The survey polled 671 veterinary surgeons in May and June 2017.
92% of those who are now in non-clinical roles had worked in clinical practice in the past. 73% had previously worked in mixed practice, 49% in companion animal practice, 33% in production animal practice and 8% in equine practice.
32% are now in academia, whilst 21% have moved to work in commerce and industry.
Mostly, veterinary surgeons gave positive reasons for moving to non-clinical work: 43% said they were looking for a new challenge and 33% said they were looking for a different type of work.
Others were looking to improve their work-life balance: 24% said they wanted a role with no out-of-hours work, 14% said they wanted more flexible working hours and 10% said clinical work was incompatible with family or outside commitments.
21% cited difficulty in progressing with their clinical career as a reason for moving whilst 19% said they were looking for less stress at work.
There were some differences between men and women in the timing of their career change and the reasons behind it. Women tended to leave clinical practice earlier in their career; an average of 6.5 years after they qualified compared to 8 years for men.
Reasons related to working hours and flexibility were more prominent motivations for women to move from clinical practice (54% of female vets compared to 31% of male vets). On the other hand, male vets were more likely than female vets to cite reasons related to a desire to do a different type of work (44% of male vets compared to 24% of female vets).
BVA Senior Vice President, Gudrun Ravetz said: "These figures show that there is a sizeable percentage of practising vets who are making the move into non-clinical roles and that there are a variety of reasons behind their decision. There is a huge diversity of career paths open to vets and it’s important both for those who are already in practice and for those considering a veterinary career to be aware of all the options available.
"I have had a portfolio career myself that involved clinical practice in all different business models including charity practice and industry and I know that the most important thing is for vets to feel fulfilled in their chosen roles and understand that there is a wide range of opportunity available to them.
"However, we also know that practices are seriously worried about being able to recruit and retain staff. Looking at the reasons for leaving – including a desire for more flexibility, a better work/life balance, and concerns about stress – this has to be a wake-up call to all employers to think about whether we can do things differently to support our colleagues.
"BVA has a role to play too and many of the Vet Futures actions are designed to address these issues, including the workforce study commissioned by BVA, the development of a careers hub, and our support for the Mind Matters Initiative led by RCVS, amongst others. These are issues that the profession must tackle together."
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