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High demand... Low prices?

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by kate_g, Mar 4, 2007.

  1. kate_g

    kate_g Senior Member
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    I keep hearing about this, so I thought I'd see what everyone thinks.

    "There is very high demand for small animal veterinarians..."

    "Our students have an average of 7 job offers by the time they graduate..."

    "There's a real shortage in the veterinary profession..."

    So why are starting salaries for private practice small animal veterinarians still so low that every school seems to have a "you do realize how low your starting salary will be in comparison to your debt, don't you?" session as part of their interview weekend?

    Shouldn't prices go up as demand rises? Why aren't graduates negotiating for larger salaries, if there's such a shortage of qualified vets? Is it because you just don't do salary negotiation when you apply to work at Starbucks, and for most of us this will be our first "real job", so we don't know any better?

    Some of the problem obviously has to be that there's only so much people are willing to pay for their pets' medical care. (Somebody posted those articles a while back about the severe shortage of rural large-animal vets which is only getting worse because the pay is terrible but farmers aren't willing to pay more than the animal's market value.) But really, if pet owners were that unwilling to pay then there wouldn't be that much demand, right? Raising prices in order to *reduce* demand is actually a pretty standard small-business strategy. As an oddly relevant example, the hairstylist I go to is a master of this strategy. You balance your price increase so that you make up the revenue from any lost clients with the extra money coming in from the clients who stick around. And, you get to provide better service to those fewer clients (it's easier to get an appointment, you're less likely to be running an hour behind by the end of the day...) to make it worth the extra cost. If you take it just a little further, you can give yourself a pay raise at the same time.

    Anyway, I just think it's interesting. I'm just not the kind of person who needs or wants hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, but a living wage after loan payments would be nice...
     
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  3. 4theanimals

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    One of the reasons I have heard given for this decline in prices is that women are taking over the industry. The disparity in wages between the sexes occurs here too. Women are willing to work harder for less money, feel their services are of less financial value, etc. It's a very interesting idea.

    Another big cause, lack of business training. For years the veterinary office was a small business with generally simple procedures which didn't take a tremendous amount of work. Now, in many cases it is like being the CEO of a business. This is why I have chosen to enter a combined DVM/MBA program.

    Take a look at some studies who which have tackled this issue. These are both from the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues:
    http://www.ncvei.org/documents/brakkestudy.pdf
    http://www.ncvei.org/kpmg.aspx
     
  4. Moonpaw

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    I read one of the reports, and it is a bit alarming. It took me quite some time to get my dad (a doctor) used to the idea that I wanted to be a vet more than anything. Recently, he found out that the average vet makes about 50k a year (far, far less than what he makes) and is again getting on my case, asking how I'm going to survive as a vet (although I do agree with him on that point).

    When women are just given lower salaries by employers, and don't really know what their male counterparts make, that's one thing. Does anyone else feel it's kind of screwed up that women are actually satisfied making less than men, just because we're women, as one of the studies said. Do you think those women actually know how much less than their peers they are making?
     
  5. CookieBear

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    I think the low salary issue has alot to do with where you are going to practice (if we talk about going into private practice). Demographics and the area you are practicing in is going to play a role.

    I've heard first-hand accounts of newer grads accepting a salary offer and not even *trying* or asking for more. And if it's a private practice owner who is hiring you, you may indeed NEED to ask for more before saying 'yes'... because that private owner may be starting down very, very low in the hopes you will accept that.

    I know there is a common practice these days of having the option to get paid a certain base salary, and then a commission based on production, i.e., what you produce monthly, for instance. Again, if you are in a busy or urban setup, it's probably easier to earn more.

    Even though I knew new grads who were earning in the $50k salary range, by the time they were out 3 years plus, their earnings increased to over 70k, and 80k. But this is in a suburban/urban setting.

    I think one of the toughest problems for the profession is overcoming the "it's just an animal" issue, and resolving that in the context of the technology that is available in vet medicine now.

