Is a Vet’s Salary Good?

The veterinarian’s salary has been a point of discussion for many years. There is no shortage of opinions on the matter, with some claiming it is very good and others suggesting it isn’t. So let’s take a closer look at what the average veterinarian earns to determine whether a vet’s salary is good.

Is a Vet’s Salary Good?

Yes, a vet’s salary is good for most people. The mean veterinarian wage is around $109,920 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This figure varies depending on experience level, specialty, and location.

Veterinarian holding down a brown pomeranian while talking with its owner

In comparison to other medical professionals, veterinarians fare quite well regarding salary. This is partly because veterinary medicine is a specialized field, with fewer people trained and qualified to practice compared to other medical fields, such as human medicine.

How Much Do Vets Make?

As I mentioned, vets earn a good salary. Now, to understand how good it is, let’s look at the numbers. As of May 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a mean veterinarian salary of $ 109,920 per year. This is equivalent to around $ 52.84 hourly wage.

Here is a quick percentile wage breakdown for Veterinarians according to BLS: 

Percentile Hourly Wage Annual Wage 
10%$ 29.21$ 60,760
25%$ 37.94$ 78,920
50% (Median)$ 48.26$ 100,370
75%$ 61.74$ 128,410
90%$ 79.62$ 165,600

However, these figures can vary depending on:

  • Experience level
  • Type of Practice
  • Location
  • Education level

Experience Level

Experience in this case generally refers to the number of years you have been working. Typically,  more experienced veterinarians make more than rookies who has been on the job for a few years.

Here are estimates of average annual income for vets based on experience, according to Salary.com:

  • 1-2 Years: $94,685
  • 3-4 Years: $96,333
  • 5-6 Years: $97,981
  • 7-9 Years: $99,630
  • 10-14 Years: $104,992
  • 15-19 Years: $109,950
  • 20+ Years: $112,016

For comparison, the median annual salary for professionals in veterinary practice is $102,926 according to Salary.com. 

Type of Veterinary Practice

The type of veterinary practice will inform how much an experienced veterinarian makes. Veterinary professionals with their own practice tend to earn more than those in academic, government, or corporate settings. 

This is because private practice vets typically see a higher patient volume and may have more freedom in setting their own fees. However, the income might vary due to overhead costs and profit sharing (if more than one partner). 

Apart from the veterinary practice, the specialty area, that is the type of animals you deal with,  will also determine how much veterinarians earn. Here are some examples of specialties and how much they pay. 

  • Canine and feline vets: Deal with general care of mostly dogs and cats. The average salary for a canine vet ranges between $60,130 and $131,500 while feline vets earn an average of $73,697 a year. 
  • Equine Vets: Specialized in horse healthcare. Most equine veterinarians earn an average annual salary of $72,468. 
  • Food Animal Vets: These vets focus on the healthcare of livestock raised for consumption. Their average annual salary is around $83,738
Person receiving dollar bills from someone

Location

The average income that veterinarians make can vary widely depending on the state or city that you are in. Here are the states with the highest veterinarian salaries according to BLS:

State Hourly Mean Wage Yearly Mean Wage 
District of Columbia$ 65.95$ 137,170
Connecticut$ 64.45$ 134,050
Rhode Island$ 62.44$ 129,880
New York$ 62.12$ 129,210
New Jersey$ 61.23$ 127,360

Education Level

An experienced veterinarian who has earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited veterinary school and has board certification may command higher salaries than those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

According to Glassdoor, veterinary professors earn a base salary of $172,402 with the total pay going as high as $209,635. 

So, Is a Vet’s Salary Good?

So, now that we have a rough idea of what vets earn, the question is: Is a vet’s salary good? The answer depends on your expectations and needs. Overall, veterinarians do make a good salary. 

However, they often have to work long hours and may not be able to take advantage of all the benefits that come with their pay.

Generally, whether or not you think a vet’s salary is good will depend on:

  • The cost of living in your area
  • Your current financial situation
  • Family size and dependants
  • Your financial goals

The Cost of Living in Your Area

This will have a significant impact on whether or not you think a vet’s salary is good. If you live in an area with a high cost of living, such as New York City or Los Angeles, veterinarian salaries may not be enough to cover all your expenses.

On the other hand, if you live in an area with a lower cost of living, the salary may be much more than enough to cover your needs.

Your Current Financial Situation

If you are struggling with debt, the veterinarian’s salary may not be enough to settle those debts and still achieve your other financial goals. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, debt associated with the veterinary school is growing 4.5 times than the income. 

This means that by the time you start working, you might already be under too much financial strain due to student loans. In this case, the base salary might not be sufficient.

Family Size and Dependents

If you are single and have no dependents, the average veterinarian’s salary may be more than enough for your needs. However, if you have a large family with multiple dependents, it may be challenging to make ends meet on low veterinarian salaries.

For perspective, the median household income is around $70,784, according to U.S. Census Bureau. This is much lower than the median vet salary, meaning most vets should be able to survive with this income. 

Veterinarian wearing white gloves, scrubs and stethoscope

Your Financial Goals

How big are your financial aspirations? Are you planning on buying a car with your salary, sending your kids to college, or taking an annual vacation? These financial aspirations can significantly determine whether your salary as a veterinarian will be enough. 

Remember that even though the average vet salary is high compared to some other professions, it is still lower than many of its counterparts in the medical field. If this income level cannot meet your financial goals, you consider negotiating a higher salary or going into private practice. 

Specialization

There are several different types of veterinarians, each with its own salary range. Equine veterinarians typically earn more than most veterinarians, for example. 

Experienced veterinarians who have achieved a higher level of education may also earn more than the average vet’s salary.

Related Questions

What Is the Highest Paid Vet?

The highest-paid vet can vary based on experience and specialization. Veterinary professors, private practice veterinarians, and equine vets tend to earn higher salaries than the average veterinarian salary.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, experienced vets with more than 10 years of experience can earn an annual salary of up to $183,960 per year.

What Is the Lowest Salary for a Vet?

The lowest salary for a vet is typically around $60,000 per year. This figure can vary depending on factors such as geographic location, experience, and specialty. Veterinary assistants just starting may earn even less than the average veterinarian’s salary.

Conclusion

Whether or not you think a vet’s salary is good will depend on many different factors. The size of your family, the number of dependents you have, and your financial goals will all influence how well the average vet salary meets your needs. Additionally, experienced vets with more advanced training tend to earn higher salaries than their peers in general practice.

Jared Bauman is the owner and editor of PFGeeks.com. He has started and sold several companies, along with owning several investment properties. His interest in personal finance started as a young kid, developed through his entrepreneurial ventures and real estate investments, and continue through his conversations with friends and colleagues.

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