Objective: To estimate the time veterinary graduates spend in private practice and in veterinary work generally, and to determine what factors influence this.
Methods: Questionnaires were completed in the sixth year after graduation by 119 veterinarians who had participated in this longitudinal study since starting the veterinary course, and the data were analysed using the SAS System for Windows.
Results: Of those who started the veterinary course, 90% graduated and 96% of these then entered private practice. Five years later 94% (73% in full-time equivalents) were working as veterinarians, and 64% (50% in full-time equivalents) were still in private practice in Australia. Hours, attitudes of principals and clients, and inadequate rewards were the main reasons for leaving private practice. The likelihood of being still in private practice was greater for those who had had significant responsibility for animals before they entered the course, but it was not related to geographical origin (city vs country), age at entry or gender. Women were, however, more likely than men to be working part time as veterinarians. Predictions of veterinary working life were not affected by geographical origin or by previous experience with animals or on farms, but men expected to work longer than women.
Conclusion: The average veterinary career, estimated by veterinarians who graduated 5 years earlier, is 24 years in full-time equivalents for men, and 16 years for women. Almost all (94%, representing 73% in full-time equivalents) still work as veterinarians after 5 years, most of them (76%, representing 59% in full-time equivalents) in private practice. The likelihood of remaining in private practice is related to previous responsibility for animals.