New Graduate Salary Calculator FAQ

View the New Graduate Salary Calculator (pdf) 

Q: What is the New Graduate Starting Salary Calculator?
A: The calculator is a predictive tool for veterinary students that can be used to inform a wide range of decisions regarding post-graduate career paths. It provides mean starting salaries for very specific employment scenarios for new veterinarians, based on historical data. Fourth-year veterinary students can use this along with other information sources to inform their first salary negotiations, as well as to make decisions regarding internships, post-graduate education and other options. Because it is based on real, historical data, it is not a “this is what should be” tool but a “this is what has been” tool.  

Q: Who should use the New Graduate Starting Salary Calculator?
A: This calculator was designed specifically for use by veterinary students, and especially fourth-year students.  It does not apply to veterinarians already in practice or those who have concluded or are preparing to conclude internships, residencies or other post-graduate options.

Q: How should this New Graduate Starting Salary Calculator be used?
A: This calculator tool is for veterinary students to use as one piece of information in their overall strategies for negotiating starting salaries. The calculator is designed to encourage veterinary students to think about the choices and factors that impact their potential starting salaries, based on data collected from previous graduates. In some cases (see below) the factors included are a choice of the student (e.g., species focus, location of employer). In other cases, the factors reflect an existing bias that has been identified, such as age or gender. But this does not mean that new veterinarians should simply accept these inequities. We encourage students to run multiple scenarios to see how various factors have historically influenced salary. Students should take an active approach to this tool – rather than accepting the result of any scenario at face value, students can use the calculator and the data on which it is based – including information about existing biases – as part of their individual strategy to advocate for themselves during the salary negotiation process. 

Q: Am I guaranteed to get the starting salary that this calculator suggests for my specific situation?
A: No. This calculator is a predictive tool that provides average starting salaries based on historical data – not a guarantee of any specific result. Some new graduates will make more, and some will make less, than the mean values. The factors included in the calculator explain 71 percent of variation that historically has occurred in starting salaries.

Q: Does this salary calculator apply to veterinarians already in practice? 
A: No, this calculator should not be used to predict salaries for veterinarians already in practice. This calculator was designed specifically for use by veterinary students. Our Veterinary Economics team is developing additional tools, including a salary calculator for practicing veterinarians, based on data relevant to their situations. 

Q: Where can I find the New Graduate Starting Salary Calculator? 
A: The New Graduate Starting Salary Calculator is available with other student financial resources on the AVMA website. 

Q: What’s the source of the data used to develop this calculator? 
A: The calculator is based on real data collected from the AVMA Senior Survey and compiled over the past 15 years (2001-2015). The Senior Survey is conducted each year and collects information from soon-to-be-graduating veterinarians at U.S. veterinary colleges. 

The New Graduate Starting Salary Calculator was developed, using nearly 30,000 observations over the last 15 years to provide the mean salary for very specific employment opportunities and individual characteristics of soon-to-be-graduating veterinarians who had accepted a job offer or post-professional education/training prior to graduation.  For more complete information about factors impacting starting salaries of new graduates, please see the 2016 AVMA & AAVMC Report on the Market for Veterinary Education. 

Q: How were the factors included in this calculator identified? 
A: The AVMA Senior Survey has been used by the AVMA annually to gather starting salary, employment, and other information about newly graduated veterinarians entering the workforce. Data from the past 15 years of the survey were analyzed by our team of economists to determine which factors are statistically significant predictors of starting salaries for that first job or post-professional educational program after earning a DVM/VMD degree. All of the factors that were found to be statistically significant predictors are included in the calculator. These include year of graduation; age; gender; entry into a post-DVM/VMD educational program; entry into private practice vs. public practice; species focus; geographical location of the practice; student debt load; and hours worked per week. 

