, and keep in mind these are veterinarian jobs. Technician and assistant jobs are not included in this.
According to a report released by Mars Veterinary Health in March of this year, a shortage of nearly 15,000 veterinarians could exist by the year 2030.
Caleb: You mean there will be 15,000 open veterinarian jobs with no one to fill them?
Stacy: Yes, and that represents an even greater shortage of veterinarians than we’re experiencing right now. And since that’s the case, you can expect what’s happening in the job market in terms of veterinarian job offers to continue. In fact, conditions could become more extreme, and if that happens, then starting base salaries and sign-on bonuses might get even larger.
Caleb: Stacy, we’re just about of time for today. Is there anything else that you’d like to add before we end today’s podcast episode?
Stacy: Yes, this should go without saying, but employer absolutely cannot “lowball” veterinarian candidates in this job market. Unfortunately, it still happens from time to time, and I can say that it never ends well. In this market, if you want Veterinary talent, then you’re going to have to pay a premium price.
The rule for making a veterinarian job offer is simple: when you have the best candidate, make your best offer. If you don’t, then the candidate might reject your offer and they could quite possibly be offended, as well. Don’t offer them the same or less compensation than they are making now. Offer them an incentive and make the offer compelling. Send the message that you really do want this candidate to join you organization. A lowball offer does not send that message.
Not only will the candidate reject your offer but might also tell their friends and colleagues that you tried to lowball them. So not only were you not able to hire the candidate you wanted to hire, but it also turned into a branding disaster. Essentially, you’ve turned a possible “win” into a “lose-lose” situation.
Caleb: Stacy, thank you so much for joining us today and for all of this great information about the Pet industry trends that are driving the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession.
Stacy: It’s been my pleasure Caleb, and I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!