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The Big Picture
What is the make up of the vet professions today?


The RCVS last conducted a major demographic survey of the vet professions in 2014 and 2019. Georgina Mills analyses the main findings

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The RCVS has released data on the make up of the veterinary workforce, including average age, sex, ethnicity and the views on the professions.

It is five years since the college last conducted its ‘survey of the professions’, which provides a snapshot of the demographics of the veterinary and veterinary nursing (VN) professions.

The survey for vets, which had over 10,000 responses, found an increasingly diverse profession, with almost a quarter of respondents having qualified from another EU country and with black and minority ethnic (BAME) respondents accounting for 3.5 per cent, as opposed to 2 per cent in 2014.

Illustrating the rise in the number of women working in the profession, the survey found that females -make up 58 per cent of vets, and males 42 per cent. The average age was found to be 44.8, with women having a much lower average age than men, 40 compared to 51.5.

A total of 87.5 per cent of vets are either in full-time or part-time work. Up to 76 per cent are UK-practising, 10 per cent are practising outside the UK, just under two per cent work in the Republic of Ireland, and 12 per cent are non-practising.

Looking to which sector vets work in, over half of the profession works mainly or entirely in small animal practice, while the number who work mainly or entirely in mixed practice is 12 per cent. This was down from 22 per cent in 2010.

And what do vets think of the profession and their work? Most (79 per cent) intend to stay in the profession for the foreseeable future, 11.5 per cent intend to retire at some point over the next five years, and 9.5 per cent intend to leave the profession for reasons such as poor work-life balance, not feeling rewarded or valued, long and unsocial hours, and chronic stress.

When asked to rate the RCVS on a scale of 1 to 10, the average rating from vets was 6.58.

The survey for VNs, which had almost 5000 responses, found that an increasing amount of nurses are participating in clinics compared to previous years – these included weight management, parasite control and nail clipping – and over 90 per cent of VNs consider themselves to have ‘expertise’ in at least one clinical area. In 2014, only 70 per cent of respondents believed they had expertise in at least one area.

The VN profession is almost entirely women (96.8 per cent) and the average age is 35.2.

The large majority (97.1 per cent) of respondents qualified in the UK and also qualified as VNs from 2010 onwards, with only 15.7 per cent having qualified before 2000. BAME respondents accounted for 1.9 per cent of VNs in the survey.

Like vets, the majority of VNs work in small animal practice, although a growing area of work for VNs is referral or consultancy practices. Mixed, equine and farm/production practice have all declined as areas of work for respondents.

Some 72 per cent of VNs plan to stay in the profession for more than five years, 3.2 per cent plan to retire at some point over the same period, and 24.8 per cent plan to leave at some point over the next five years, with the top reasons cited as being low pay and not feeling rewarded or valued.

When asked to rate the RCVS on a scale of 1 to 10, the average rating from VNs was 7.15.

The full results of both surveys can be downloaded from

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