Student Debt

Students are graduating from veterinary school with ever increasing student debt. Many of my classmates at the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis are facing more than 200,000 dollars of debt, all in pursuit of a veterinary education. The unfortunate part is that veterinary medicine is not a well-paid field, so graduates have the highest debt-to-salary ratio of all professions.

As you can see from the graphic below provided by the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), though veterinary starting salaries have only slightly increased in the past decade or so, veterinary student debt has more than doubled (with that amount is an average and includes the select percentage of students who are fortunate enough to graduate without any student debt).

It has been said that students cannot be expected to pay back their student debt if it amounts to more than 100% of their first-year starting salary. Well, guess what? New graduate starting salaries are less than half the mean student debt, even if you don’t include salaries from students who are pursuing internships.

At present, here are some rough numbers to consider (source:

  • Average starting salary overall for new vets: ~49k/year in 2009
  • Average starting salary for students not pursuing internships or other further education: ~$65k/year in 2009

Just remember, that many students pursue internships immediately after graduating and starting salaries for internships have a range, but are generally ~20-40k/year.

If paying off student debt wasn’t enough to consider, students who have hopes of one day owning a practice may be forced to put off those hopes for many, many years until they are able to free up enough financial resources to make buying into a practice or starting their own practice possible. Dr. David Benson, a veterinarian in Utah, was the subject of an article on veterinary student debt, and he remarked “”Paying back my student loan affected my ability to purchase a practice. It delayed that process.”For the full article on Benson, please read: Bound by debt: Veterinarians struggle with student loans in a tepid economy

I’m not the first to comment on the financial issues that veterinarians face, so please feel free to read any of the articles below that hash out this problem, articles that are not all published within the last year or two, but even 5 years or more!

1/4/11: Veterinary student debt continues to climb

10/1/11: Debt crisis looms for veterinary students

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