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A Woman's World

A Woman's WorldAlready the overwhelming majority at veterinary schools like Tufts, women are slated to dominate the field of veterinary medicine within 3-5 years.

No. Grafton, Mass. [06.10.02] There is a growing trend in veterinary medicine. At Tufts, over 80 percent of this year's graduating class of veterinarians were women; nationwide, over 75 percent of veterinary students are female. Nearly a century after the first women earned veterinary degrees, the field is quickly changing from a traditionally male-dominated profession to one in which women make up the majority.

"Since the late 1990s, more than 70 percent of applicants to veterinary schools have been women," reported the New York Times. "By contrast, in the late 1960s, about five percent of veterinary students were women."

The dramatic trend may be due -- at least in part -- to the different approach men and women take to their careers.

"Women in general choose careers different from men," Wendy Emerson -- a Tufts Veterinary School graduate and former president of the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association -- told the Times. "Women choose a career they feel passionate about. Men love animals, but they feel the obligation to support a family."

Jon Epstein is a good example.

For the recent graduate of Tufts' School of Veterinary Medicine -- who is part of an increasingly small group of male veterinarians -- the choice was a hard one.

"Epstein ... said that he wanted to be a veterinarian since high school but his grandparents questioned his choice every time he visited them at Christmas," reported the Times. "Not very interested in human medicine, [he] followed his passion and finally won over his family."

But he decided to bypass lower paying jobs within the field in order to take an internship in pet care -- a booming $11 billion industry. The decision, he told the Times, came down to family.

"My parents had a real concern to have their child live comfortably and be able to raise a family," he told the Times. "I grew up with a sense of responsibility that I not only want to earn a good living for myself, but I also want to earn a good living for my family when I do have one."

While veterinarians' salaries aren't small -- averaging $70-80,000 a year -- many men appear more interested in higher paying jobs in medicine as physicians.

But the high salaries in field of human medicine come with a high cost -- flexibility. While physicians can't easily practice part-time, many veterinarians can.

"Some women practice veterinary medicine part time while raising a family," Emerson told the newspaper. "They get satisfaction out of their jobs without sacrificing their personal lives."

While there is no single factor to explain the trend, industry leaders are hoping to get a better understanding of the changes. To help, the American Veterinary Medical Association has undertaken a study which may shed new light on how and why the field of veterinary medicine is evolving along gender lines.

Photos courtesy of Tufts' School of Veterinary Medicine.

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