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Increased Options, Pay Await Veterinary Grads
By Marcela Cartagena
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's graduates in veterinary medicine have higher salaries and more job options than in past years.
"Our graduates' total annual salaries have surpassed the $40,000 national average," said Dr. Mikell Davis, student affairs coordinator at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. "Job offers and the career opportunities this profession offers to our graduates are tremendous."
Davis said graduates who are flexible tend to get higher paying jobs, while lower salaries typically go to students who limit their location options.
"There also are more career options than there used to be," Davis said. "Most students still go into private practice right out of college, while others will choose to work in alternative fields of veterinary medicine."
Davis said students can go into areas such as production animal medicine, food safety, environmental quality and biomedical research.
Graduates can pursue specialty area certification in disciplines such as surgery, internal medicine and laboratory animal medicine. Advanced degrees are offered in such areas as immunology, parasitology, pathology, pharmacology and toxicology.
"Many of our students also go into the military. There they are responsible for public health and food safety, as well as clinical medicine," Davis said. "Others work for government agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture."
Working with exotic animals such as birds and reptiles is often popular and very different from the traditional practice, but there are limited opportunities to work in this area.
Officials at MSU's veterinary college have created a database that helps graduates search for jobs. This database is located at the veterinary college's web site and is directed by Missy Hadaway.
"We supply the information to help our graduates find jobs," Hadaway said. "There are other options, but this database is an easy and concise source of information."
Currently there are about 400 job listings in the database. Here students can find job locations, type of practice and people to contact. Detailed information is kept in files and is available to MSU's veterinary students and graduates.
Hadaway said the job information comes from private practices, companies, government offices and other agencies across the United States and Canada.
"When searching for a job, students normally have preferences for job location and type of practice," Hadaway said.
To become a doctor of veterinary medicine, MSU students go through a four-year program which is divided into two phases. The first two-years is built on problem-based learning methods, which allow students to develop an independent study of basic clinical sciences and problem-solving skills. In the second phase, students work directly with patients.
Davis said MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine is the only veterinary school in the United States that requires students to purchase computers for use in the curriculum as a communication and information tool.
Admission to the program is very competitive. Applicants who have completed the necessary undergraduate courses must go through a series of steps to be accepted. A high grade point average is only a part of the requirements. Applicants are screened in interviews for such things as confidence, compassion, integrity, self-discipline and people skills.
"Less than 20 percent of the applicants are accepted into the program," Davis said
Although graduates of veterinary medicine have a higher salary with many benefits, Davis said most graduates who have confirmed employment are in debt for their education. The 1997 national debt average was more than $54,000 with debt amounts ranging from $25,000 to $106,000. Mississippi graduates averaged $43,000 debt, with some having none upon graduation.
Davis said there is tremendous demand for veterinarians, in part because people are utilizing traditional veterinary services more frequently.
"The traditional small town veterinary practice is no longer the only option for veterinary medical students," Davis said. "The market is wide open."
Contact: Dr. Mikell Davis, (601) 325-1388