This is not an enjoyable topic to write about, but it is necessary. In fact, it is essential to learn about the financial realities of a veterinary medical education for those wishing to pursue this career. I learned about them, and I am glad I did. I could not imagine getting your world shattered when you get to your 3rd year of veterinary school, only to start learning about your finances then. I have seen it happen to some of my classmates, and I know the toll it takes on them. I have seen passionate people become cynical. I have seen dreamers become realists. I have seen people who would have made fantastic equine vets turn to small animal medicine because they felt they had no other financial choice. Whatever the result, I will share some of what I have learned along the way about the financial reality of becoming a veterinarian.
For the majority of veterinary students, an enormous burden of loans must be taken on to complete veterinary school. Most vet schools these days charge about $70,000 per year for out-of-state tuition. Some more, some less. In-state tuition is considerably less. Sure, some students are fortunate enough that they have family money to pay for school. I even know a student who entered veterinary school in his late thirties with enough savings to pay for a considerable amount of school. But these situations are the exceptions to the rule. Most students take loans to cover everything.
Most of us work outside of vet school to cover some living expenses like food, rent, and gas. Most of us always have a scholarship application or two in the works. The perception of living in ignorant bliss without acknowledging our loans is a falsehood. I’ve heard some people joke about it, but it’s not true. We know what the situation is. Most of us spend time outside of our studies to work in order to lower the loan burden, or at least not feel guilty about buying real food to eat at the grocery store instead of cereal and ramen noodles that so many people live off of. It may seem crazy, but you might be surprised at how many people abandon nutrition in pursuit of their studies. I see it daily. But that is a topic for another day!
Once we graduate from vet school, I do not know how all of us will keep up with our financial commitments. Some of us want to live in the city, where rent is high. Some of us want to have a house soon after school. Mortgages are not cheap. Very few of us are willing to live and practice in rural areas where living expenses tend to be cheaper. If I was not a man of the forest and of wild places, I do not know what I would do. I don’t know what my financial options would be. There is a massive disconnect somewhere in this education process that has resulted in this financial storm. I’m not sure where it is, but something has to break eventually. Either that or the only people that will have access to higher education and professional school will be the rich. Even then, I would not hurt for those unable to access education. I would hurt for the lower and middle-class citizens that need our services the most and need a provider that understands their own economic realities.