AVMA Census: Veterinary Profession Facing Greater Personnel Shortages

by Stacy Pursell, CPC, CERS

The VET Recruiter®

I’ve shared a number of interesting statistics with readers during the past year, and I have more to share in this article. However, I’d like to recap some of the information from previous articles and blog posts.

For example, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Americans spent $18.11 billion on Veterinary care in 2018. Not only that, but Americans are also expected to spend nearly $19 billion this year.

In addition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), certain occupations within the Veterinary profession are set to grow at a rate of 19% during the 10-year period between 2016 and 2026. In short, there will be 50,000+ more jobs in the Veterinary profession in 2026 than there were in 2016.

And now, I’d like to share some information that was released earlier this year by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The AVMA Veterinary Economics Division conducted an analysis of the AVMA membership database. According to that analysis, the Veterinary profession could be faced with daunting personnel shortages:

  • The mean age of veterinarians at the time of graduation has increased, meaning that career lengths for veterinarians are decreasing.
  • A large number of board-certified veterinarians are nearing retirement within the next 15 years.
  • 5% of practice owners age 39 or younger indicated in 2008 that they owned a practice, but only 9.0% did so in 2018.
  • 8% of practice owners age 40-49 indicated in 2008 that they owned a practice, but only 27.5% did so in 2018.

And these statistics only paint part of the picture. That’s because approximately 3,000 veterinarians graduated from Veterinary colleges across the country. As you might have already guessed, supply is simply not keeping up with demand. There aren’t enough veterinarians graduating to meet the increasing demand for veterinarians in the employment marketplace. The gap between demand and supply is wide . . . and it’s only going to become wider.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there will be over 50,000 more jobs in the Veterinary profession in 2026 than there were in 2016. There is already a shortage of workers in the profession, with the unemployment rate hovering right around 1% during the past 12 to 18 months. If there are 50,000 more jobs in the profession in the year 2026, we would need 50,000 more workers, in addition to the people who are already in the profession, just to keep up!

The talent shortage in the Veterinary profession is reaching crisis levels, if it’s not there already. This reality of the marketplace has far-reaching ramifications for Veterinary employers. I talk with hiring managers and practice owners every day all over the country, and I can tell you that it is definitely challenging to hire people in the current environment. Taking all of the numbers and statistics that I’ve listed above into consideration, it would be fair to say that it’s only going to become more difficult over the course of the next six years.

So what is the take-away from all this? There are multiple take-aways, actually, including the following:

  • Attempting to fill your Veterinary organization’s open positions solely through posting online job advertisements does not work well now, and it will not work well in the near future.
  • As an employer, you must be proactive in your hiring efforts. You can not afford to just sit back and wait for qualified candidates to come to you. As the numbers and the analysis illustrate, there simply are not enough qualified candidates in the market for that to happen.
  • Once you’ve made the decision to hire, you must move quickly and decisively during the hiring process. In addition, you must engage candidates and communicate with them consistently and effectively. You can not afford to drag out the hiring process because if you do, it increases the chances that candidates will drop out of the process.
  • When you make an offer to a candidate, you must make your best offer! If you do not make your best offer, then the candidate might accept a counter-offer from their current employer or turn down your offer in favor of one from another organization.

Now is the time to start preparing for the next six years. (In fact, you should have already started preparing.) As an Animal Health or Veterinary employer, your priority should be to make your organization look as attractive as possible to top candidates. Employer branding is extremely important, and it’s only going to become more important. How you are viewed in the marketplace is a major factor in determining whether or not you’re considered to be an “employer of choice.” Those organizations that are able to successfully position themselves as an “employer of choice” are more likely to hire the best candidates.

And of course, there is tremendous value in partnering with an experienced Animal Health recruiter or Veterinary recruiter. A good recruiter has experience finding top talent in a challenging market. They can help give you a competitive advantage, so that you have a hiring edge over your competition. The bottom line is that the Veterinary profession is facing greater shortages than ever before. Prepare now, so that your organization can hire the right people and continue to thrive.

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.

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