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Men earn more as salaries, debt rise


YOUR DVM CAREER


Las Vegas — Fresh out of college, Dr. Carlos Vareli earns $72,000 a year and pays on $75,000 in education loans.

That salary puts the Tuskeegee University alumnus in line with just 2 percent of the 1,773 2006 graduates who participated in the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) annual salary and debt survey. When it comes to student loans, Vareli's balance mirrors the debt of nearly 17 percent of the nation's newest DVMs. According to the study, published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), 45 percent of his classmates surveyed owe $100,000 or more.

Yet Vareli's good fortune doesn't end there. According to additional AVMA survey results released Oct. 15 in JAVMA, the small animal practitioner also out-earns his female counterparts. While starting salaries and benefits rose across-the-board, they increased more for male DVMs. The mean starting salary in 2006 for men in private practice totaled $56,772 while women went to work for $2,000 less.


Table 1 Annual starting salary of male and female veterinary medical college graduates who entered private practice in 2006. (Source: American Veterinary Medical Association)
Vareli offers no explanation for the inequity: "I think I'm making more than average compensation-wise, and compared to female graduates, that just doesn't make sense."

Overlooked factors

Dr. Michael Reardon, director of admissions for Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine offers a few ideas. Economics aside, the study, he says, fails to account for intangible factors that might offer insight on why a female graduate might choose a job. Although the survey reports 28.1 percent of male graduates receive individual retirement account benefits versus 22.1 percent of female graduates, women in the study might not have held out for more fringe benefits due to flexibility, location or relationship issues.


Fast Fact (Source: American Veterinary Medical Association)
"I think the intangibles are one of the things we wrestle with when doing these types of surveys," he says. "What are the other reasons they took the job, outside of money? There's no reason why women can't earn what men do from an education and competency standpoint."

Furthermore, the numbers might be skewed based on the salaries of large animal exclusive practitioners, which most often are men and rank the highest earners with mean starting salaries of $63,351. Nearly 38 percent of the female respondents chose employment in small animal exclusive practices — compared to 25 percent of male respondents — earning mean starting salaries of $56,654.

Inequity explanation

Still, male respondents in small animal exclusive practice earned more than their female counterparts by roughly $3,000. Faced with the apparent inequity, Reardon admits there appears to be some social, possibly inherent differences between the genders.

Simply put: Men demand more, he says.

"Part of it is women seem to have a harder time asking for more professional compensation," he says. "I don't understand why because it's a female dominated pool of employees right now. All the women have to do is hold out for it. It's not like they're going to find a guy to take the job; they're 85 percent of the graduating class. I just don't think they push as hard as they can."

Another reason why the study's numbers tilt in mens' favor is more women take part in their spouses' insurance programs, forfeiting their own and making their salary packages appear less, he adds.


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