Q: Why the deduction in salary for female veterinarians? 
A: The inclusion of gender as a factor affecting starting salary is not an indication that it is acceptable for female veterinarians to be compensated less for the same work.  In fact, the AVMA firmly believes in—and will continue to advocate for—equal pay for equal work. The reality is that this factor was identified as statistically significant in predicting starting salaries of new graduates, so it is included in the tool. You should be upset over this disparity, just as we at the AVMA are upset by it, but it’s a reality, and as a profession, we must find a way to address it. The AVMA actively encourages students who use this calculator to run a few scenarios and then utilize all the information gained to strategically advocate for themselves during salary negotiations. This is especially true for women. In addition, we hope that employers might use the information gleaned from this salary calculator to reflect on any unconscious biases impacting salary negotiations and hiring practices.

We have yet to determine why the gender wage gap exists – for example, whether it is due to lower salaries being offered, differences in the negotiation process, or something else entirely. We do know it is not based on hours worked per week, because the calculator controls for that factor.  Regardless why there is a wage gap,  it is critical that veterinary students understand that it exists – and its extent – as they enter their first veterinary salary negotiation process.

There is a large volume of research and literature on gender bias and the gender wage gap across multiple other professions in the United States, indicating that as veterinarians, we are not alone in facing this issue. It’s critical for our profession to address gender bias and the wage gap, while at the same time recognizing that we are a part of a larger, societal construct that also needs to be addressed. 

And, this isn’t the first time that the AVMA has identified a gender difference in starting salaries. Since 2013 we have been publishing information that indicated a gap between the salaries of male and female veterinarians.  In 2015, Dr. Mike Dicks, director of the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, published a starting salary estimation process in DVM360 that used the same analysis used in this New Graduate Starting Salary Calculator.  

We have been asked whether leaving gender out of the calculator would actually do more to help close the gap, but there is no evidence that this would be the case. Moreover, the calculator provides averages, and it is up to individual veterinary students to negotiate their specific starting salaries. Removing the gender factor from the calculator, thereby hiding or masking this bias, would not help us identify, quantify, discuss or address this critical issue.

We also have been asked whether including this factor perpetuates the gender bias/wage gap by indicating to female veterinary students that they should ask for less. This couldn’t be further from our intent, though. The fact that average salaries for female new graduates are lower than those for their male counterparts has been published previously. These published articles and reports have not, as far as we can tell, made an impact on the overall discussion of this issue within the veterinary profession—thus, the gender wage gap  continues to persist. When used as a source of information to inform salary negotiations and decision-making, - it is our hope the results of running different scenarios through the salary calculator will help veterinary students and new graduates to more effectively advocate for themselves in securing that first job following graduation.  
Again, the AVMA’s goal with this calculator is to provide the veterinary community with relevant information needed to make informed choices. We anticipate that women will not take the current gender salary gap at face value, but instead will use the information to empower their negotiation skills. As we tell veterinary students we work with directly through our outreach efforts, this tool provides averages of starting salaries—and no student accepted being average in order to get into veterinary school. Thus, we encourage everyone who uses the tool to not accept averages when it comes to negotiating for their first veterinary salary!

Q: Why is age included in this calculator?
A: As with gender and all of the other factors included in the calculator, age has been found to be a statistically significant variable that historically has affected starting salaries for new graduates and was therefore included in the salary calculator.  Users of this tool who are concerned about age bias are encouraged to run the calculator with several different age scenarios to explore potential bias and determine how to use this information in developing their own salary negotiation strategy. 

Q: What about other factors not included, such as race/ethnicity and veterinary school attended?
A: Neither race/ethnicity nor veterinary school attended is a significant factor in predicting the starting salary of a new graduate. Only those factors that have been determined over time to be statistically significant in predicting starting salaries are included in the calculator. 

Q: Why the deduction for post-DVM/VMD education? 
A: This adjustment is based on the data, which show that starting salaries (or stipends) for those enrolling in advanced education after veterinary school are not, on average, comparable with those in private or public practice. This applies specifically to the salary for a graduate who is pursuing post-graduate education, NOT the salary one might expect to receive upon completing that education. The AVMA is not passing judgment on the suitability or future career opportunities and earning for veterinarians pursuing advanced degrees or board certification; the calculator reflects only the statistical difference in the incomes of someone entering practice vs. pursuing advanced education after veterinary school. 