    When a client has expressed horror at the fact that an MRI will cost $1,000 (or whatever) for their dog/cat, etc., and I remind them that the equipment is the same quality and cost that is used for humans, it's as if that's a new idea. Or outside laboratory costs (CBC/Chem panels, u/a's, etc.) Clients seem to have two delusions: one, what a pet's laboratory work SHOULD cost, and two, what their own lab tests cost WITHOUT the benefits of insurance.

    Then again, I inwardly cringe when I have to explain a $1500 estimate to an owner for a work-up and hospitalization. But yet, that same bill for a human being would be HOW much more?

    One of the vets I work with, when we had this discussion a week or two ago, had these comments:

    He said, veterinarians are the only professionals who charge for what they DO instead of for what they KNOW. He also pointed out that in nearly all other professions, the professional himself/herself is not the person inputting charges or the bill of service. Other personnel do that, because the temptation is there to wince and say, "Oh man, it's HOW MUCH for a [fill in the blank]?"

    Since I manage a vet hospital, I have many different thoughts on this, and I often think about these issues, too.
     
  6. birdvet2006

    birdvet2006 Glasgow c/o 2006
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    IMO, starting salaries are "low" because practice owners aren't willing to shell out more than you are worth. You, as a new grad, are not going to be bringing in as much money as a more experienced vet - simply on case load alone. Until you can prove you can earn that $400,000 per year you won't be paid that 20% production on top of base salary. That's the way I see it.
     
  7. bubbles525

    bubbles525 Member
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    I think location is key here. I'm located in western MA and my SA clinic is expanding. My boss off the bat is offering new grads $60,000 and 20% comission on top. She says that if after a year the vet wouldn't be making $60,000 or more then they aren't a benifit to our practice. I was greatly encouraged by that starting figure, 50-60 is a huge differance as far as living expenses and paying off loans goes, and I know new grads are not up to the case load a vet with 10-20 years experiance is but atfer 12 months one's ablilties to handle a larger case load should increase dramatically, right?

    I also think we're at the start of the curve right now. In 5-10 years the starting and avarage salary is going to move up steadily based on the economics. This demand for vets means that new grads have to be savy and get those 7 offers to bid for them, always ask for more than offered and negotiate.
     
  8. Azawakh

    Azawakh Junior Member
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    There are many variables that play a role in stating salaries. The specialty is also important to consider. The starting salary for lab animal veterinarians is around 100K.
     
  9. tiddlywinks

    tiddlywinks UC Davis c/o 2011
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    By specialty, do you mean after doing an internship and residency? Because board certified specialists can start out at 100K. The downside is that during your residency you're only making 20 or 30K a year.
     
  10. Bill59

    Bill59 Member
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    You have to realize when practice owners say "I can't hire any veterinarians, there's a shortage." they mean, "I can't hire any veterinarians at the salary I'm willing to pay."

    That's a big reason Banfield provided funds for Western in California -- the more new graduates the easier for them to hire associates.

    So whenever you hear about "shortage" you have to consider who's making the claims.
     
  11. kate_g

    kate_g Senior Member
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    This is an interesting point. I've heard others make birdvet's point, that a new graduate in a private practice needs so much on-the-job training that they probably actually cost the practice money for a while. That makes sense, but if that's the main reason for the low starting salary then you would expect a substantial leap in salary after a couple years, when you can actually start contributing productively to the practice.

    But... Were those people making more money after a couple years because they switched practices and were offered a higher salary at the new job? Or did they actually ask their employer for a steep raise after a year? I find it hard to imagine that the employer just up and offered a 50% raise one day, but I also find it hard to believe that the same people who didn't know they could negotiate their salary to begin with suddenly started playing hardball...
     
  12. KittenKiller

    KittenKiller chop suey
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    I also wonder about how salaries are generally reported in veterinary medicine and wonder if this statistic is a bit on the low side. First, a lot of veterinarians are part time - more than the average profession Id think - due to the high proportion of women (and therefore mothers) in the profession. So does this "average salary" take part time veterinarians into account, and if so, how? Or are part time salaries getting reported the same way full time salaries are, driving the mean down.

