How Much Does a Veterinarian Make?

Lisa Tynan
July 9, 2020

Did you want to be a veterinarian when you were little? You probably played animal doctor with your toys, maybe your favorite stuffed animals even had permanent splints on a leg or two. You likely got a summer job as a kennel attendant at your local veterinary clinic, or maybe you volunteered at the animal shelter in your spare time. You went to college and got an animal science degree like your guidance counselor told you to. You studied hard, put in the work, and became one of just a few thousand people admitted into veterinary school each year. And then, you realized what you were in for, if you didn’t already have an inkling.

Vet school costs

Getting into veterinary school is HARD. Paying for veterinary school is even harder. With just 30 accredited veterinary schools in the United States, competition is fierce and tuition is brutal. According to Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, it costs around $190,000 to attend for four years if you live in Texas. Out of state? That number jumps to more than $250,000. In fact, the overall range of vet school costs, including living expenses and room and board in 2018 was between $148,807 and $407,983, a jaw-dropping number.

That’s why so many future veterinarians are curious about veterinarian salary. Not because you’re in it for the money, but rather because you will be saddled with debt from the moment you set foot in school, year one.

How much do vets make?

So how much does a veterinarian make? In the state of Texas, one of the many locations where Roo is currently staffing, an associate veterinarian salary averages about $85,000 per year with a high end of $110,000. Obviously, that number depends on where you live, what kind of medicine you’re practicing, and how well you’re able to negotiate your contract. Let’s do the math… if you work 4 ½ days per week (most clinics have a rotating weekend schedule), and you're lucky enough to be making the high end of $110,000 per year, that breaks down to about $529 per day. And you probably work at least 12 hours each day, right?

For a broader look at what veterinarians make each year outside of Texas, take a look at this list from ZipRecruiter. The highest averages are in New York, Massachusetts, and Washington (states with high costs of living) and they make an average $105,000 per year.

How much do relief vets make?

All that is well and good. But did you know that working as a relief veterinarian means your salary could increase and your hours will decrease? Sounds too good to be true, right? But wait. Most private practice vet relief shifts on Roo are 9 or 10 hours, but the daily payout comes to an average of $620 (depending on the type of shift, of course). So let’s compare full-time associate vet to full-time relief vet. If you decided to work 18 vet relief shifts with Roo each month (of course you get to pick which days), and you factor in our $500 monthly bonus for hitting the 18-shift mark, that adds up to a veterinarian salary of about $140,000 per year. Let that sink in.

What about vet practice owners?

So what if you always dreamed of hanging out a shingle and opening your very own animal clinic? A lovely ideal, no question. Let’s estimate that it costs you, say, $375,000 to build and open your hospital. You probably won’t even be able to take a salary year one, and year two might net you $80,000. Why not work as a relief vet with Roo for a few years to pay off your loans and put some money aside? That way the pressure to open your own business is delayed until you’re more financially secure and, of course, a more confident and skilled veterinarian.

Look, the thought of being a relief veterinarian may not have ever crossed your mind, and that’s ok. It’s a foreign idea for many to be able to create your own schedule, pick which hospital you want to work at every day, take time off when you need to, and spend more time doing the things you love that don’t involve work. If that scenario sounds even remotely intriguing, it’s worth giving it a whirl. If you work in any of the metro areas Roo currently services, pick up a relief shift with Roo here and there, really get a feel for it. You’ll learn to relish the freedom and financial stability a thriving veterinary relief career can offer. It might not all be about the money, but if the money is good, it’s all good.

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