Jobs forecast for veterinarians better than average

Labor economists predict 9 percent growth

December 22, 2015 (published)
By Edie Lau

A new U.S. Department of Labor report projects relatively good growth in jobs for veterinarians during the next eight years, although analysts see fewer opportunities in companion animal practice, the single largest employment category in the profession.

The forecast by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 9 percent growth in jobs through 2024, somewhat faster than the 7 percent average growth anticipated for all occupations.

That puts the number of jobs for veterinarians, pegged at 78,300 this year, reaching 85,200 by 2024, an increase of 6,900 positions. The figures include jobs created through self-employment.

Under “job prospects,” the report states:

“Candidates can expect competition for most veterinarian positions. Job seekers with specialization and prior work experience should have the best job opportunities.”

It continues: “The number of new graduates from veterinary schools has increased to roughly 3,000 per year, resulting in greater competition for jobs than in recent years. Additionally, most veterinary graduates are attracted to companion animal care, so there will be fewer job opportunities in that field.”

American Veterinary Medical Association market statistics show that nearly 49,000 veterinarians worked in companion animal exclusive or companion animal predominant practices as of Dec. 31, 2014. The figure amounts to 45 percent of all positions held by veterinarians in the United States, by the AVMA’s count. (The AVMA and BLS calculate numbers of jobs differently.)

The BLS analysis notes that opportunities in large animal practice “will be better,” owing to less competition. Other areas where veterinarians may find better prospects than in companion animal care, the report states, are in the fields of public health, disease control, corporate sales and population studies.

The new forecast, posted Thursday, appears in the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is updated every two years.

Although job growth for veterinarians is anticipated to be better than average, the outlook is dimmer than in the previous update. Two years ago, labor economists projected a 12 percent increase over a decade in jobs for veterinarians, similar to the expected rate of growth for all jobs.

Four years ago, the Labor Department’s outlook for veterinarians was more optimistic still. At that time, the job of veterinarian landed on a list of the 30 fastest growing occupations in America.

This time around, the BLS has listed the 20 fastest growing occupations. Thirteen of the occupations are in the human medical field; none is in veterinary medicine. The No. 1 occupation on the list is wind turbine service technician.

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.