How Much Do Veterinary Professionals Make & Could You Earn More
Veterinary professionals make a lot less money than people perceive.
Generally, the best place to work as a vet (wage-wise) is the US. The worst is the UK. Although, it is worth noting that living in the UK is slightly cheaper than in the US, although this does vary greatly from region to region.
To earn what you deserve, know your worth, make a solid case for yourself (with evidence), and be honest with your wage expectations. The worst thing your employer can say is no!
How much do veterinary professionals really make?
There is a bit of a misconception when it comes to veterinary wages. While the majority of vets aren’t exactly strapped for cash; relative to training costs and cumulative hours worked, being a veterinary professional is less lucrative than some may think.
But how much does the average veterinary professional make? And could you be earning more? We investigate.
What Does the Average Veterinary Wage Look Like in the US, UK & Australia?
If you’re working in the veterinary sector or looking to do so, it has never been a better time to become a vet.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), veterinary shortages in the US, UK & Australia (among others) have put prospective employees in an enviable position.
It’s a buyers' market, and for the first time in a decade, veterinary wages are meeting the levels projected before the 2008 financial crisis.
Where is the Best Place to be a Vet?
At present, the best country to be a veterinarian (wage-wise) is in the US, where the average salary sits around $112,595 a year. Vets in the UK, however, can expect to bring home the least, with the average professional earning around $65,030 (£48,444).
It should be noted, however, that the average cost of living in the UK is 0.49% lower than in the US¹. And in Australia, the average cost of living is 9% higher than that of the US². So although living costs vary widely from region to region, lower wages may go further in different countries.
For a full breakdown of the average veterinary wages for each position and country, scroll below.
The Average Salary for Veterinary Professionals
Of course, these are only averages from one data set. Estimates from the 2020 SPVS Salary Survey suggest that the median salary for mixed practice sits at around £40,333, £42,206 for equine vets, and £46,400 for small animal/exotic vets. Graduates can expect to receive a median wage of around £33,500 ²⁰.
In Australia, the average income for a veterinarian sits around 140,000 AUD ($100,000)⁵. However, this may be an overestimate, given that other studies have cited that the mean average sits around 88,000 AUD ($63,368)²¹. Indeed lists the average salary for techs in Australia at about 53,200 AUD ($37,889), and 68,821 AUD ($49,014) for practice managers⁸ ¹¹. However, this data is limited and therefore should be taken with a pinch of salt.
How do Veterinary Wages Compare to Similar Occupations?
In the UK and the US, vets are paid a lot less than their medical counterparts. Physicians, for example, are paid $229,311 in the US and £76,000 ($102,709) in the UK ¹² ¹³.
Dentists also earn more than the average vet, with most US dentists bringing in $208,121 a year. In the UK, the average dentist earns around £69,697 ($94,146) a year¹⁴ ¹⁵.
Considering that most veterinarians graduate with greater debt than most (for example, in Australia, the average grad student leaves school with $23,685 AUD worth of debt, whereas the average vet student accumulates around $86,000 AUD)¹⁶ ¹⁷. Relative to those costs, vets make a lot less than perceived.
As a rule of thumb, general practice has historically paid vets around 20% of their personal production (self-generated revenue). What this means is that if a vet generates $500,000 in revenue (excluding sales taxes) they should expect a salary of $100,000.
How to Negotiate for Better Pay
If you feel that you are being paid less than your worth, there are a few things you can do to negotiate for a better wage.
1. Know Your Value
The first thing you want to do when negotiating for better pay is to come to the negotiating table with a solid understanding of your value.
Although we’ve shown some figures from different areas, this does not mean that you can command such a salary. Where you work does matter (due to the cost of living), but the quality and volume of work you deliver also matters a great deal too.
Moving to California will certainly carry higher costs of living than living in Ohio, so you can expect a higher basic salary. But a vet who brings high-quality clinical, communicative, and commercial skills is going to be able to earn a higher salary than one who performs badly in these areas.
Practices, especially those not backed by corporate investment, do not have an open-ended war chest, so raises must be earned from growth/profits. In Dr. Dave Nicol’s London practice, Roundwood Vets, we reward our team based on the accomplishment of objectives (which include clinical and financial responsibilities) and positive contribution to culture. We also offer novel incentives like shares and healthcare.
2. Make a Solid Case
When you receive a salary offer, or you’re seeking a pay rise, don’t just ask for a higher salary- explain why you’re worth more than you are getting. What are your strengths? How do you impact your practices’ bottom line? Bring evidence of your skill and success, not just demands.
3. Be Honest
Talking about money can seem taboo, but being honest about your pay expectations shouldn’t be something to shy away from. Inflation is rapidly rising across the world, and if you feel that your wages aren’t reflecting this, then it is reasonable to ask for a pay rise.
4. Choose Your Timing Wisely
Timing is everything. If you are already in a job, the best time to ask for a raise will be during a performance review where your skills will be under the microscope and, hopefully, you will have brought some value to the practice in the last 12 months.
Psychologists suggest asking for a raise towards the end of the week, given that people tend to be in a brighter mood before the weekend¹⁸. But seeing as Friday is generally a bonkers-busy day in practice, this may not be the best!
5. Look For the Win-Win Outcome
The cost of living is rising and we each have a certain value-add to our practices, so it is entirely reasonable to expect your reward to match your contribution. But equally, be reasonable. No relationship will flourish when one side feels taken advantage of.
Right now many vets feel this way, and so course correction is required. But there is no magic wand that will change the economic model of veterinary practice. Raises will have to be paid by clients, and many are already being priced out of veterinary care. According to the Access to Veterinary Care Coalition, almost a third of American pet owners can’t afford veterinary care¹⁹. A bleak outlook indeed.
6. Know When to Walk Away
If you sense that there is tension surrounding the subject of a pay rise, walk away. Hounding your boss about a salary increase will not help your case, and could end up tainting your relationship. Equally, there may be a point where you feel undervalued and need to consider your options elsewhere.
The Bottom Line
While most veterinary professionals join this industry for pets, pay is undoubtedly an important part of working life.
If you’re currently in the veterinary field, you should take time to consider where you see yourself going in the next five years. What type of roles would you like in the future? Would you like to specialize? What skills do you need to get there? If you have debt to pay, what pay grade do you need to make ends meet?
To get expert advice on how to manage your finances (and your clients’ finances) check out our 'So You're A Vet... Now What' course. This course will teach you all the fundamental skills you need to flourish as a veterinarian. Sign up here.
* Authors note: because of the way that Indeed and other job sites report data, some of the salary estimates may change as more professionals report their earnings. For the most current salary estimate, go directly to the sources listed in this article.
16- ‘Graduates delay life’s big decisions as student debt increases – AFR.’ 4 Jan. 2022, https://www.afr.com/policy/health-and-education/graduates-delay-life-s-big-decisions-as-student-debt-increases-20211209-p59g61. Accessed 28 Jan. 2022.
18- ‘When Is The Best Time Of Day To Ask For A Raise? Psychologists ….’ 18 Jul. 2015, https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/07/18/when-is-the-best-time-of-day-to-ask-for-a-raise-psychologists-weigh-in/. Accessed 8 Feb. 2022.