Veterinary salaries remain modest, but job security's great


Veterinary salaries remain modest, but job security's great

Aug 01, 2008

Examining salaries: DVMs' average earnings put them just above chiropractors and dental hygenists, but well below dentists, physicians and other human-health practitioners.
Salaries of veterinarians continue to rank near the low end of those within the health-care field, but DVMs and other veterinary workers can take comfort in knowing that their job security and job-growth prospects are among the best of all occupations, based on the latest figures from the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Top 10 fastest-growing occupations through 2016
The estimated 50,790 salaried veterinarians listed in the BLS' Occupational Employment and Wages chart for May 2007 earned an average $84,090, up slightly from an $81,490 average salary the year before. The middle 50 percent earned $75,230 in the latest report, the top 10 percent earned $134,920 or more and the bottom 10 percent earned $44,150 or less.

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2007 Estimates do not include self-employed workers
The BLS report does not include people who are self-employed, such as owners of unincorporated practices, even if they pay themselves a salary. It does, however, include practice owners whose businesses are incorporated.

By comparison, the latest (2007) statistics published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) show a total of 83,730 veterinarians, with 58,240 of them in private practice. The AVMA figures show a median before-tax salary of $79,000 for private practitioners, and a median salary of $97,000 for DVMs in public or corporate positions.

The 73,240 veterinary technologists and technicans in the new BLS charts earned a mean (or average) annual wage of $28,920 in May 2007, up from $27,750 in May 2006, while 71,190 employed as assistants or animal caretakers earned an average $22,180, up from $21,060 a year earlier.

Though the BLS charts don't include all private practitioners, they do provide some interesting insights into the profession. For instance:

  • With a mean (or average) annual salary of $84,090, DVMs rank just above chiropractors ($81,390) and dental hygenists ($64,910), but well below anesthesiologists ($192,780), human-health surgeons ($191,410), orthodontists ($185,340) and family physicians ($153,640).
  • Veterinarians employed in spectator sports, such as at racetracks and other performance or sporting events, are among the highest paid in the profession, earning an annual mean wage of $127,090.
  • Salaries of those working in social advocacy groups (such as animal-welfare organizations), research and development, the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry and as merchant wholesalers all averaged between $80,000 and $85,000.
  • Those working in federal and state government averaged just under $80,000, while those in colleges, universities and professional schools earned an average of $69,570.

If salaries are relatively modest, the upside is that veterinary job security is high. Among the 10 occupations the BLS projects to be the fastest-growing between now and 2016, veterinarians rank ninth. Their numbers are expected to grow by around 22,000 during that period, a 35 percent increase. Veterinary technicians will be in even higher demand. They rank fifth out of the 10, with numbers expected to grow by 29,000 by 2016, a 41 percent gain.

What accounts for the increased demand? A recent Tufts University study mentioned some reasons, including the fact that many practitioners, especially food-animal DVMs, are nearing retirement. Other factors include a need for more DVMs in specialty care, especially in fast-growing urban areas, the need to address severe shortages in underserved rural areas and in public health, and the need for more technicians to take X-rays and perform other office tasks that can free DVMs to deal with additional patients.

The five states with the highest concentrations of salaried veterinarians, according to the BLS, are Vermont, Colorado, Iowa, Delaware and New Mexico. The five metro areas with the highest numbers are Ames, Iowa; Ocala, Fla; Lawrence, Kan.; Lexington, Ky.; and Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo.

Where do DVMs earn the most?

Those in the District of Columbia top the BLS earnings list with an average salary of $128,460, followed by Connecticut, with $111,040. The top-paying metro areas are the Newark-Union, N.J.-Pa. Metropolitan Division, where the average DVM salary is $127,160, followed by Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn., with an average of $126,640.

Veterinary technicians earn the most in the states of Connecticut ($34,810) and Nevada ($34,700) and in the metro areas of Lansing-East Lansing, Mich. ($40,860) and Fresno, Calif. ($40,690).