Half of veterinary surgeons who graduated within the past eight years say their career has not matched their expectations, according to a survey the RCVS and the BVA are dubbing a “wake-up call” to the profession.

The results form the latest output from Vet Futures – a joint RCVS and BVA initiative that aims to help the veterinary profession prepare for and shape its future.  

The online survey gathered views from 892 veterinary students (via the Association of Veterinary Students) and 1,973 veterinary surgeons who had graduated within the past eight years, during May and June this year.  

Although 37% of graduates reported their working lives had met their expectations, and a further 13% said it had exceeded them, this left 50% partly or wholly unsatisfied. Furthermore, 10% said they were considering leaving the profession entirely.  

Vets who have been qualified for five years or more were least optimistic about the future, rating their opportunities for career progression less positively than more recent graduates, and were also least likely to feel their degree had prepared them for their work. Meanwhile, 34% of students felt their degree was preparing them “very well” for the work they wanted to do.  

Almost three-quarters (73%) of students intended to work in the UK, with most aspiring to work in small animal/exotic or mixed practice, although one in 10 was as yet undecided. Of students, 45% said they wanted to become practice owners or partners, yet this aspiration dropped to 25% among graduates.

In addition, nearly double the amount of graduates said they wanted to work outside clinical practice (18%), compared to students.  

When seeking a role, the three factors both graduates and students agreed would have the greatest influence on their choice of career were intellectual satisfaction, location and a supportive environment.  

This last requirement chimes with the fact among the most popular suggestions for improvement to the veterinary degree were compulsory modules on managing stress, personal development and work-life balance, alongside more teaching of business and finance skills, and extra-mural studies placements in a wider range of settings, such as industry.

The full research report, “Voices from the future of the profession”, can be read at www.vetfutures.org.uk/resources

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