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.


  1. There is an overabundance of small animal and companion animal providers, and not enough large animal providers and feed stock vets.

    It is said that vets pursue their career with all heart and no head, making them great for animals, but not the most savvy in business. However, because there are so few schools and graduates, they prevent the entire employment market from being shattered ala law jobs.

    Vets of the future need to be ready to help our large animals in the agriculture industry so Americans may once again have access to healthy beef and pork, unless you are vegetarian of course. It’s not all about Fido the Dog and Spot the Cat.

    People that know how to manage and care for animals have global opportunities as well:

  2. Also remember that people don’t have the same animus toward animal-care providers that they harbor for barristers. Also, if you graduate from veterinary school, you’ll have a good background in the sciences. So, even if projections turn out to be overly optimistic, vets would probably have a less difficult time finding other work than lawyers would.

  3. Unfortunately, your analysis is incorrect, Veterinary School is now a scam as well. Four new veterinary schools will open in a few years. Even without them, the number of veterinaary graduates will soon exceed 3000. Only 60% of the 2012 class of vets placed into jobs or residencies.

    As for jobs in live stock practices, this is like telling a lawyer to go to rural no where and find work.Sorry, can’t support the practice.

    Rural live stock work pays under 55k a year, kinda hard on 200k in debt, amirite?

    Small animal (pet) work pays better, although now saturation and lower consumer spending is eating away at that income too.

    Sorry, but all education in the US is becoming a scam.

    Just check out BLS. Number of engineering openings for 2010-2020? around 550k. Number of engineering grads for 2012? Over 66k. Whoops, looks like we’ll have at least 110k unemployed engineers by 2020 (much worse, actually. According to my calculations of increased enrollment, there will be 250k unemployed engineers by 2020).

    The only education that aren’t a scam (yet) are ivy league schools, whose enrollment has been basically the same for more than 40 years, and Allopathic schools, due to the constraint on residencies (for now). Everything else you see is a scam.

    MBAs? Scam, save for the top 7 – 12 schools, maybe.

    Pharmacy School? Scam. Will be around 14k grads per year by 2015. BLS got lucky on their 2000-2010 projections, Aint repeating this time, meaning huge excess supply. Inflation adjusted incomes for new grads are down from something like 130-135k to around 100k and less.

    Dental School? Becoming a scam. 9 new schools will happen over next few years. Number of grads will get to over 6000 by 2015-2017 from 5170 now, up from 4400 in 2000. Only savior here is that lots of dentists will have to retire by 2020 (around 36% of dentists are older than 55 if i am not mistaken).

    Podiatry School? Currently not a scam, but could easily become one, given how small it is as a profession.

    Seriously. I understand that your blog is the lawschooltuitionbubble, but is should just be called the tertiaryeducationscam. That’s what this country has come to. The Baby Boomers enslaving younger generations so they can live large like massa’s of the plantation.


  4. One of the things that prevented veterinary school from becoming the same sort of scam that people talk about law school being, is that it was always much cheaper to set up a law school than a veterinary school. However, new for profit veterinary schools have found a way around this hurdle. They have begun to set up veterinary schools that lack teaching hospitals. This means that the veterinary students have to get their experience by going on a series of externships to private practices of varying quality. Some are excellent, some are good, and some are downright bad. Externships have always been a portion of a veterinary students education but to make that the entirety of the non-classroom education returns veterinary medicine to the apprenticeship model of training.
    The decision to become a veterinarian is such an emotional one that there will be no shortage of marginal candidates with a deep drive to become a veterinarian and a willingness to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt. The ability to set up veterinary schools without teaching hospitals sets up veterinary education to be a scam much more profitable for the schools than the law school scam ever was.

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