Some people decide that they want to be a veterinarian when they’re old enough to give check-ups to their stuffed animals. Some people realize that dream, while others don't. Like any job, working as a veterinarian has its perks and its drawbacks. One definite tick in the “pro” column is that the job outlook is good. Employment of veterinarians is expected to grow 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. Job opportunities will be strongest in government and farm animal care.
Veterinarians are paid relatively well. May 2011 data from the BLS indicates that mean annual wage for veterinarians is $91,250 with the top 10 percent earning more than $141,000 per year. Many vets work in clinics or animal care hospitals, but the top-paying industries are scientific research and development services with an average annual salary of $124,610.
Before you can start earning those big bucks, you need to complete veterinary school – where even the admission process is daunting. With only 28 accredited veterinary schools in the entire country, you need to have an impressive undergraduate academic and extracurricular record to make the cut. According to the BLS, in 2010 less than half of all applicants were accepted into veterinary programs, so the competition is tough. If you are accepted, veterinary programs typically take four years to complete.
The training is selective and intense, but the work is gratifying. Veterinarians can help improve the lives of animals. They can also specialize in their areas of choice. As of 2012, there are 22 veterinary specialty organizations comprising 40 distinct specialties recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Board-certified specialists serve the public, animals, and the veterinary profession by working in such disciplines as internal medicine, surgery, preventive medicine, toxicology and dentistry. Certification requires additional training, which varies depending on the specialty.
Injuries and Stress
Veterinarians can face long hours and the stress of making snap decisions that could save an animal’s life. They also have to handle unhappy and scared pets, which can result in injuries from biting or kicking. Exposure to disease and chemicals is always a concern in a healthcare setting, although there are precautions to take to avoid these dangers.
2016 Salary Information for Veterinarians
Veterinarians earned a median annual salary of $88,770 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, veterinarians earned a 25th percentile salary of $69,240, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $118,460, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 79,600 people were employed in the U.S. as veterinarians.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Veterinarians
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Veterinarians, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011
- Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges: Frequently Asked Questions
- Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges: VMCAS Applicant Statistics
- American Veterinary Medical Association: AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Veterinarians
- Career Trend: Veterinarians
Samantha Ley writes career and education articles for various online publications. She also works in social media management and creates test materials and other educational content for various companies. Ley holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Kenyon College and an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia.