Key takeaways

  • Salaries of veterinarians vary by location, years of experience and other factors but can average about $129,000 annually.
  • The type of practice you work for can have a significant impact on how much you earn annually.
  • Going to vet school requires a significant investment, and some students leave school with $150,000 or more in debt.

The average veterinarian salary is around $129,000, but that number varies by location, type of practice and more. Starting salaries for veterinarians can be much lower, which can be discouraging after the eight years of school typically required for the position. Even so, becoming a vet can be fulfilling and lucrative.

Find out which factors impact veterinarian salaries and how to decide if this career choice is worth the investment.

How much do veterinarians earn?

Much like any industry, your salary as a veterinarian depends on where you live, how many years of experience you have and whether you own your practice. The industry you work in as a veterinarian and whether you have a specialization can also make a big impact.

Starting veterinarian salaries

Industry experience inevitably plays a role in starting veterinarian salaries. After all, having more experience in any field typically means that you can command higher wages and better benefits.

Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the bottom 10 percent of veterinarians earn an average of $62,350. Meanwhile, the bottom 25 percent of earners report an average salary of $82,580.

Data from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) shows a higher number, reporting that the average starting compensation for 2022 veterinarian school graduates was $111,242.


Where you live also plays a huge role in how much you can earn in this career field, and that’s true for starting veterinarian salaries and earnings for those with ample experience.

As an example, the following states reported the highest average veterinarian salaries in BLS data:

  • Hawaii: $155,570.
  • Wisconsin: $148,680.
  • Connecticut: $138,700.
  • New Jersey: $137,230.
  • Arizona: $136,780.

Some metropolitan areas also boast high salaries for vets. For example, veterinarians in the urban Honolulu area earn mean wages of $170,520, and those in the Madison, Wisconsin area earn $162,250. Other metropolitan areas with high average salaries for veterinarians include:

  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California: $151,990.
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California: $149,180.
  • Appleton, Wisconsin: $143,660.
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania: $143,560.
  • Danbury, Connecticut: $143,380.
  • Bangor, Maine: $142,240.

Of course, you may earn a lower salary if you live in an area with minimal demand or a lower cost of living. For example, veterinarians who live in the Ames, Iowa metropolitan area earn an average salary of $75,900 , and veterinarians in Manhattan, Kansas, earn just $80,480.

Type of practice

The type of practice you work in can also play a huge role in how much you can earn as a veterinarian. This is true regardless of where you live. Figures from the BLS reveal the following average earnings for veterinarians nationwide in various settings:

  • Colleges, universities and professional schools: $104,750.
  • Support activities for animal production: $100,030.
  • Federal executive branch: $101,410.
  • Other personal services: $112,950.
  • Social advocacy organizations: $109,150.
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $159,810.
  • Museums, historical sites and similar institutions: $95,990.
  • Scientific research and development services: $157,340.

Is becoming a vet worth it?

While veterinary medicine can feel like a calling if you love animals, going to vet school requires a significant investment of both time and money.

  • Average cost of veterinary school: On average, resident students can expect to pay around $35,000 a year in tuition and fees alone, while nonresident students can expect to pay close to $60,000. Multiply that times four and add other expenses, and your tab could reach well over $240,000.
  • Average debt after school: With such a high price tag, it may not be a surprise that most veterinary students must take out student loans to cover some of their education costs. According to the AVMA, the average veterinary student leaves school with about $147,258 in debt.

That said, veterinarians are typically well-paid, which could help you pay off your loans faster. But whether becoming a vet is the right move for you will depend on your level of commitment to the profession and how happy you are with your choice — even if you don’t end up securing a six-figure salary.

The bottom line

The salary range for veterinarians is broad, which is why it’s good to consider the return on investment involved in earning a veterinary degree and potential alternatives.

When making a decision about whether this career is right for you, factor in where you might live and the average salaries available in your intended location. It’s also a good idea to map out a repayment plan before taking out veterinary school loans, and you’ll be better prepared to enter the workforce.