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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Understanding the High Cost of Veterinary Training

Taking a patient to the lab at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.Jodi Hilton for The New York TimesTaking a patient to the lab at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.

As a child, I dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. I collected pets of all sorts: gerbils, dogs, cats, rabbits (one of which was eaten by one of my cats) and finally, when I was a teenager, a horse. I devoured James Herriot's series, “All Creatures Great and Small,” about a country veterinarian. My future career seemed clear.

But squeamishness about blood and a dismal year of organic chemistry in college (they call them “weeding out” courses for a reason) persuaded me that my professional future lay elsewhere.

But I still love animals, a nd admire the people able to persevere through veterinary school, in the face of daunting odds and heavy financial challenges, to care for them. As this week's Education Life reveals, veterinary school grads carry an average debt of $125,000, while veterinarians have an average income of $121,000.

A recent post I wrote about the high cost of pet drugs elicited some strong comments from veterinarians, and their parents, about the economic challenges facing veterinarians:

From a comment by Chris in Chicago:

New vets graduate with huge school debt ($146-250k) after 8 years of training and soon won't be able to find jobs even where needed because no vet clinic can afford to pay what they need to be paid just to pay their school loans. What will we do then?

And this from a parent in Pasadena:

My daughter is a vet. She does not drive a big or expensive car. She works long hours. It will be many more years before she pays o ff her student loans. Nobody complains about her prices. Nobody.

Does understanding the cost of veterinary school make your pet's medical bills seem more reasonable?