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COVID-19 leaves hundreds of veterinary school grads unlicensed, unemployed, and unable to pay back student loans

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More than 600 veterinary school graduates from the Class of 2020 have no idea when they’ll be able to start work or start repaying their student loans.

Because they’re not licensed. And they’re not licensed because they haven’t taken their North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE).

They haven’t been able to, thanks to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. Hundreds of recent grads were scheduled to take the licensing examination in April, but the coronavirus nixed that. Like many businesses, NAVLE testing sites across the US were forced to close because of the pandemic.

That they can’t take the test is only the latest hurdle faced by a graduating class that had already seen its final months of clinical education cut short or otherwise drastically altered. And that was in addition to the uncertainty they already faced in the prepandemic veterinary job market.

In a recent survey of 2020 graduates by the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, 428 respondents indicated they’re still waiting to take the NAVLE. Of those, 313 will be ineligible to apply for a license before their job is scheduled to begin or have experienced a delay in their licensure processing.

No job means no paycheck, and no paycheck means no payments on student loans.

The AVMA reached out to the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) to request that each state licensing board have a plan in place to accommodate, within reason, new veterinary school graduates unable to obtain a license due COVID-19 restrictions

According to the AAVSB, the requirements to become a licensed veterinarian are defined by statute and are unique to each state. However, many states allow for a provisional or temporary license that may allow a recent graduate awaiting the opportunity to take the NAVLE to work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

That’s good news for the graduates who managed to find a job at a hospital before the pandemic hit—as long as those hospitals still need  a freshly minted veterinarian.

We’ll keep you informed on this developing story.

 Photo credit: © iStock/motortion