    Secondly, a lot of veterinarians own their own businesses. How salaries are reported to the government may vary from state to state, and actual net income might differ from reported salary, whether its to avoid taxes or whether many veterinarians might use some of their practice's assets for personal use (eg going out to lunch on the business' money rather than personal money, gas money, etc).
     
  13. Bill59

    Bill59 Member
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    You have to look at the details of the particular survey.

    For example, in the survey of 2006 graduates in JAVMA, 97.5% were full time and 1.1% were self-empoyed. Overall, the mean starting salary with additional compensation for private practice was about $64,000 (US).
     
  14. InfiniVet

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    I think a lot of people choose to go to out of state schools, and therefore rack up their debt load like crazy, therefore putting pressure on new grads to take any job offer the moment they graduate, leaving them with little room to negotiate with their future employer. But it's still possible to get a decent starting wage, regardless of gender, just got to be thorough in researching the company you want to work for - oh and by the way? My boss told me "he would never hire a female graduate because all women wanna do is get pregnant and be lazy" I just laughed in his face. If employers want to have this attitude, and either flat out won't hire females or offer really low salaries, they're probably too stupid to even manage a successful business.
    I think the average starting salary of 50k is waaay too overgeneralized. How many veterinary industries does that cover? Food production? Research? Avian specialty? Dairy? Neither does it take region into account, which is important, and whether you were the top of your class who can knock out a cat neuter in 45 seconds!
    Also, you gotta think that the baby boomer generation is already retiring/soon to retire, and we can jump up and snatch alllll those vacancies.
    Everything will be fine, people...don't worry...
    *Hands out Acepromazine and dismounts from soapbox* :)
     
  15. chris03333

    chris03333 Veterinarian
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    board certified lab animal vets start off higher than 100K. You can get 100K as a lab animal vet who came in from private practice
     
  16. CookieBear

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    You are right in that, yes, most new grads do not normally 'produce' for their practice (small animal, since that's where my experience is in) for usually at least one year. I'm generalizing of course, but I've seen about a dozen new grads come work for us over the years, and that's usually how it is.

    Indeed, when you can start producing for a practice, you sure should get a substantial raise. That could be a year into your employment, or more... it depends on the doctor.

    Those who I am thinking of, who got these steep raises, also asked for them. But it's my understanding that this is standard in many places. You get the experience, you hopefully build up a following (or at least establish yourself in a healthy practice) and you will not only start producing more, but you should be earning more, whether or not you are paid partially on production.

    The new grads that got the raises were wise enough to realize what they were producing at that point for the hospital. Not many vets like to pay attention to "the numbers" of their production, # of clients seen per day, average transaction, ratio's of laboratory work or diagnostics to # of exams seen, etc., but if you want to prove to your employer that you are now valuable to them, that's how you do it. If you've got a good employer, this will be a mutual, positive discussion for both parties.

    Now, I know for my area, starting salary is now more than $50k. $50k was 5 or 7 years ago, so I know it's more now. But again, as others have remarked too, pay rates vary depending on what part of the USA you're in.

    It also is going to depend on the practice you join. Is it a vaccine oriented clinic? A progressive hospital? 24 hour place? Referral (specialty) only? How many clients, how many visits per year, and what does the practice normally gross per year? Alot of that will reflect on how and what the staff, including associate vets, get paid.

    Hope that helps the discussion. :)
     
  17. TurboVet

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    in my experience, starting salary for lab animal vets, those coming in having just finished a residency, was 70-80k. you don't get up to 100k unless you've been working for a few years and/or you assume another role aka "assistant professor of biochem" etc. i've never seen a starting salary ok 100k, even in emergency med.
     
  18. frozen_canadian

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    I think what it comes down to is that the advances and costs in veterinary medicine are outpacing the consumers willingness to pay. As a profession we have made huge progress in the last decade, and are now able to perform almost any procedure on animals that can be done on humans. However, as someone above said, many people view their pet as 'just an animal.' As a result, they are unwilling to pay the cost for many of these procedures, and for the 8 years of postsecondary knowledge we have.

