Chart of the month: Connecting the cost of living and salary

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AVMA Chart of the Month

Veterinary professionals are fortunate in that we have a wealth of career opportunities open to us across the nation. So how do we decide where to work?

There are many factors to consider, both tangible and intangible. One rich source of tangible metrics is the cost-of-living index.

This measurement tells us how much, on average, it costs to live in a given location, relative to other locations. It takes into account expenses like housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services. 

What the data show

As today’s chart shows, the cost-of-living index varies widely among states.

Average cost of living by state, July 2023

About two dozen states have cost-of-living values lower than the national average, with Mississippi ranking lowest, at approximately 18% below the national average in 2023.

When it comes to above-average cost of living, there’s more of a spread. In fact, five locations (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia) have cost-of-living values at least 21% higher than the national average. D.C. tops the list at about 50% above average.

What does this mean?

When exploring job options—or working to recruit and retain team members as an employer—cost of living is important to consider. This is because the same compensation has different purchasing power and supports a different standard of living, depending on where you are. For instance, a salary that might be considered low in Massachusetts could support quite a comfortable standard of living in Mississippi. 

State-by-state comparisons are only a starting point, though. The cost of living often varies widely within states or regions, so a more granular view is needed for job decisions. That’s why the AVMA recently released a new tool that gives veterinary professionals easy access to cost-of-living data and more.


Ready to explore cost of living in greater detail? No need to leave your seat. AVMA JobFIT allows job seekers, employers, retirement planners, and other curious minds to explore what it would be like to live and/or work in various places across the United States. Found in the AVMA Veterinary Career Center, this free tool pulls together information on thousands of communities and displays it in map form at the county-by-county level.

With JobFIT, you can effortlessly visualize what life might be like in a specific area, financially speaking. Find summary data on cost of living, housing costs, and monthly rent, overlaid with veterinary job opportunities for easy reference.

Explore JobFIT

When contemplating potential jobs, we often consider both the place where we’ll work and the place where we’ll live. Cost of living is one of several financial variables to explore. But don’t let it constrain your choices. If the cost of living is high where a job opening piques your interest, you can leverage that information when negotiating compensation and benefits with potential employers. 



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