Earlier this week I tweeted about the new private veterinary school opening up in East Tennessee. To paraphrase my tweet, now that I have more than 140 characters to work with, I commented that we need another vet school in North America like we need more lay dentists. There are hardly any jobs for new grads in vet med regardless of the species. I think most of us are  aware by now that there is not a shortage of vets in rural practice, instead there is a shortage of clients in these regions that can afford vet care, let alone the case load to justify a full time vet. This was my explanation to a vet student on Twitter who wondered why I was so negative about this new school. His next question asked what should a vet student or new grad do to make themselves more attractive to job opportunities. Here is my response.

1.     Be realistic about work/life balance.

There are plenty of unemployed vets who would like to give up some of their idle days for a job. Work/life balance is good but you need a job before you can have that work/life balance. I received an application recently for a vet position we were trying to fill. The vet applying for the job mentioned wanting a work/life balance twice in the opening paragraph of his letter of application. He only mentioned once that he was a hard worker, dedicated, etc, etc. Guess what the impression I was left with. This guy would rather play than work so I would rather keep on looking for a new vet.

2.     Be creative to make opportunities

Applicants who want to work a regular work week are the norm, nothing unusual there. What would catch my eye is the vet who wants to work evenings or weekends to cover emergencies, or will work Saturdays or late day shifts, to develop a clientele of horse owners who get to see their horses after work outside of normal business hours.  I would also be interested in someone who wanted to work part time. There might not be enough work to keep a full time vet busy, but enough for a part time vet. Also, if you are amazing at dealing with clients, and can develop a clientele, all you should be worried about is getting your foot in the door so you can show off this ability to your bosses. Offer to work at horse shows or to travel to underserviced regions outside of the practice area. It may take a few months or more to develop a clientele but if you can show you can build a practice any practice will take you on. The problem is that you have to prove it and not just say you can do it. Part time or shift work is better than no work.

3.     Move to where the jobs are

If there are no jobs in your home town or State then move to see where there are jobs. Take a chance and go overseas or even Canada. The market for horses is exploding in Russia and China. What a great opportunity to spend some time in these countries while you are young with few responsibilities. Go East young man (woman).

4.     Offer non Veterinary Medicine services

Many established practices are dipping their toes in the social media world but are struggling to figure it out. If you are under 30 odds are you are pretty good working with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Suggest that part of your job could be social media co-ordinator for the practice.

5.     Realize veterinary medicine is a people business

Unfortunately, most students are never taught this until they get out of vet school. Outside of racehorses, the animals we treat are an excuse to deal with their owners. A sad truth is that a vet who is an ok vet but is amazing with people will have a far more successful practice than an excellent vet with poor people skills. If you are not a social person, and have a hard time with small talk, take a course at Dale Carnegie or something similar. Poor social skills are the biggest impediment to veterinary success.

I hope the vet student I was tweeting with today finds this helpful. It is not an exhaustive list but it certainly highlights the key points in making yourself attractive to practices that are hiring. It is a different world in veterinary medicine now and I am not sure how long it will take to return to the boom times of 5 years ago. The key is to find something that makes you different from all of the other vets looking for jobs. Make it easier to be hired by finding a niche that can help you make the practice better.

Does anyone else have suggestions for new vets searching for a job. Please post them here or on our Facebook Page.







  1. Great points Mike. The new graduates need to know that this is not a 8 to 5:00 job and that during the course of a day they may have to do some things that are not on on there “like to do” list.

    1. Thx Deroy. I agree but at the same time we as practice owners need to be sensitive that they won’t want to work as hard as we do. It is a two way street. I just wish the vet school would not drill into them that quality of life is the most important thing. This is not feasible in this economy.

  2. Another great post Dr. Pownall!

    : )

    1. Thx. Dr. Mekler:)

  3. Great Article for the new graduating vet. I think also something needs to be done to teach new vets about the business they are entering. There is a lot taught about the medicine side of the work but none in vet schools about business in itself. There is a need for new vets to understand what they need to be doing in a business to make it a more profitable business in how they bill and manage clients to ensure that not only does the practice owner improves profit but that in turn allows business owners to pay vets more. It is a catch 22 situation that new vets need to understand.
    I have seen this many times that vets complain not being paid enough and working very hard, but the fact is they are discounting bills by not even invoicing properly so how can they be paid more if the invoices are not there.

    I think sites like this should be a must read for any new vet so that they can understand the business they are about to enter.

    Well done keep up the great posts. I know I often re-read them several times.

    1. THanks Mike. I’m glad that this subject is relevant on the other side of the world as well. I enjoy your tweets and if you ever want to submit a blog I would love to post it.

  4. Great post Dr. Pownall!

    I think there are still areas, in the US anyway, where there are shortages of vets. I’ve been at my current practice for eight months and I’ve not had a single resume from a DVM sent to me on-spec! That being said, the tide is definitely turning and, I think, in many major metropolitan areas there is a significant abundance of veterinarians. There is a lot of great advice in your post, but the single biggest thing is “be prepared to move where the work is.” Speaking as someone who employs veterinarians- a little flexibility goes a long way.

    Mike Falconer

    1. Mike,

      I can’t agree more. It is not realistic to think that staying close to home is a career goal any more. Perhaps we will see necessity change this attitude.


  5. Mike,
    Loved the line “even to Canada”. Hope you didn’t bite your tongue. Vet schools are not taking the type of students that we need in practice. Bottom line is that private practice is not that complicated and students with more business skills, people skills and work ethic would elevate the profession. We need less animal lovers who want to ride, show, play outside with the animals and oh, by the way, work a bit as well – at least enough to buy dog food and stall rent.

    1. Hi Eric,
      We have been one of the few practices that have been looking for equine vets the past 3 years. I am so disappointed at the lack of resumes I receive from the US. I don’t know what it is about moving to another country but when I was in my 20’s I would jump at a chance to explore and learn about a new country. There are so many opportunities out there if a young vet wants to take some chances or explore other options.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.