    I will be happy to settle for $50,000 coming out of school, so long as there is mentoring provided at the practice. However, I think you guys in the States are really taking it up the ass by paying insane amounts of tuition. $200,000 of student loan debt and a starting salary of only 1/4 that amount would scare the heck out of me. Kudos to those of you still following the dream though.
     
  19. Nexx

    Nexx 2 weeks and counting
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    $200,000 in debt is a cake walk! Most of us have been living on $20k/year (or less if you are a student). So why can't you come out of school making $50k/year and be debt free in under 10 years? Because you are unwilling to tone down your lifestyle?

    That being said vets aren't confined to making $50k/year forever. Frankly that is a good starting salary for anyone. Why should we make more? Because our debt load is high? We made the choice to work in this field, we chose where to go to school. Therefore we chose the debt and the salary that comes with it.

    A problem with vetmed is what has been expressed above,that it has outpaced what people are willing to spend as we pursue new technologies for use in the field. It is the same problem that is going on in the human field, save costs here, only to turn around and spend it on a multi-million dollar MRI machine that is just the 'newest' possible. Is the expense of Direct Digital Xray (~$100,000) worth the extra speed it provides right now? Can you as a clinic wait 5 years until prices drop significantly? Is the $20,000 for a lasercyte from Idexx worth the cost when it is inaccurate as hell? But it looks pretty and has a touchscreen interface!

    Just look to the pharmaceutical market for examples too.

    /end rand
    //will be well over $250,000 in debt after all my schooling
     
  20. wildfocus

    wildfocus DVM/PhD student
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    1) you may change your mind about how easy you think that debt is to pay off when you go to buy your first home, or have kids, or have to put your parents in a nursing home, or any number of things that happen in the real world. 50k doesn't go far after taxes, retirement, bills, sick kids, etc. a lot can happen in 10 years before you have that debt paid off, speaking of which - i highly doubt 10 years is all it would take to pay back 200k earning 50k a year. that really is only ~$3000 take home a month, which may seem like a lot to a student, but wait until the electric, water, mortgage, phone, internet, dental, medical, car insurance, house insurance, food, and student loan bills pile up every month. which of these are reflective of the highlife?

    2) have you ever worked in a hospital? there are no "save costs" in human medicine. partly b/c of health insurance, which both drives up costs and helps pay for them, partly b/c of malpractice insurance which is unbelievably expensive, partly b/c of the cost of personnel (everyone from your doc and nurse, to the instrument cleaner, to the janitor, to the person who actually bills you). i've been in the field for ~10 years and have never heard of prices going up b/c of a new MRI machine...
     
  21. akitavet

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    is running up $200k in the first place. Is that undergrad loans too? If so, that's a concept I just totally dont understand. There is no room to complain about student loans if you choose to go to an expensive undergrad, when you KNOW you are planning to go to vet school too. I have friends who both went to the university of Miami for undergrad and now one is through medical school and one is getting ready to start. Combined, they came in with about $120k from undergrad before medical school, and when its all said and done, $300k wont be out of the question. To me, choosing to go to Miami is frivilous in this case. They could have gone to any state school, and knowing that they were going to medical school anyway, "saved their debt" from when they will have to incur it.

    This is probably the crux of why vet school has so many women. It would be very difficult to single-handedly support a family on $50k/year with student loans to pay. Everyone here is talking about regional variation...well that makes a huge deal in cost of living too! I live in the north suburbs of illinois, and vets make a lot of money here. The affluent people of this area are willing to pay for more vet services than the average person. BUT...the median housing costs around $550k, and property taxes are at about 2.5% per year, which on $550k is $13750, or more than $1000/month on TOP of your mortgage payment. Luckily we live well below the median even now, but STILL! This is not California or Boston either. My point is that if I wanted to practice where I live now, I couldnt do it without the financial support of my husband. Not if I want to own a home, which may sound frivilous to some, but I think owning a home is something every professional in whatever field would expect to be able to do. Just my 2 cents...
     
