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Veterinary Hiring: What It Takes to Hire Veterinarians in This Job Market

It would be an understatement to say that it takes a great deal to successfully hire veterinarians in this current job market. It would also be an obvious statement, one to which many hiring managers and Veterinary practice owners would agree.

However, what specifically does it take to hire veterinarians in this market? What combination of factors will allow employers to successfully hire veterinarians when there is currently a shortage?

There are many stages and factors involved in the recruiting and hiring process. After all, first you have to identify the top candidates. Then you have to engage those candidates and convince them to explore your employment opportunity. And then, you must keep them engaged all the way through the process, until you’re ready to make an offer to your top choice.

While all of these things are important, what happens at the end of the process during the offer stage is what is most critical. This is when you “close” the candidate and compel them to accept your offer of employment. And in this current job market, there are three crucial factors that affect whether or not your top candidate will accept the offer:

#1—Starting salary, bonuses, and benefits.

Due to the Law of Supply and Demand, it costs more to acquire veterinarians. That’s because there is a smaller supply of them than the demand. As a result, it requires more to convince a veterinarian to leave their current employer (at which they are probably satisfied and being treated well) and make a move for another opportunity.

During the past few years, we at The VET Recruiter have seen an increase in what it takes for employers to hire veterinarians. For example, employers are not making offers to veterinarian candidates below $100K that are being accepted. Offers with starting salaries of less than $100K are turned down. This applies to new graduates, too. Graduates are asking for and receiving starting salaries in the range of $100K to $150K right out of school. (In fact, students are receiving offers this large before they even graduate, and many are receiving multiple offers prior to commencement.)

As you might imagine, experienced doctors are receiving even more in terms of starting salary. Veterinarians with three or more years of experience are asking for and receiving salaries of $140K+ with production. And some ER veterinarians are asking for starting salaries of at least $200K before they will consider making a move. They say they can make more doing relief work so, to take a full time position it has to be worth their while. We have seen salary ranges as high as $300K in general practice for an experienced doctor.

In addition, almost every offer includes a sign-on bonus of some kind. These bonuses are typically in the range of $10K to $20K, but they can exceed that amount if the candidate agrees to a multi-year commitment with the practice. I was involved with a situation within the past year in which a practice offered a veterinarian candidate a sign-on bonus of $50K. To illustrate how competitive the job market is, that candidate ultimately turned down the offer. We have seen multi year sign on and retention bonuses as high as $250K.

#2—Flexible work schedule

Today’s candidates want more than just money, though. Because of the imbalance that exists in the market and the fact top candidates have the leverage, they know they can get the money. Flexibility is also important to them, specifically schedule flexibility, as well as a healthy work-life balance.

At our firm, we’ve had many candidates negotiate flexible schedules that included working four days per week. Some have negotiated working only three days per week, while others successfully negotiated whether or not they would work any weekends and those willing to work weekends, negotiated which weekend days they would work. Once again, this includes new graduates and students who have not yet graduated.

The work schedule is critical for candidates when assessing an offer package from an employer. If they don’t believe the offer includes enough flexibility, then they will reject the offer, regardless of the money involved.

#3—A safe, pleasant, and less stressful work environment.

The Veterinary profession has become more stressful during the past several years. Clients have exhibited increasingly boorish behavior, to the point where this has become a substantial problem for clinics. Pet owners have said some truly nasty things to veterinarians, who want to reduce their exposure to negative behavior as much as possible.

As a result, veterinarians want to know their employer is going to “have their back” and protect them from rude clients and pet owners and create a pleasant working environment. As an example, we at The VET Recruiter have a client whose team was feeling stressed out, and they had some customers who were rude. The practice owner decided to close the hospital for a day, during which he paid all of his employees, and hosted a “wellness day.” He brought in a food truck, they all had food in the parking lot, and just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company.

What’s unfortunate for employers is that the current veterinarian shortage is predicted to continue, likely through the end of the decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the BLS in April of 2022, veterinarian jobs are projected to grow by 17% between 2020 and 2030. And according to a recent report, Mars Veterinary Health predicts a shortage of 15,000 veterinarians by the end of the decade.

So, it’s true that it takes a lot to successfully hire veterinarians in this current job market. Based on the information presented above, it is important to know exactly what it takes to hire veterinarians. These are the issues and factors that are most important to today’s candidates, which means that focusing on these issues and factors will help convince these candidates to make a career move and join your organization.

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.