One additional note regarding internships: New graduates seek veterinary internships for varied reasons, and it’s up to the individual to determine if an internship is the right choice for them. That said, data show no evidence that completing a veterinary internship by itself is financially beneficial in the long run. This differs from residencies; data show that veterinarians who complete a residency do make more after board certification as specialists. 

Q: Why the adjustment based on ZIP code? 
A: Regardless of your profession, the area of the country in which you work has an effect on your salary. A primary factor influencing this variable is the cost of living in that geographical area. 

Q: Why the adjustments for species focus?
A: Data collected over the past fifteen years from the AVMA Senior Student Survey indicate that starting salaries are significantly impacted by the species focus of the clinical practice a new graduate enters. However, just as with other career choices, the AVMA is not passing judgment on the suitability or future career opportunities or earning potential for new graduates that pursue any given species focus. Certainly, as a new graduate gains in experience, his/her salary will also increase—but the degree of increase cannot be predicted by this calculator.

Q: Why is there a deduction for salary relative to an increase in the number of hours worked? 
A: We agree that this seems counterintuitive. Our research so far (as reported in the Compensation Survey) shows that for veterinarians already in practice, the trend is what you’d expect: increased hours are associated with higher salaries. But this is true only to a limit. As reported in the 2015 AVMA Report on Veterinary Debt and Income (pages 38-39), doubling the work hours increased income for male veterinarians by 18.5%. The 2016 report, which will be free to AVMA members and should be available within the next few months, will provide updated information. 

Data from the Senior Survey show that for new graduates, the estimated number of hours worked was statistically relevant and had a negative effect on starting salary. That means there’s something else going on, whether it’s masking another not-yet-identified variable (e.g., practice setting, number of doctors in practice) that isn’t collected in the Senior Survey (but is collected in the Compensation Survey), or is simply that the estimated number of hours reported in the Senior Survey differed from the actual known hours worked (reported in the Compensation Survey). Because the Senior Survey collects information from students who haven’t actually started their jobs, it may be that their estimate of anticipated hours worked per week or their anticipated income is not accurate.
Instead of supporting a perception that more hours equal less pay, it could also be a reflection of a reality that veterinarians who are anticipating longer working hours tend to get paid less overall. 

However, the bottom line is that the variable has been identified as statistically significant in predicting starting salary of new graduates, so it is included in the tool. 

Q: Why the adjustment for student debt load? 
A: The debt load was found to be a statistically significant factor impacting starting salary, but by no means the most impactful, so it has been included in the calculator. By including debt load, the AVMA is not implying that it’s the employer’s responsibility to compensate for excessive debt incurred by a potential employee. We’re also not saying that students should rack up more debt because they’ll make higher salaries — that would be self-destructive and do nothing to drive down the debt-to-income ratio of new graduates. Increasing student debt load is one of the highest priorities for our profession to address. So although we don’t  fully understand why debt load significantly impacts starting salaries, given the importance of this issue, its impact cannot be excluded from the calculator. 

Q: What’s next? 
A: The New Graduate Starting Salary Calculator will be updated annually, providing the ability to measure change. We also plan to develop a digital calculator tool that will provide an alternative to the manual calculations required on the PDF. 

Our Veterinary Economics team is developing more calculators and additional tools based on data collected from senior students, recent graduates, and more experienced veterinarians. We expect that some of these tools will also include controversial pieces that may spark criticism. What we find by analyzing the data may make people uncomfortable, even angry. But we shouldn’t – and won’t – manipulate the data to avoid this, because that would be a disservice to our members and the profession. 

Additional research into the issues of veterinary compensation is being conducted. We hope the attention paid to the gender wage gap and to other factors impacting starting salaries of new veterinarians will help students and our members appreciate the importance of completing any surveys they receive from the AVMA—and providing feedback on AVMA economic reports.

The AVMA is committed to advocating for its members and providing them with the information they need to achieve their personal and professional goals.  Along these lines, the AVMA has a personal financial planning tool ​which allows veterinarians to plan and track income and expenses in order to save for the future while also paying off debt.