  22. tapir

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    Are you crazy? To pay off a 200k student loan debt at current interest rates in 10 years, your payments would be $2,300 per month! That's like 80% of your take home pay if you're making 50k.

    The reality would seem to be a 30 year repayment term, unless you're getting major help from wealthy parents or something. The same debt over 30 years is ~$1,300 per month, which would still seem to be nearly impossible on 50k. The good news is that there are other repayment options, such as an income sensitive option (on staffords), where your loan payments are limited to a certain % of your income, and whatever isn't paid off in 25 years is forgiven.

    Also it sounds like most vets make well over 50k after a couple of years, which would go a long way to solving the problem.

    All of the monthly payment numbers are from http://www.finaid.org/calculators/scripts/loanpayments.cgi by the way.
     
  23. Bill59

    Bill59 Member
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    I don't know anything about lab animal, but the starting salary for certain clinical specialists can be well over $100k right out of residency; for example, surgery, neurology, ophthalmology. Now that's in private practice (US), not academics.
     
  24. PAThbrd

    PAThbrd LA Surgery Resident
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    No so... in-state budget per year at Penn is $52,000 per year, and $58,000 for third year. You can live on somewhat less than that and with scholarship and state grants I'm down to about $46,000 per year in loans. Thats 184k plus about 12k I have from undergrad puts me easily right around $200k. If you're not fortunate enough to have a rich family to support you, 120-200k depending on the school and your residency is pretty average.

    That said, my roommates and I were looking at JAVMA the other day and there were plenty of listings of great paying jobs with starting salaries in the 60-70k range for new grads and rapidly increased to 120+. I know that isn't always the case, but if you work hard and are flexible, you can eventually demand the price that you are worth. Also, when you get to vet school, join your VBMA (Vet Business Management Association), you learn a lot about finances and stuff. The vet profession as a whole is really working hard to increase salaries of professionals to a level where they deserve to be. The whole problem originates with vets not charging for what they are worth because they are generally nice people, not business people. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is holding back the profession. Lower practice revenues mean lower salaries all around. Also with things like pet insurance becoming more popular, and people spending more money on their pets in general, more and more cases are being treated in better (and more expensive) ways that are helping increase the revenue of the industry and individual practice. So the trend is going up. We as the future of the profession, though, just need to do our part to see that the upward trend continues. I'm not saying the veterinary care needs to become unaffordable for the public, but vets really do need to stop being quite so soft hearted and make sure they are fairly compensated for their education, skills and time.
     
  25. akitavet

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    Fair enough. I was thinking from the perspective of the school I will be applying to in the midwest which I was kind of basing off Wisconsin's estimates:
    Estimated Total

    Wisconsin Residents $27,770 ​
    Nonresidents $35,810 ​
    For a nonresident, that's still well under $150k with EVERYTHING included. If you have good reason to go to private vet school, then that's just the cost of it. I just dont understand going to very expensive undergrads and then vet school on the top of it. Maybe that's another product of the midwest too where our state schools are really excellent (Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, etc. ) I know not every state has really great state schools and not every state school is great. I have just crunched the numbers for myself though and I cant imagine having over $200k in student loans without making big big bucks.
     
  26. 4theanimals

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    Akitavet it sounds like your putting all your eggs in one basket and applying to one school. I think you'll find most people apply to a few schools. This is because there are no knowns in this whole process. Many people can't get in to their state school but can get in out of state - who knows why?! There are some cheaper schools but you can't count on getting in to those. Many out of state tuitions (just tuition no fees - run around 35,000). Here is IN STATE fees and living for UC Davis:
    Year 1 $42,825
    Year 2 $40,537
    Year 3 $41,618
    Year 4 $47,989
    I think you will find that most of us will build this 200k debt just in vet school. This is not about getting large loans for undergrad.
     
  27. akitavet

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    that was supposed to say schools not school. Sorry! And there is a wide disparity in prices! I have been looking at the differences between schools and its pretty dramatic! For the record I am in state in illinois.
     
