Talent Territory columnist Stacy Pursell is the founder and CEO of The Vet Recruiter. She is a workplace and workforce expert who has served the animal health industry and veterinary profession for nearly 25 years.Read Articles Written by Stacy Pursell
Associate veterinarians and practice owners looking to get into the manufacturing, sales or research side of veterinary medicine will find opportunities and challenges. The good news is that the animal health industry and veterinary practices are healthy. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the veterinary profession’s unemployment rate ranged from 0.5% to 1.5%. Today, it’s about the same. On the other hand, corporate mergers can throw hundreds of veterinary professionals out of work in one fell swoop, making job openings more competitive. For example, Elanco Animal Health’s acquisition of Bayer Animal Health in August 2020 led to the layoffs of about 900 people, some of them professional services veterinarians who suddenly needed another job.
From Drugs to Food
If you’ve heard that someone moving from clinical practice to industry earns substantially more money, that was generally true at one time, but no longer. Nevertheless, that fact must be taken into consideration when anyone makes a critical career decision. I want to emphasize that most employed veterinarians are in clinical practice.
As opposed to the nation’s approximately 35,000 veterinary clinics, the veterinary industry is made up of a much smaller number of companies that manufacture or distribute products to pet owners and veterinary teams or sell them services. Their specialties include:
- Medical equipment
- Medical supplies
- Pet food
- Pet health insurance
- Laboratory/diagnostic services
- Laboratory supplies and equipment
Keep in mind that almost all those companies hire veterinarians. The seven main job categories and the annual salaries that I have seen are:
- Professional or technical services: $125,000 to $175,000 (plus a car or car allowance)
- Pharmacovigilance: $125,000 to $180,000
- Regulatory affairs: $125,000 to $250,000
- Sales and marketing: $75,000 to $175,000
- Liaison/cross-functional: $150,000-plus
- Business development: $125,000 to $200,000
- Research and development: $100,000 to $250,000
Getting the Interview
If you’re dead set on getting an industry job, what does it take? Several things. First, you must possess the appropriate technical skills as well as the desired soft skills. An industry veterinarian must be a team player and excel at:
- Oral and written communication
- Public speaking
- Business skills and knowledge
- Employee management
- Computer literacy
- Program and project management
And, of course, you need a resume that communicates those facts. Your resume must:
- List your job history in reverse chronological order.
- Detail your skills and experience, special abilities, honors and awards, and group memberships.
- Be two pages at most.
Ideally, your resume will get you a face-to-face interview, either virtually or in person. A veterinary professional looking to move from clinical practice to industry must perform at an exceptionally high level during the interview, in part because of the competitive nature of the animal health industry. One way to do so is to hone your active listening skills and display them during the interview.
Networking is another critical factor when finding a job in industry. If you’re not on LinkedIn, sign up now to build your credibility and personal brand and receive recommendations from co-workers and former colleagues. As great as LinkedIn is, though, you don’t want to rely on it exclusively.
Another thing you can do in terms of networking is to talk with the sales representatives who visit your practice. Ask about their job and company. Also, start developing a relationship with a recruiter who specializes in the animal health industry. Not only do recruiters know hiring managers, but they also access the so-called hidden job market. These open positions are highly sought-after jobs that aren’t posted online. A recruiter works with those businesses to fill select positions.
Are You Willing to Sacrifice?
In the final analysis, the veterinary industry offers myriad job possibilities but sizable hurdles for anyone trying to break into the sector. Moreover, because the competition is fierce, a candidate might have to make sacrifices. Recently, I was talking with a veterinarian who was close to landing a new job. The problem? He didn’t want to relocate, so he didn’t get the position.
If you want a job in industry, you must be flexible and agree to the employer’s requirements, even if it means relocating to get your foot in the door.
Many times in life, you must give something up to get something. Every veterinary professional looking to switch from clinical practice to the animal health industry must keep that simple truth in mind.
DID YOU KNOW?
A 2020 American Veterinary Medical Association survey showed at least 25% of veterinarians in clinical practice wanted to find a different job.