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Breaking Down Veterinary Specialist Salaries

In a previous article we covered associate veterinarian salaries, but this week we are taking a look into veterinary specialist salaries.

Committing to a veterinary specialty is a big undertaking requiring you to invest both your time and money in order to get your board certification. In order to get your certification it will take no fewer than two years as well as passing a strenuous and detailed exam. It will also require a residency under the supervision of a specialist in the field. Working on board certification in the specialty of your choosing is not a minor undertaking. 

When it comes to specialty certifications, there are a number to consider such as anesthesiology, behavior, clinical pharmacology, dermatology, emergency care, internal medicine, lab animal medicine, microbiology, nutrition, ophthalmology, pathology, radiology, surgery, theriogenology, toxicology, zoological medicine; along with the option to focus on specific species. Do you know what you want to specialize in? 

According to an article written by the American Veterinary Medical Association, there is a shortage of specialists as of 2018 and it doesn’t appear to be remedied yet. So the consideration to undertake the challenges of becoming a specialist should be balanced by the opportunities that specialty will present as well as an increase in salary. 

The most recent report from AVMA had salary breakdowns as follows: ophthalmology earning the highest at around $200,000, lab animal specialization earning around $170,000, pathology around $160,000, surgery around $130,000, radiology around $120,000, and theriogenology also around $120,000. This is in comparison to the median salary of a veterinarian, which depending on experience and location, is around $90,000. 

Being board-certified and recognized in your field results in an even greater increase in salary. The most a top veterinarian can earn without specialization is around $187,000. The increase in salary for top ophthalmologists and radiologists could result in salaries up to or eclipsing $345,000. This kind of massive increase in salary when acknowledged as being top in your field is similar across the speciality fields. Both specializing in a field and being recognized for your specialization can translate into being incredibly lucrative. Have you considered your current salary in comparison to that of a specialist?     

Board certifications are also a contributing factor to earnings for professional veterinarians in private practices as well as public and corporate employment positions. When it comes to the median income for private practice vets who don’t have a board certification the average was around $91,000 a year. This is in comparison to those who do hold a certification and their salary averaging at around $157,000. Those who work in positions such as government positions, academia, and armed services who don’t hold board certifications also averaged at around $91,000. Those who did hold board certification could expect to earn around $133,000. 

And when one considers the earnings of veterinarians in private practices, the AVMA indicated that there were higher earnings for board-certified vets regardless of the category. That would be things such as food animal exclusive veterinarians with board certification earning around $187,000 in comparison to those who aren’t board certified earning $103,000. 

This cost comparison can be attributed across the fields. For example, if you are a companion animal veterinarian exclusively without a board certification, you can expect to make about $91,000 but if you are board certified that goes up to around $160,000. The same can be attributed to veterinarians working in public and corporate employment; those who don’t have a board certification working in academia earn around $73,000 while those who are board certified earn around $127,000. 

If you work for the federal government the same can be seen. Vets who work for the federal government without a certification earned around $103,000 while those who did have on earned around $124,000. Those who worked in the armed services earned a salary of about $85,000 and board certified professionals earned around $91,000. 

So what does this mean? What all of this data suggests is that obtaining a board certification is a considerable commitment of both time and financial consideration, however the financial payoff is significant. Veterinarians who are board certified could depend on earning much higher salaries and are often more in demand in comparison to those aren’t. If you are looking to ensure that your salary is consistently higher, consider becoming board certified.