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A survey conducted in Germany, Austria and Switzerland asked first-year veterinary medicine students in the fall of 2009/2010 about their perceptions and their intended career in the area of veterinary medicine. A second survey investigated the attitude of graduates of the year 1999 towards the profession of veterinary medicine about ten years after their examination in veterinary medicine. The results of both surveys were compared with each other.
Results: The surveyed students predominantly wanted to work as veterinarians (small domestic animals, zoo and wild animals as well as equine species). The surveyed veterinarians mainly treat small animals. About every fourth practitioner of the surveyed cohort works in equine medicine and roughly every fifth in bovine medicine. Treating zoo and wild animals plays a subordinate role.
Students interested in public veterinary medicine favored the animal welfare sector. However, veterinarians employed in this sector named consumer protection as a dominant task.
Most first-year students explained their choice of profession with love of animals (89.2 per cent) and animal welfare (90.6 per cent). This is opposed by both factors only playing minor roles (59.9 per cent und 70.5 per cent) in the veterinarians’ professional practice. Consumer protectionism played a significant role only for part of the students’ choice of career (37.1 per cent) and was important only for a part of the veterinarians when practicing (42 per cent), too.
In total, 68 per cent of the veterinarians were having problems with their working hours concerning their private life. Most beginners of the study (83.3 per cent) were willing to accept this. Many veterinarians stated that they did not take enough vacation (47 per cent) and could not recuperate sufficiently from their job (40 per cent). Vacation seemed to play a minor role for many first-year students (53.5 per cent). However, about half of the students (45.9 per cent) stated they would reject their career aspiration, if its practice was to impair their health. This is indeed felt by 40.3 per cent of the veterinarians. It became clear that first-year students are only partially aware of the realities of veterinary medicine. Professionals, however, partly suffer from working conditions. This is necessary to be improved, in order to allow a combination of practice and family, especially concerning the high proportion of women.