Day: 2012/09/25

Veterinary School Is Safer Than Law School

One of the commenters to Ohio State law professor Steven M. Davidoff of the New York Times’ Dealbook pointed everyone to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, but I think it’s worth a post. Professor Davidoff writes:

Law schools have come under fire during these tough economic times, with critics saying that they leave too many graduates in debt, chasing too few employment opportunities. But it could be worse. Consider the plight of veterinarians.

The average tuition and expenses for a veterinary degree at a private school has doubled in the last 10 years to over $200,000, well above the typical cost of law school. Yet their pay remains moribund at an average of $66,469 — much less than lawyers.

But unlike law schools, veterinary school is not regularly being called a scam or bubble. In fact, applications to veterinary schools were up about 2 percent last year.

Actually law schools were coming under fire before these tough economic times going back to 2007 at least.

Otherwise, Davidoff is making a common error in law school discussions, equivocation: Not everyone who finishes law school is automatically employed as a lawyer, so their incomes (and lack thereof) are not included in government estimates of lawyers’ salaries. The BLS also excludes self-employed lawyers, which range from solos to biglaw partners, which further diminishes the scope of government’s lawyer wage data. This may be true for vets too, but it probably has less of an impact.

A quick comparison of the OOH entries should tell us why there aren’t any veterinarian school scamblogs.

“Employment of veterinarians is expected to grow 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job opportunities should be particularly good in government and in farm animal care.”


“Employment of lawyers is expected to grow by 10 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Competition for jobs should continue to be strong because more students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available.”

Digging a little deeper:

“Overall job opportunities for veterinarians are expected to be good. Although veterinary medicine is growing quickly, there are only 28 accredited veterinary programs in the United States, which produce a limited number of graduates—about 2,500—each year. However, most veterinary graduates are attracted to companion animal care, so job opportunities in that field will be fewer than in other areas.”


“Competition should continue to be strong because more students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available. As in the past, some recent law school graduates who have been unable to find permanent positions are turning to the growing number of temporary staffing firms that place attorneys in short-term jobs. This service allows companies to hire lawyers “as-needed” and permits beginning lawyers to develop practical skills.”

This isn’t to say that today’s vet school graduates don’t have higher debt-to-income ratios than in the past due to rising tuition, so perhaps vet school isn’t as good a choice today as it was in 1985. Many vets may be on IBR for all we know, but they have better opportunities for finding jobs as vets (36%? Wow!), which is not something we can say about 2012’s law grads.