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The average veterinarian salary is around $100,000, but that number varies by location, type of practice and more. Starting salaries for veterinarians can be much lower, which could be discouraging after the eight years of school typically required for the position. Even so, becoming a vet can be fulfilling and lucrative.
Read on to 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 own practice. The industry you work in as a veterinarian can also make a big impact, as well as whether you have a specialization.
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 $60,690. Meanwhile, the bottom 25 percent of earners report an average salary of just $78,920.
Data from the American Veterinary Medical Association shows similar trends, reporting that the average compensation for 2019 veterinarian school graduates was $70,045, up from $65,983 in 2018.
Where you live also plays a huge role in how much you can earn in this career field, and that’s true whether we’re talking about starting veterinarian salaries or earnings for those with ample experience.
As an example, the following states reported the highest average veterinarian salaries in BLS data:
- Washington, D.C.: $137,170
- Connecticut: $134,050
- Rhode Island: $129,880
- New York: $129,210
- New Jersey: $127,360
Some metropolitan areas also boast high salaries for vets. For example, veterinarians in the Houston, Texas, metropolitan area earn mean wages of $117,980, and those in the Bridgeport, Connecticut, area earn $140,390. Other metropolitan areas with generous average salaries for veterinarians include:
- San Francisco-Okland-Hayward, California: $144,440
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California: $141,670
- Santa Rosa, California: $140,340
- New York-Newark-Jersey City, New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania: $136,340
- Hartford, Connecticut: $134,640
- New Haven, Connecticut: $132,850
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia: $131,430
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 College Station, Texas, metropolitan area earn an average salary of $95,050, and veterinarians in Manhattan, Kansas, earn just $72,130.
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: $90,250.
- State government, excluding schools and hospitals: $95,830.
- Support activities for animal production: $116,100.
- Federal executive branch: $98,000.
- Other personal services: $98,460.
- Social advocacy organizations: $100,630.
- General medical and surgical hospitals: $140,470.
- Museums, historical sites and similar institutions: $88,290
- Scientific research and development services: $135,670
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. On average, resident students can expect to pay around $35,000 a year in tuition and fees alone, while non-resident students can expect to pay close to $55,000. Multiply that times four and add other expenses, and your tab could reach well over $220,000.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 $150,000 in debt. However, depending on the program, some graduates can carry over $400,000 in student loans.
That said, veterinarians are typically well-paid, which could help you pay off your loans faster. But whether or not 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.
Map out a repayment plan before taking out veterinary school loans, and you’ll be better prepared to enter the workforce.