Does Your Daughter Want to be a Vet?

‘Being a vet’ is one of those careers that many young people dream of doing. This isn’t particularly odd.
Other kids may answer the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ question with ‘celebrity’, or ‘footballer’ – ‘food-blogger’.
But the majority of them will have totally forgotten their answers by the next day. Not the wanna-be vets though:

Young decision makers

A great many vets practising today claim they made the decision to become a vet at what seems an incredibly young age:

Laura Muir, a 24 year old vet student who is also, incidentally (sic), an Olympic Athlete has known she wanted to be a vet since she was 5 years old!
A young highly qualified vet – we will call N8c265 – disclosed to the VPP survey (Veterinary Personality Project) that they had wanted to be a vet from age7.
I made my decision at 14 years old.

Making the decision to be a vet isn’t a last minute thing. People often commit to it very early in their lives.
And because the people who ultimately become vets are inevitably ‘high-achievers’, and also possess huge determination, many of them stick with their decision. Through hell and high water.
What I am trying to say is this:- once 8 year old Rosie makes the decision to be a vet, there is every chance she will make it.

Which is good right?

Maybe not so good…

Rosie, who doesn’t know it yet, will probably turn out to be a highly driven individual. She will stay focused on her dream throughout childhood: Every academic and personal choice she is confronted with through her life will be easy to answer: If it progresses her journey towards vetting, then her answer will be yes – automatic –

It wouldn’t occur to her to not take biology at GCSE.
She wouldn’t consider for a minute dropping horse-riding in favour of swimming club. She might do both, but she’d never stop riding.
Or working at the pet store. Or whatever it is she does to further her vetting dream.

So why is Rosie’s complete focus on her dream ‘not so good’? The answer is this: there is every chance she will not – ever – critically, re-visit her decision.
Being a Vet has always been her dream. So why would she ever question that?

What is Being a Vet like?

The problem is Rosie doesn’t really know much about being a vet. Yes, she has the General Mental Abilities (GMA) necessary. Yes, she’s good with her hands. So she will be very capable of doing it – the vetty stuff that is.
Yes, she’s watched some of the TV Vet programs. Yes, she’s spent a few weeks at her local vet practice cleaning kennels and watching some operations.
But is this enough? Does she really know what she’s heading towards?

For example. Most young people imagine being a vet is about treating animals: Making them better; Improving their welfare. They imagine a day spent caring for the less fortunate. This is reward enough they feel. The odd bunch of flowers from grateful owners will help.
But does Rosie realise that being a vet is a totally customer-facing job?
Does she really understand that she will spend all day, every day talking to people? The public? Does she know how much the public have changed in their attitudes to vets recently?

Reality Check

She won’t be cuddling puppies much. Or gazing over farm-gates with strangely attractive farmers’ sons. Nor discussing difficult and challenging cases with mutually respectful colleagues:

Every day will start at 8am and will finish 10 or 11 hours later. She will have seen 30 – 40 cases in that time and spoken to 30 anxious owners. There will have been little time for good stuff.
She won’t have seen her boss because her boss is actually a large corporate business based in America.
She won’t have had time to talk to her vet colleagues – because they are very busy too – and have little time for a chat. And no time to offer her any real support. Or mentoring.
Lunch hour is 35 minutes – if she’s lucky.

Working conditions vary widely

But vets make loads of money right? And get good holidays?
This is the first question that most men would ask. Or Rosie’s mum may ask it on her behalf:
Sociologists and psychologists tell us that men are more concerned with status than are women. (Status = how much money can you earn. How big a car? Do people look up to you as a vet?)

Women on the other hand are more about the caring aspects of the job. They want to help animals (and their owners). They aren’t really that bothered about working conditions and pay. (This is true. I have the research. ©HonestBobResearch. Apologies to feminists, but men and women do differ in their needs…)

Where’s the beef-cake?

Oh, I didn’t tell you did I? Over 80% of all young vets are women.
So the business owners who employ vets inevitably try to pay them less (this is not a new story!). A new-vet receives hardly more than a probationary teacher.
Vets work an average of 48 hours a week. There is often no recognisable or formal career progression.
Most men – those who would once have become vets – now choose other more lucrative careers – ones that demand more respect from society and the public. They choose careers that offer conditions and salaries more comparable with other Professionals.

Does your daughter want to be a vet?

So having read all that, does your daughter still want to be a vet?
Of course she does.
As I said at the beginning, she will not want to be deviated from her dream – it has been her sole focus for ages, and it’s how she identifies herself. As N8c265 said:

…I wanted to do this from a very early age (7 years old) and it is how I define myself as a person.  The possibility of not being a vet, or admitting I cannot cope, terrifies me as I would not know how to define myself if I was not a vet…

You will have to work hard to make sure your daughter understands what she is getting herself into.

If, after you have shown her the truths of being a vet and you have checked she has the right personality traits and strengths to be healthy*; and she is still happy with her decision to be a vet; then go for it. Of course.
She is hopefully going to be one of the lucky ones who love their job.
With luck she isn’t going to be one of the 25% of new-vets who leave the profession within 3 years of qualifying – their life-long dream abandoned..

*    Being a Vet in the 21st Century.

By Paul D. Stevens.
Paperback and eBook.