  28. Moonpaw

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    Last night, I was at a family friend's wedding reception, the kind where all my parents' friends ask me what I was doing. At least three of them, upon hearing that I wanted to go to vet school, immediately said something about about how I'll be making loads of money.

    Does this happen to anyone else? Is it me, or is it really disrespectful for the first thing for one to remark about this career "Oh, so you want to make lots of money then?"

    Well, disrespectful and downright wrong--they're all doctors, and there's a very small likelihood I'll be making what they are. Should I, as my mother tells me, just smile and nod?
     
  29. 4theanimals

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    Sorry but I have to disagree with your mother on this one. You don't have to be confrontational but it's a great opportunity to educate. Give them a little reality check.
     
  30. KittenKiller

    KittenKiller chop suey
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    LOL moonpaw, people say this to me too. I think people think this because most people feel ripped off when they go to the vet, since they see the bill themselves rather than it being hidden and sent off to an insurance company. Im a receptionist at a vet office right now and most of the customers either take a deep breath or have some comment when I tell them the price of their bill.

    I wouldnt take too much heed though. You can either correct them or brush it off and not worry about it. Or maybe you will have a very successful practice and make lots of money.

    On second thought, they sounds like they themselves are a little preoccupied with money if thats the first thing that comes to mind. Id roll my eyes and ignore it.
     
  31. Emio

    Emio Fudge Bane
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    lol, i think thats exactly what i was about to say. moonpaw, if it bothers you, sure, politely correct them, but i usually don't care when people make ignorant comments, roll my eyes, and we all go on our merry ignorant ways.

    can i just say how excited i am to start at 50K?? and when i get into surgery... you're telling me i'll be making 6 figures??? omg, i'm in the right profession :idea:
     
  32. Cheska

    Cheska Monkey Power!
    2+ Year Member

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    One of my favorite stories came from a SA vet in Phoenix...

    He went to a local "doctor's dinner" which was held as a business meeting for all types of doctors in all professions in the area, human and animal. He got his dinner and sat down and started digging in. Another doc sat down next to him and did the same. The second doctor looked around and then looked at him, and said "don't tell me you are a g-d vet?!?!". They realized that they were both the only vets there, digging into their dinners like they were going to get called away, while all of the other docs were socializing and relaxing and hadn't even started eating yet. :laugh:

    Definitely not the case with all human docs (my uncle is a pediatrician, and he gets called away from dinner a lot) or all vets, but it cracked me up.
     
  33. eventualeventer

    eventualeventer Medical Tire Fire
    10+ Year Member

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    Too true, Cheska! At home, my mom chastises me for eating too fast and wolfing my food, but I'm always the last one done when eating with the vets. They're sitting there looking around while I'm only two-thirds done! My understanding, though, is that internship/residency in either profession will do that to a person, so I guess those doctors just got spoiled in their "old" age.

    The equine vet I work for has told me that he is gradually raising his prices so that people will get used to it. They have to go up to keep up with increasing fuel and other costs, of course, but he's genuinely concerned about the future of the profession, at least in this area, where cost of living is high. A couple decades ago, he bought a farm where his barn and turnout areas sit, as well as the clinic and office, and put his wife through law school. Now, a vet at the same point in their career would have a tough time being a homeowner in the same county, let alone have any sort of land. He's trying to get horse owners "trained" to pay their vets a more livable wage for this area.
     
  34. laurafinn

    10+ Year Member

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    I think it might be easier to swallow the $200K if you're from a region where $200K won't buy you an outhouse in a crack alley. When average home prices are $700K, $200K seems like a reasonable amount to pay for professional school. Especially if that $200K is the tuition/expenses for your state school.

    Is it reasonable to be paying back $200K on a $65K salary? That's a whole other issue, and I think the answer is NO for most people. You need to have a high tolerance for debt, a high tolerance for risk and very simple tastes. I've run the numbers and think I can do it, but it provides for a shabby-genteel lifestyle at best.

    I think the best strategy is not to grasp the first job that comes along, but the most lucrative one that still gives you some mentoring. And be open to working for $80K tax-free in Dubai, or other creative options.
     

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