States probe pay for DVMs

States probe pay for DVMs

State survey shows some veterinarians make far below the national average
Dec 01, 2011

NATIONAL REPORT — Veterinarians in some parts of the country are making nearly 30 percent less than the most-recent national median reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), according to new reports from a handful of state veterinary medical associations.

Identifying how veterinarian and staff compensation levels compare to national surveys is increasingly becoming a goal of state veterinary associations.

"It's data that our veterinarians have wanted for a long time," says Michigan Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) Executive Director Karlene Belyea. The data, Belyea adds, help practice owners and job seekers better understand salary and benefit trends.

For example, Michigan found in its recent survey that full-time veterinary associates in the state reportedly made about 18 percent less than the AVMA-reported national median of $85,000. Michigan's part-time associates reported making almost 30 percent less than the median, according to the MVMA survey.

MVMA conducted the survey in spring 2011 to allow its members to compare their compensation levels to others in the state. Practice owners completed the surveys, but specific data on practice-owner compensation was not collected.

The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) conducted a similar study in 2008, 2010 and a follow-up is planned for 2012, adds Raina Day, the association's public relations director.

The Colorado Veterinary Medical Association (CoVMA) led the way with state surveys, conducting a compensation-and-benefits study in 2007 and a benefits-only study in 2009.

"It's a real effort to undertake because there are so many variables," CoVMA Executive Director Ralph Johnson says of the surveys.

Developing a template for state veterinary associations to use when conducting such studies would be a great benefit, Johnson says, since a state breakdown is not available through AVMA.

AVMA spokesman Michael San Filippo says the national association does not get enough responses from each state on its compensation report to provide an accurate sampling of state data. Only regional and national figures are reported in AVMA's report, he adds.

Johnson hopes these state VMA surveys will prompt other associations to undertake similar studies so that veterinarians can identify salary trends relevant to each state. As more associations rise to the task, the task will become easier, he says.

Here's a look at some of the results from the various state surveys. Go to for more national data.


According to MVMA's most recent survey of 142 Michigan veterinarians, full-time companion-animal veterinary associates working 40 hours per week reported a median income of $70,000 per year with a range of $34,420 to $140,000. Compensation levels dropped to $68,190 for mixed-animal veterinarians and $66,253 for equine veterinarians. Not enough data was collected to report median compensation for food-animal practitioners, according to MVMA.

Part-time veterinary associates reported an annual median income of $42,154 for about 18 hours of work per week. Income levels rose to $46,900 annually for 20 hours of work per week for companion-animal associates, and dropped to $30,300 annually for 16 hours of work per week for mixed-animal practitioners.

For full- and part-time associates, anticipated raises were 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively, and income levels were at the highest for practitioners with 16 to 25 years of experience.

Michigan practice managers were paid a median of $17 per hour, while technicians earned $14.36 per hour and assistants earned $10 per hour, according to the study. Wages were fairly consistent across all types of veterinary practices, MVMA reports. Front-office staffs were paid a median of $11.50 per hour with food-animal staff making $10 per hour, companion-animal staff at $11.25 per hour, mixed-animal staff earning $12 an hour and equine staff making $14.30 per hour.

As far as benefits, 60 percent of respondents report their practices offer separate vacation and sick time, while 28 percent use a paid time-off bank and 11 percent do not offer any paid time off.

Of those practices offering paid time off, 36 percent of the respondents said their practices pay up to three weeks of paid time off. Twenty-three percent either awarded paid time off based on length of service or gave two weeks off. Another 9 percent annually negotiated paid time off. Most practices that offered paid time off gave DVMs two weeks paid vacation and one week of sick time.

Additionally, nearly 80 percent of the Michigan-based respondents say their practices reimburse associates for professional fees and continuing education. Almost 70 percent of the respondents report their practices paid or reimbursed associates for travel and lodging. Almost half of the practices surveyed paid professional fees of certified staff, and nearly 80 percent paid or reimbursed certified staff for continuing education. About 63 percent of practices pay for lodging and travel expenses.

Nearly 70 percent of veterinary practices surveyed offer medical insurance to employees and more than 90 percent require 30 to 40 hours of work to be eligible. Of those that provide insurance, 44 percent pay 100 percent of the employee's medical insurance premiums. Twenty-seven percent of respondent practices are paying 50 to 74 percent of those premiums. Only 35 percent of survey respondents say their practices offer 100 percent payment of premiums for dependents.

Out of the 142 survey respondents, only 33 say their practices offer dental insurance. Even fewer numbers of respondents say they have access to disability, vision and life insurance. Another 60 percent of respondents report their practices offered a retirement benefit. Access to the practice's retirement benefit was based on length of service, according to 81 percent of the respondents. Employer contributions to retirement plans ranged from 1 percent to 15 percent, with a median of 3 percent. Only 29 percent of practices offered profit sharing, and 2 percent of the respondents said it was offered only to DVMs.