Good news for the class of 2021: “It’s a seller’s market.”

The job market for new veterinary school grads is looking good. Really good. Better, in fact, than it was before the pandemic.

Janel Lang, MA, director of the Career, Leadership, and Wellness Center at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, told NEWStat that the job market is “incredibly strong” for 2021 veterinary school graduates, and added that, “There are a broad array of positions available.”

From adjusting to online lectures to interviewing virtually for jobs to limited and complicated internship and externship opportunities, veterinary students have had to pivot big-time to adapt. And it looks like it’s paying off big-time.

According to the AVMA’s annual Economic State of the Veterinary Profession report (released last fall), starting salaries for new veterinary graduates was $70,045 in 2019—up from $65,983 in 2018. And more than 94% of those grads found full-time employment or opportunities to continue their education.

Then came 2020 and the pandemic. It hit right before the class of 2020 was scheduled to graduate.

Veterinary management and career consultant Stith Keiser told NEWStat that members of the class of 2020 were so freaked out at what COVID might do to the profession, “We saw students taking jobs sight unseen.” Many were accepting the first offer they got “after doing a Zoom interview and a virtual tour of the hospital.” That was unheard of prepandemic.

Keiser, chief executive officer of Blue Heron Consulting and an adjunct faculty member at Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine, said to keep in mind that this was before anyone had a sense of how the pandemic would affect veterinary medicine. At the time, most hospitals were still working out the kinks of curbside and states were still debating whether veterinary teams were considered essential workers.

But despite the pandemic, 2020 starting salaries jumped considerably, Keiser said, “to right around $93,000.” He said that, in 2021, the bump is smaller, but based on what he’s seen, salaries are “still hovering closer to that $100,000 mark.”

This year, things are very different. Keiser echoed Lang when he told NEWStat that, based on his experience in the trenches, “job offers are way up” in 2021. In April of this year, there were 18.5 jobs available for every veterinarian who was looking for one, according to data from the AVMA.

Keiser said the benefits packages being extended to new grads are more attractive than those in past years, too—relocation allowances and signing bonuses “are almost expected.”

And while that’s good news for new grads looking for jobs, Keiser says it’s not so good for hospitals looking to hire—unless they have deep pockets: “It puts the average hospital at a big disadvantage—they can’t afford to pay a $100,000 signing bonus.”

The pandemic also made it harder for hospitals to cultivate relationships with veterinary students, Keiser said, due to the limits that social distancing put on their ability to offer internships and externships. The pandemic effectively put the kibosh on those “getting to know you in person” opportunities that often led to job offers.

But all in all, Keiser said, “This year is much more normal than last year.”

In fact, he said it’s actually a hotter job market now than it was prepandemic. “It’s a seller’s market. Absolutely.”

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