The future demand for and potential shortages of food-supply veterinarians have been the subject of much concern. Using the Delphi forecasting method in a three-phase Web-based survey process, a panel of experts identified the trends and issues shaping the demand for and supply of academic food-animal veterinarians, then forecasted the likely future demand and shortages of food-supply veterinarians employed in academic institutions in the United States and Canada through 2016. The results indicate that there will be increasing future demand and persistent shortages of academic food-supply veterinarians unless current trends are countered with targeted, strategic action. The Delphi panel also evaluated the effectiveness of several strategies for reversing current trends and increasing the number of food-supply veterinarians entering into academic careers. Academic food-supply veterinarians are a key link in the system that produces food-supply veterinarians for all sectors (private practice, government service, etc.); shortages in the academic sector will amplify shortages wherever food-supply veterinarians are needed. Even fairly small shortages have significant public-health, food-safety, animal-welfare, and bio-security implications. Recent events demonstrate that in an increasingly interconnected global economic food supply system, national economies and public health are at risk unless an adequate supply of appropriately trained food-supply veterinarians is available to counter a wide variety of threats ranging from animal and zoonotic diseases to bioterrorism.
This article examines the job expectations of applicants as reported by recruiters interviewing food-supply veterinary medicine (FSVM) candidates and the career-choice decision factors used by year 3 and 4 veterinary students pursuing careers in FSVM. The responses of 1,047 veterinary recruiters and 270 year 3 and 4 students with a food-supply focus from 32 colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States and Canada were examined. Recruiters were asked to report the two most important job factors applicants took into account when deciding to accept an offer; students were asked the two most important reasons for choosing a career in FSVM and the two most important benefits of working as a food-supply veterinarian. Recruiters reported that high salaries and good benefits are the two most important decision factors. Interest in the food-animal career area and a desire for a rural, outdoor lifestyle were the top reasons students gave for choosing an FSVM career. Students saw the enjoyment of working with and helping producers and food animals as the most important benefits of a career in FSVM.