Historically, the veterinary profession has understood animal welfare primarily in terms of animal health and productivity, with less recognition of animals' feelings and mental state. Veterinary students' career preferences and attitudes to animal welfare have been the focus of several international studies. As part of a survey in Australia and New Zealand, this study reports on whether veterinary students prioritize animal welfare topics or professional conduct on the first day of practice and examines links between students' career preferences and their institution, gender, and year of study. The questionnaire was designed to explore the importance that students assign to topics in animal welfare and ethics. Of the 3,320 students invited to participate in the online survey, a total of 851 students participated, representing a response rate of 25.5%. Students' preferences increased for companion-animal practice and decreased for production-animal practice as they progressed through their studies. Females ranked the importance of animal welfare topics higher than males, but the perceived importance declined for both genders in their senior years. In line with previous studies, this report highlighted two concerns: (1) the importance assigned to animal welfare declined as students progressed through their studies, and (2) males placed less importance overall on animal welfare than females. Given that veterinarians have a strong social influence on animal issues, there is an opportunity, through enhanced education in animal welfare, to improve student concern for animal welfare and in turn improve animal care and policy making by future veterinarians.