Veterinarians and doctors both provide medical care for patients – whether they’re human, feathered, four-legged or have scales. Both careers are rewarding because they often make us and our pets healthier and in many cases, save lives. Veterinarians and doctors have very different requirements and salaries, but require doctorate-level education and a state-administered license to practice professionally. Doctors earn higher average salaries than veterinarians.
Veterinarians must obtain a doctor of veterinary medical degree from an accredited educational program, which typically takes four years to complete. Because being accepted into a veterinary educational program is competitive, many students earn a bachelor’s degree before applying in a discipline such as animal science, zoology or biology. After completion of an education program, which includes clinical rotations in veterinary hospitals, veterinarians must obtain a license in their state. Obtaining a license requires completing an application, paying a fee and passing the North American Veterinarian Licensing Examination.
Doctors are required to complete an extensive amount of schooling and internships or residency programs, taking over 11 years to complete, depending on their medical specialties. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, they test and interview to enter an accredited medical school. After successful completion of medical school and completion of an internship or residency program, aspiring doctors must pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination to obtain a license in their state.
Both careers pay good wages, based on their education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2011 veterinarians earned an average salary of $91,250 per year; while physicians and surgeons, which includes doctors, earned an average salary of $184,650 per year.
Salaries vary for both occupations based on factors such as geography, type of employer, professional experience and specialty area. To give an example, in 2011 the top-paying state for veterinarians was Connecticut, where they earned an average of $125,810 per year, according to the BLS. For doctors, the top-paying state was Mississippi, where they earned an average salary of $234,620 per year.
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