Veterinarian Workforce and Education in California


Margaret Fix and Janet M. Coffman

July 31, 2020

This report presents an overview of California’s veterinarian workforce. The majority of veterinarians care for companion animals (i.e., pets). Others work in settings such as agriculture, research, and public health. As a health sciences discipline with expertise across multiple species and ecosystems, veterinary medicine in the United States plays an increasingly vital role in caring for animals and advancing human health.


  • As of 2018, California had 7,380 licensed veterinarians, the majority of whom provided
    care to companion animals.
  • Most veterinarians are in general practice and have not completed a residency program in a specialty.
  • In 2019, 70% of veterinarians in California were female.
  • California has two accredited schools of veterinary medicine, one public (UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine) and one private not-for-profit (Western University of Health Sciences). The number of applicants to these schools far exceeds the number of first-year students they can enroll.
  • California is experiencing a shortage of veterinarians who care for food animals, particularly in rural counties.
  • Demand for veterinarians is projected to grow over the next decade, although the rate of growth may decrease due to the economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.