Veterinarians' incomes continued to increase from 2005-2007, though few expect incomes to increase as much from 2007-2009.
At the end of 2007, veterinarians earned more in private practice than in many areas of public practice—and men still earned more than women.
Income figures for 2007 come from the most recent Biennial Economic Survey, which the AVMA conducted this past spring to collect data from the previous calendar year. The AVMA released the survey results in late November.
While the survey may not reflect the current economic climate, it does provide hard figures for veterinarians' incomes every two years going back to 1984. The most recent results confirm that long-term trends continued from 2005-2007.
"Veterinary incomes are up across the board, but some sectors of veterinary medicine are doing better than others," said Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO. "We need to further explore the reasons behind disparities in what veterinarians earn based on their type of employment and even their gender."
The mean income of private practitioners rose from $105,510 in 2005 to $115,447 in 2007—exceeding mean incomes of veterinarians in areas of public practice such as uniformed services, government, and academia. Income disparities also exist between men and women, on almost the same scale as the income differences between specialists and nonspecialists.
Income ranges, changes
The median income for private practitioners was about $91,000 in 2007, a mean annual growth rate of 7.3 percent since 2005. The median was $121,000 for owners and $79,000 for associates. At the 90th percentile, owners earned $285,500 and associates earned $127,000.
Practitioners who worked exclusively with food animals earned the highest median income, $109,000. The most dramatic increases in median income from 2005-2007 were in mixed animal practice, with a mean annual growth rate of 11.7 percent, and exclusively food animal practice, with a mean annual growth rate of 9.4 percent.
"This salary growth is possibly attributable to the shortage of veterinarians in rural areas," Dr. DeHaven said. "If that's the case, it shows that those who are hiring food animal veterinarians recognize that more needs to be done to recruit veterinarians into this critically important field."
The mean incomes of veterinarians in public practice or corporate employment covered a wide range. Veterinarians in industry earned the highest mean income, $165,668, while veterinarians in the uniformed services earned the lowest, $87,393.
Veterinarians in state or local government earned a mean income of $96,651, while veterinarians in the federal government earned a mean of $102,997. The mean income was $107,676 for veterinarians in academia, an annual growth rate of 7.8 percent since 2005—and an improvement on basically flat incomes from 2003-2005.
The mean hours that full-time veterinarians worked per week declined in 2007, after an uptick in 2005, following the long-term trend of decreasing hours. The mean in 2007 was 48.3 hours of work per week for private practitioners, ranging from 45.6 hours in exclusively companion animal practice to 58.8 hours in equine practice.
Income by gender, specialty
"One of the things that we have seen significantly over the last few years is a gap in what male and female veterinarians make," said Jim Flanigan, AVMA marketing director, as he conducted a Nov. 18 webinar on the survey results. "As 80 percent of our new graduates are women, and as the active membership of the AVMA became a majority female last year (2006), that gap is of particular interest and concern to us."
The income gap between the genders is wider in private practice than in public or corporate employment. Men earned a mean of $138,633 in private practice, while women earned $91,551. Men earned a mean of $133,489 in public or corporate employment, while women earned $103,745.
In private practice, the gender gap exists for owners and for associates. The mean income was $158,910 for male owners and $115,768 for female owners. The mean was $102,672 for male associates and $83,106 for female associates.
Mean income grew at a similar annual rate for men and women in private practice from 2005-2007, at a mean rate of 6.5 percent for men and 6.8 percent for women. Women's income grew at a greater annual rate than men's in exclusively companion animal practice, 6.4 percent versus 3.8 percent, and equine practice, 5.4 percent versus 2.3 percent. Women's income also grew at a greater annual rate than men's in public or corporate employment, 9.2 percent versus 6.2 percent.
Veterinarians with board certification earn much more than veterinarians without board certification. In private practice, mean income was $167,862 for specialists and $111,674 for nonspecialists. In public or corporate employment, the mean was $140,893 for specialists and $106,681 for nonspecialists.
Flanigan noted how much more specialists earn in private practice than in public or corporate employment.
"This is a concern of veterinarians in the federal government because it makes it very difficult to attract boarded veterinarians to key positions," Flanigan said. "This is of some concern in universities as well because universities need to attract and retain talent to train the next generation of veterinarians."
The Biennial Economic Survey collected data not only on veterinarians' incomes but also on business measures, such as practice revenues and expenses. Statistics from the survey appear in the 2009 editions of the AVMA Report on Veterinary Compensation and the AVMA Report on Veterinary Practice Business Measures.
The AVMA has released the reports in book form and in PDF files for download. Reports are available for purchase by calling the AVMA at (800) 248-2862 or visiting avma.org/products/resource.
The combination price for both reports in book form is $189 for AVMA members and $279 for nonmembers, while the price for both in PDF format is $169 for members and $259 for nonmembers. The reports also are available for purchase individually.
The AVMA will conduct the next economic survey in spring 2010 to collect data from the 2009 calendar year.
Only 28 percent of participants in the recent webinar predicted that veterinarians' incomes will rise as much from 2007-2009 as in the previous two years, while 50 percent predicted that incomes will increase less and 22 percent predicted that incomes will decrease.