Your time = your money

Your time = your money

Want to realize a return on your veterinary school investment? It's as simple as charging for your services—all of them.
Jun 01, 2013

To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who just missed the plane. To realize the value of one second, ask a person who survived an accident. To realize the value of one millisecond, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics. So what then is the value of four arduous years of study for a veterinary degree?

The cost of achieving a veterinary degree has been skyrocketing over the last few years. The average debt load for newly graduated veterinarians was about $150,000 in 2012. There are houses you can buy for that price! Yet the average starting salary for graduates was close to $65,000 last year. Remember that these are averages, so some have more debt load and some start with a lower salary. Sadly, once a veterinarian finally graduates and finds a professional position, a huge part of his or her salary goes to repaying debt.

The reality of veterinary debt

This means that new veterinarians find it harder than ever to make ends meet and don't have the financial ability to start or buy into a practice. Based on reports over the last few years, we experience one of the highest debt-to-income ratios compared to our human healthcare peers.

We put a lot of time, trouble and money into our jobs so we can get paid less than a third of what our human medicine counterparts make. We must adore working long, hard hours for so much less than our educational investment would suggest. After sinking about $200,000 into achieving our degree and getting our license, we must learn to be more cognizant of achieving a return on our investment.

Time is a valuable commodity

What we really need is a meter installed in our heads that monitors our most sellable merchandise: our time. We cannot survive by giving it away. Everything we do has a time component and should be sold at an appropriate dollar amount per unit of time.

So who sets the dollar amount for you? Initially, your employer does during your associate days. How does that happen? There are rules to follow and after that, it's simple math.

Let's say you're a salaried veterinary associate working 45 hours a week and being compensated at $80,000 per year. In addition to the $80,000, your employer must add Medicare, FICA and federal unemployment taxes amounting to $6,152, health insurance at a minimum of $8,000 and some kind of pension contribution amounting to about $4,000.

Now we add expenses for personal pet care, association dues, continuing education and medical liability insurance at a very minimum of another $2,000. The total cost has just leaped from $80,000 to $100,000, pretty typical of 20 percent in benefits added to salary. If you work an average of 45 hours a week or 2,250 hours a year, that comes out to an employer's cost of $44.51 for each hour and 74 cents for each minute you are employed.