A UK-wide survey of the profession has revealed the majority of student vets would definitely choose to be a vet again, with less than 1% saying they would not take the same career path.

However, as young vets move from their studies into practice, the British Veterinary Association (BVA)’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey suggests young vets may need support as the reality of working in practice kicks in. The news comes as BBC Two follows veterinary students in their final year at the Royal Veterinary College in its series Young Vets.

The Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey shows:

  • 83% of student vets, when asked: “Knowing what you know now, would you choose to pursue a career as a vet again?” said: “Yes, I would still choose to be a vet.”
  • Less than 1% of student vets responded: “No, I would not still choose to be a vet.”

However, moving from university life into veterinary practice throws up a series of challenges, which include:

  • isolation from moving away from family and friends and university colleagues
  • lower wages than professions that require similar training and now with increasing student debt
  • long hours, which can include additional nights and weekends
  • a shortfall between career expectations and professional reality

These concerns, among others, seem to be reflected in further Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey findings:

  • Among 26 to 34 year olds, 21% of respondents, when asked: “Knowing what you know now, would you choose to pursue a career as a vet again?” answered: “No, I would not still choose to be a vet.”
  • A further 32% of 26 to 34 year olds answered they were not sure they would still choose to be a vet.
  • Of the 26 to 34 year olds who responded: “No, I would not still choose to be a vet” more than half cited poor pay compared to equivalent professions as one explanation for their answer. A similar proportion also cites long hours or poor work life balance.

The BVA said it has introduced a number of initiatives to help meet these challenges. These include the Young Vet Network, which provides additional support and services to BVA members in their final year of study and the first eight years after graduation.

BVA president Robin Hargreaves said: “We see the commitment and enthusiasm of young people during their studies and training for the veterinary profession, and this is reflected in the findings of the BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey.

“Young people enter the profession because they care about animals and their owners, and are prepared to go through very tough studies and training to achieve their dream of becoming a vet. But we know the reality of the profession can be different from expectations as a student.

“There are pressures on young vets in their early careers. They work long hours – which increase significantly when on call – in a job where there is a very high level of responsibility, and the emotional and financial investment of clients in their animals can be vast.

“Vets starting out in practice will almost inevitably need to move away from family and friends, and will possibly be the only recent graduate in that practice, having to deal with those long hours and clients’ expectations without their support network near them.

“In addition, the career they envisaged for themselves as a vet when they started at university may not be as easy to achieve or as clear cut as they had hoped. For example, there remains a shortfall of equine practice places available for graduate vets who would like to work in this area.

“The BVA is committed to supporting vets throughout their careers and in helping young vets starting out to meet the early challenges and go on to a rewarding career in this wonderful profession. We are already making significant strides here, with initiatives such as the BVA Young Vet Network.

“We are also working to emphasise the full range of opportunities on offer to graduate vets, including work in research, Government and industry, as well as traditional practice. The BVA wants to break down the barriers to professional mobility for veterinary surgeons through events such as the BVA Careers Fair, which showcases a range of career opportunities.”

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