This week I had a message from a face-book follower that had managed to secure herself a place at Edinburgh University to study to be a vet! I was thrilled for her! But reading through the message I realised this girl was caught in arguably the biggest dilemma of her life- she was facing tuition costs of £192,000 for the five years at vet school!!! I started University in 2002 and then the tuition fees were a lot more reasonable but I still relied heavily on my parents to help with the costs of studying. If I had been facing debts like this there's no way I could have afforded to do the job I love.
The main reason for her message was to ask for advice on the salary of a young graduate vet. I tried to answer as truthfully as possible but the truth is, the salary of a vet is pretty low when you take into consideration the years of training at vet school, the long hours working and the knowledge and skills a new vet has to acquire in order to take responsibility for peoples animals. The average salary for a new vet is around £24,000 so you can see why it's such a tough decision for potential vet students to have to make.
No vet will tell you they do their job for money! I love my job and wild horses couldn't make me change my career choice, but it can be tough. Vets seem to get a lot of bad press, especially when it comes to fees. The competition from internet pharmacies means most vets can't even begin to compete with these giants for the cost of drugs such as Bute and Pergolide. One thing I know about horse owners (and I am one myself) is that we're very particular about our vet! We need to know our horses are in the best possible hands with a vet that truly cares about them and has their best interests at heart. So why, do I get so many phone calls where the callers opening question is 'Hi, how much do you charge for X, Y, Z?'. Don't get me wrong, price matters! But is it really the most important? I think that 'value for money' should be what we look for! Shouldn't we be asking 'Hi, I'm thinking of using your services, but what can you do for me and my horse that other vets can't?'.