You’ve worked hard, you’ve studied endlessly, and you’re in the field of your dreams: veterinary medicine. But the need for veterinarians has been on the rise for the last several years, so it’s important to ask yourself this question: Do you know how much veterinarians make?
With the consistently rising need for more professionals in this field, the fluctuation in salaries has also changed. But clearly this isn’t the easiest question to answer since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. There are a number of factors that go into how much a veterinarian makes: experience, education, and specialty. However, there are several factors to consider when you are evaluating your salary.
The first thing to consider is the overall compensation based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their most recently obtainable report (as of November 2019). It was stated that veterinarians earn a median salary of $93,830, with the best-paid veterinarians receiving salaries of $162,450 and the lowest at $56,540.
How do we determine where you fall in the pay scale and if it’s accurate?
There are plenty of variables that help to answer this. First, we can look at what specialty in animal care you fall into, as well as your practice. The largest majority of vets are comprised of companion veterinarians who take care of non-exotic household pets such as cats, dogs, rabbits, etc. Since they serve the largest population for clients who will need to see them with regularity, their salaries come in around $87,000 a year. Vets that serve large animals such as farm animals, exotic animals, or zoological animals are the second-highest paid at around $75,000. The lowest-paid vets are equine-only veterinarians who get paid $50,000 a year, however, this is a reflection of the fact that they serve the smallest population needed. There are also vets who serve a mixed clientele of the above, and they generally make around $75,000.
If you are still questioning your salary after reading the above, there may be additional factors to consider. The first of which is experience level.
It should come as no surprise that experience dictates salary. It should not be surprising that an internship is often lower-paying, though required for some degree programs or to gain specialization in a field. Most post-graduate internships are paid, but they are below the mean and lowest average at around $33,000. Following that intern experience, entry-level positions at public or private practices can expect to start anywhere between $70,000 to $80,000, also depending upon location and specialization. And like other similar fields, gaining more experience results in developing within your specialty as well as attending and expanding your knowledge base with frequent training and enrichment programs. As a result, mid-level veterinarians can expect their salary to be around $85,000. Board-certified vets in a particular specialty have salaries that are around $150,000. Generalized ones are around $88,000. By the time you are later in your career and are prepared to become a partner at a practice, you can expect your salary to be anywhere from around $92,00 to as high as $110,000.
Are you wondering about more factors that play into getting the most out of your career and salary? Then it is time to explore industries outside of private practices. There are plenty of industries that will start you at a great salary with the opportunity to make even more the more you progress within the field. These industries also consider that specialty and location will still play a factor.
Some of these industries include working for the government. Government and military veterinarians will work mainly with dogs and other animals which are integral to the federal government and armed forces. They can also expect to help at the local and state level with the removal of diseased animals. The medium income for this industry is around $100,000. Veterinary professors who work with education and research can make anywhere from $110,000 to $120,000 yearly. Meanwhile, vets who work for non-profit practices who work at animal rescues make around $90,000. The industry that you can make the most money in is commercial practices, which include a specialization from above, which pays around $160,000. The vet that makes the most following that is consultants at around $150,000 a year.
When you are next evaluating your request for a salary re-negotiation, make sure that you keep all of the above in mind when assessing your worth. It’s important to also consider the importance of location when thinking about these factors as some locations will dictate higher salary requirements. A good tool to get the most accurate idea of salaries in the veterinary field is the salary calculator provided by the AVMA.