How Much do Veterinarians Make?

For individuals considering a career in veterinary medicine or those curious about moving to a new opportunity within the profession, understanding the earning potential of veterinarians is essential. In this exploration, we delve into the factors influencing how much veterinarians make and some of the related factors that become relevant when a veterinarian is considering a new employment opportunity.

Overview of Veterinarian Salaries

Veterinarian salaries can vary based on several factors, including experience, specialization, geographic location, and type of practice. While the median salary provides a general overview, it’s crucial to consider these influencing factors for a more accurate understanding.

Median Salary

As of the latest data, the median annual salary for veterinarians in the United States is around $95,460. This figure represents the point at which half of the veterinarians earn more, and half earn less. However, it’s essential to note that this number is a broad average and may not reflect the earnings of veterinarians in specific situations. Also, note that the median salary does not indicate which type of compensation structure is being used. Compensation for veterinarians is commonly paid on a fixed salary basis, on a straight production basis or by “ProSal” (i.e., a base salary coupled with a production bonus opportunity).

Factors Influencing Veterinarian Salaries

Several factors play a role in determining how much veterinarians make:


Not surprisingly, experience is one of the most significant determinants of a veterinarian’s salary. Newly graduated veterinarians often start with a lower salary, while those with years of experience and expertise tend to command higher compensation. Specialized skills and a proven track record contribute to increased earning potential.


Veterinarians who choose to specialize in areas such as surgery, internal medicine, or dentistry typically earn higher salaries. Specialized knowledge and skills are in demand, and practices may offer increased compensation to attract and retain veterinarians with expertise in specific fields, especially for veterinarians who have become board certified.

Geographic Location

The geographic location of a veterinary practice significantly influences salary levels. Areas with a higher cost of living or a shortage of veterinarians may offer higher salaries to attract professionals. Urban centers tend to have higher salaries compared to rural areas.

Type of Practice

The type of veterinary practice also plays a role in determining earnings. Veterinarians working in small animal practices, large or mixed animal practices, emergency clinics, or specialty hospitals may have very different salary structures. Additionally, those in food animal, academia or research positions may have different compensation models.

Additional Compensation and Benefits

In addition to base salaries, veterinarians often receive additional compensation and benefits, including:


Some veterinary practices offer performance-based bonuses or incentives. These are typically tied to meeting production targets but also can be tied to factors such as meeting profitability targets, exceptional patient care, or client satisfaction. Signing bonuses have also become more commonplace in recent years.

Healthcare and Retirement Benefits

Many veterinary practices provide healthcare coverage and retirement benefits as part of their compensation packages. These benefits can be a significant component of the overall value of the veterinarian’s compensation.

Vacation/PTO/Sick Leave

Full-time veterinarians who are not paid on straight production are usually receive paid vacation, which increases over the veterinarian’s tenure at the practice. Sick leave is also common (and legally required in some places). Alternatively, some practices elect to combine vacation and sick leave as paid time off or “PTO.”

Continuing Education

Veterinarians are often provided with 3-5 paid days off for continuing education each year and an additional amount to be applied to the registration, travel and lodging expenses related to attending CE events. The CE expense stipend can vary significantly depending on the type of practice, with specialty practices typically offering larger amounts for CE expenses.


Other common benefits include payment or reimbursement for state license fees, DEA fees and AVMA and state VMA dues. These dues can either be paid for individually or rolled into a larger stipend that may include other items, such as CE expenses.

Work-Life Balance Considerations

Work-life balance is increasingly recognized as a valuable component of overall compensation. Practices that offer flexible schedules, paid time off, and other work-life balance considerations may attract veterinarians seeking a more holistic approach to their careers.

Challenges and Considerations

While the veterinary profession offers rewarding opportunities, it comes with its challenges. Mentorship needs, support staff environment, educational debt, working hour demands, and the emotional challenges of working with animals and their owners are factors that veterinarians commonly consider when evaluating their overall compensation and career satisfaction.

Educational Debt

Many veterinarians graduate with significant educational debt. Balancing the repayment of student loans with salary expectations is an important consideration for those entering the profession or making career changes later down the line.

Emotional Toll

The emotional toll of veterinary work, particularly in cases involving economic euthanasia, is a unique aspect of the profession. Veterinarians often weigh the emotional rewards of helping animals against the challenges associated with such situations. Some work environments are better than others at addressing this inevitable aspect of veterinary practice.


Understanding how much veterinarians make involves considering various factors, including experience, specialization, geographic location, and the type of practice. While the median salary provides a general benchmark, individuals pursuing a career in veterinary medicine should assess the overall compensation package, including additional benefits and work-life balance considerations.