planning tools for use by veterinary leadership, members of the veterinary profession, and students deciding upon a career path in veterinary medicine, and should be rigorously undertaken and periodically re-examined by all sectors of the profession.
The study reported here used a diverse set of economic indicators related to the manpower supply-demand relationship, along with survey response data, to estimate the marketplace conditions for laboratory animal veterinarians in the United States. These indicators allowed for descriptive evaluation of trends in laboratory animal use, public health service funding relating to laboratory animal use, and demand for laboratory animal veterinarians on the basis of salary measures, classified advertisements, and the experiences and impressions of veterinarians, their employers, and training program directors. A demographic model of the laboratory animal veterinarian workforce was used along with training program information to forecast supply into the year 2005. None of these measures substantiated the hypothesis that a surplus of laboratory animal veterinarians currently exists in the United States. Rather, all available information suggested that the specialty has entered a steady state, whereby the number of laboratory animal veterinarians demanded is closely approximated by available supply, and the indications are that this condition will not change dramatically in the near future.
The marketplace for laboratory animal veterinarians enjoyed a period of apparent exponential growth during the late 1980’s. Some of this growth coincided with new federal legislation governing the use of laboratory animals (16, 23), even though animal numbers and NIH funding for biomedical research did not increase commensurately (24). During that era, analysis of our data would suggest that the demand for board-certified laboratory animal veterinarian services shifted to a point beyond available supply, reflected in part by the increase in salaries during those years (Figure 8). In fact, other important economic factors also could have affected salary, such as the veterinarian’s skill-class, possession of graduate degrees, and increased productivity for the institution as a result of employing such individuals. An increase in demand for veterinarians provided an economic incentive for the observed growth in the number of training programs and positions (Figure 3) reported for the same period. Federal funding for training programs remained constant at approximately 46% nationwide (Table 2), thereby helping to support the response in supply. The salaries and opportunities in this specialty probably attracted veterinarians into laboratory animal medicine directly from small animal practice (22) as well as those who entered through formal training program avenues.