Putting into Focus the Current (and Future) Veterinarian Shortage

As a nation, we are deep in the midst of a veterinarian shortage, one which presents a number of challenges for organizations, employers, and veterinary practices. And there are also a number of questions associated with this shortage, including the following:

  • Exactly how severe is the shortage currently?
  • How severe will the shortage eventually get?
  • How long will the shortage last?
  • What can be done to combat the shortage?

In this article, I will do my best to answer these questions, drawing upon numbers and statistics that are readily available to anyone who wishes to research them. As you will see, as much as there is a veterinarian shortage in the present, current conditions pale in comparison to what the future might hold.

Veterinarian shortage: by the numbers

The unemployment rate in the Veterinary profession has been extraordinary low during the past several years. In fact, according to Zippia, since 2013, the unemployment rate in the profession has decreased from 1.0% to 0.2%, making it one of the few professions in which unemployment is virtually non-existent. And right now, even when you don’t factor new Veterinary jobs into the equation, there is a signification veterinarian shortage.

According to numbers released by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), between January of 2019 and May of 2021, there were 18 positions open for every veterinarian seeking a job. (There were also six positions open for every technician and assistant and 12 positions open for related positions, but our focus is on veterinarians, those who are a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine).

That’s the present. But what does the future hold? Veterinarians are also the focus of numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in September of last year. According to the BLS, Veterinary jobs are projected to grow by 17% between the years 2020 and 2030. To put it another way, there will be 17% more job openings in the Veterinary profession in 2030 than there were at the end of 2020. In terms of raw numbers, that’s 14,500 more new jobs during the 10-year timeframe.

But that’s not all. According to the same BLS data, there will be 4,400 job openings for veterinarians each year, on average, during the decade. These openings will exist for a number of different reasons—workers leaving for other opportunities, transferring to other occupations, and exiting the workforce (including those who leave through retirement). Of those 4,400 job openings each year, 1,450 of them will be brand-new Veterinary job openings.

There are multiple reasons why there will be so many brand-new openings, but they all boil down to one reality: people are spending more money on their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), more than 67% of American households own at least one pet. In addition, the amount of money 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 apparently, pet owners are just getting warmed up. According to a report recently released by Mars Veterinary health, pet healthcare spending in the United States will increase 33% between 2019 and 2029. The numbers are already mind-boggling. How much higher can they go?

The veterinarian shortage and untreated animals

However, perhaps the most stunning statistic comes from Banfield Pet Hospital. Considering the veterinarian shortage, both in the present and what is projected, Banfield predicts there could be as many as 75 million pets without Veterinary care by 2030. This is because there simply will not be enough veterinarians in the workforce to address the health needs of these pets.

Think for a moment about how busy the Veterinary profession has been during the past couple of years and how busy it is now. You might be asking yourself how things could get any busier than they already are. The numbers, statistics, and projections presented in this article hold the answer to that question, and more than likely, it’s not an answer that you are likely to embrace.

You don’t have to be told that untreated animals equals lost revenue. Only those Veterinary organizations, practices, and hospitals that are fully staffed with veterinarians will be positioned to operate at maximum capacity. However, the time to address this is not at some point in the future. The time to address it is now, when the veterinarian shortage is not nearly as severe as it is going to become. (Although right now, you probably believe the current shortage is quite severe.)

The unemployment rate in the profession is nearly non-existent, and as an Animal Health and Veterinary recruiter for the past 25 years, I don’t need numbers and statistics to know that’s true. I can’t remember the last time I spoke with an unemployed veterinarian. They practically do not exist. They’re like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, with the possible exception that people actually claim to have seen Bigfoot and Nessie.

When putting the veterinarian shortage into focus, this much becomes clear: the current shortage is only going to get worse. Absent extreme and unforeseen events, there is simply no way around it.

The VET Recruiter has 25 years of experience identifying, engaging, and recruiting top Veterinary talent for our clients. This, of course, includes Doctors of Veterinary Medicine, who are in short supply and will be in short supply for the foreseeable future. We can partner with you as an executive recruiting firm and help you to navigate the veterinary shortage so that you are able to take advantage of the positive economic conditions that are contributing to the shortage and not be hampered by the personnel challenges that are associated with it.

You can click here to find out more about our services for employers. Click here to learn more about our recruiting process.

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.