New survey reveals Australia’s veterinarian industry is in crisis

04 November 2022

 A survey by Professionals Australia looking at veterinarians’ employment conditions has revealed that Australia’s veterinarian industry is in crisis, with veterinarians facing intensified work demands and pressures, long working hours, poor remuneration, stress, and burnout.

The in-depth Veterinarian Employment Survey conducted in August 2022, was completed by 510 veterinarians from across Australia, with 90 per cent of the respondents employed in private veterinarian practices.

Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said the survey revealed an industry where many veterinarians faced gruelling workplace conditions and held little hope for the future of the industry.

“While deeply dedicated to their profession and to animal health and welfare, many veterinarians are experiencing stress and burnout due to increased work demands, long working hours, inadequate remuneration and gruelling working conditions.

“As a result, 77 per cent of vets are dissatisfied with the industry, 70 per cent would advise against embarking on a career as a vet and 30 per cent are planning to leave the industry within the next five years.

Ms McCabe said that poor working conditions and remuneration, a lack of work life balance and wanting a change in career were the main reasons for veterinarians planning to leave the industry.

“Demand for veterinary services increased during the pandemic and this further intensified workloads and pressure. As a result, many of our already hard-working veterinarians have been pushed to the absolute brink and are wanting to leave the industry.

“Over a third of vets are dissatisfied with their pay – and believe their pay does not reflect the value of their skills or expertise and that they are poorly paid compared to other professions.

“Given the significant amount of time and money that vets invest in their education, they are understandably dissatisfied with their pay and conditions.

Ms McCabe said the survey was an invaluable resource in understanding the problems that veterinarians face and would inform the development of much needed reforms in the industry.

“We’ll be working hard to drive improvements in veterinarians’ pay and conditions through the industrial relations system and better health and safety practices in veterinarian workplaces, including mental health support for vets.

“We’ll also be calling for greater government support for vets in regional areas and for lower costs for veterinarian education and training.

Key Statistics

Pay and remuneration – 36 per cent dissatisfied and 84 per cent believed they were poorly paid compared with other professions and that their salary does not reflect the value of their skills and expertise.

State of the veterinarian industry – 77 per cent of veterinarians reported they were dissatisfied with the state of the veterinarian industry.

Morale of veterinarians – 70 per cent of veterinarians would not recommend a career in the veterinarian industry

Working hours – a significant proportion of veterinarians worked excessive hours with 13 per cent working over 46 or 50 hours per week.

Unpaid overtime – 36 per cent of veterinarians received no form of compensation for overtime.

Future employment plans – 30 per cent of veterinarians planned to leave the industry within the next five years and 10 per cent were actively looking to leave immediately.

The keys reasons for leaving given were ‘poor working conditions and renumeration’ and a ‘lack of work life balance’.

Direct quotes from veterinarians

  • “Pretty much everyone I know in the profession is burned out.”
  • “I'm tired of toxic work environments where staff are expected to work long hours under high stress conditions with caseloads that are unrealistic, where patient care suffers due to time constraints, client abuse is standard and practice owners are so preoccupied with money that they drive staff to breaking point regularly.”
  • “As an industry we are understaffed and under pressure from patient demand and expectations of the public and employers. It is a difficult job and there is not enough support or compensation”
  • “It seems like more people are leaving the industry than staying. And rightfully so - the poor remuneration, long shifts and stressful/mentally draining nature of the job are a terrible combination.”
  • “The level of study and cost of university education is not worth the income and hours worked”
  • “I love my job and I love animals, but I don’t believe the benefits or job satisfaction outweigh the pay, long hours and disrespect from clients. Seeing my friends excel in their careers and earn twice what I do, but work less, makes me rethink my career. I wouldn’t recommend a career in the veterinarian industry to others.”
  • “Poor pay relative to time and energy required to get degree; no longer recognised as a position of trust or authority by the public or given much respect; the rise of corporatisation is making it less about the practice of medicine and more about the bottom line of the business, which feeds into the mistrust of the public.”
Media contact: Darren Rodrigo 0414 783 405