All of this translates to a high vacancy rate in veterinarian jobs in both urban and rural centres. The 2021 workforce study reported that 16.7 per cent of veterinarian jobs were unfilled, substantially higher than the province’s overall job vacancy rate of 2.6 per cent.
However, it’s still less severe than the 18.8 per cent vacancy rate in veterinary technologist jobs. Comparable to nurses in human medicine, veterinary technologists do everything from performing laboratory tests and evaluating clinical symptoms, to preparing animals for surgery and monitoring anesthesia. Although a critical part of any veterinary practice, veterinary technologists have an attrition rate of eight per cent, according to the 2021 study.
Vanessa George, executive director of the ABVTA, says the profession’s low wages are a big reason why technologists aren’t sticking around. “What we’re seeing from a veterinary technologist point of view is that the cost of living is going up, but wages are not going up,” she says. According to job-search site Indeeed, the veterinary technician job pays an average of just under $23/hour in Canada. The profession is predominantly made up of women, including many with children who can no longer afford childcare. “They’re often choosing to stay at home or find a new profession,” she says. George says there isn’t research on the industries or professions they pursue, but she knows of many who’ve left for careers in human healthcare.
When it comes to wages, “it’s really a delicate balance,” she says. While all vet techs deserve to be paid fairly, owners of veterinary clinics must contend with inflation costs and reluctance from consumers to pay the rising costs of vet care. So, while demand for veterinary care is high, it doesn’t necessarily mean more money in the pockets of clinic owners, which makes wage increases tricky.