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Challenging identity: development of a measure of veterinary career motivations
  1. Martin Cake1,
  2. Michelle L McArthur2,
  3. Caroline F Mansfield3,
  4. Sanaa Zaki4,
  5. Kira Carbonneau5 and
  6. Susan M Matthew6
  1. 1School of Veterinary Medicine, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2School of Animal and Veterinary Science, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  3. 3School of Education, University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia
  4. 4School of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5College of Education, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA
  6. 6College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Martin Cake, School of Veterinary Medicine, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia, Australia; M.Cake{at}


Background While little is known about the motivations underpinning veterinary work, previous literature has suggested that the main influences on veterinary career choice are early/formative exposure to animals or veterinary role models. The aim of this study was to develop and provisionally validate a veterinary career motivations questionnaire to assess the strength of various types of career motivations in graduating and experienced veterinarians.

Methods A cross-sectional sample of experienced veterinarians (n=305) and a smaller cohort of newly graduated veterinarians (n=53) were surveyed online using a long-form questionnaire. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was used to iteratively derive a final, short-form questionnaire for survey of a second cross-sectional sample of experienced veterinarians (n=751).

Results EFA derived a final questionnaire with 22 items loading onto six factors (social purpose, animal orientation, vocational identity, challenge and learning, career affordances, and people orientation). While motivations based on animal orientation were predictably strong, those based on vocational identity were not universal and were weaker in younger and graduate veterinarians; both of these motivations were rated lower by male veterinarians. Motivations based on challenge and learning emerged as some of the strongest, most universal and most influential; people orientation and social purpose were also important, particularly for older veterinarians.

Conclusion The major motivations for pursuing a veterinary career may best be represented as an intrinsic passion for animal care and for learning through solving varied challenges. These motivations are largely intrinsically oriented and autonomously regulated, thus likely to be supportive of work satisfaction and wellbeing.

  • motivation
  • identity
  • career choice
  • wellbeing
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  • Funding This study was part of a larger project (VetSet2Go) supported by a grant from the Australian Government Department of Education and Training (formerly Office for Learning and Teaching) (grant number ID15–4930).

  • Disclaimer The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the University of Adelaide Human Research Ethics Committee (H-2015-257, H-2016-206, H-2017-073), and all participants consented to use of their anonymised responses for this purpose.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available by request.

  • Author note MC’s current research interests include employability and resilience in the veterinary context. MLM’s research interests include communication in veterinary medicine, human–animal relationships, and veterinary professionals’ mental health and wellbeing. CFM’s research broadly focuses on teachers and students in learning contexts with particular focus on resilience, motivation, emotion and efficacy. SZ coordinates the Veterinary Professional Practice Program and is the Academic Advisor for DVM Admissions. Her research interests include veterinary education, resilience and chronic pain. KC’s research interests broadly focus on instructional strategies for early and novice learners. SMM’s research interests include the factors influencing veterinary professional practice, employability and career success.

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