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Who Gets Paid More - Lawyers or Veterinarians?

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Lawyers and veterinarians have very different careers. One handles criminal and civil litigation, while the other treats animals with diseases or injuries. However, both require extensive education beyond undergraduate school. Lawyers must pass the bar and veterinarians must be licensed. One final difference is in their income, which may vary for a number of different reasons.

Average Salaries

Veterinarians earned a considerably lower average salary than lawyers in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average veterinarian’s salary was $93,250 a year, while the average salary for lawyers was $130,880. In certain cases, however, vets might make more. For example, those in the highest 10 percent of earners made $144,100 or more a year. Salaries for both professions vary by factors such as geographic location, industry, employer and work setting.

Workplace and Industry

The BLS reports that most lawyers worked in legal services in 2010, although almost a third worked for a local, state or federal government agency and a few worked in the management of companies or enterprises. Lawyers who worked in the management of companies or enterprises had the highest earnings as of 2012, with an average annual salary of $163,510, according to the BLS. In contrast, veterinarians worked primarily in private practice, with a small number working for the federal or state government. Veterinarians also worked in social advocacy organizations and colleges, universities and professional schools. Those who worked in scientific research and development services earned the highest average salaries in 2012, at $132,170 a year.

Unusual Settings

Lawyers with the highest earnings worked in some unusual industries, according to the BLS. In some cases, fewer than 100 lawyers worked in the field. For example, the cable and other subscription programming industry employed only 90 lawyers in 2012 and offered an average annual salary of $193,960. The 260 lawyers employed in the petroleum and coal products industry averaged $207,370 a year. The top-paying industries for veterinarians offered lower salaries and fewer opportunities than those for lawyers. The 40 veterinarians who worked in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing averaged $113,530 a year in 2012, while the 210 who worked in local government averaged $94,470.

Location Affects Salary

Geographic location affected salaries for both lawyers and veterinarians in 2012, according to the BLS. That's mainly because different areas of the country have different costs of living. Connecticut offered the highest average wages for veterinarians, at an average of $121,480 a year. Most of the top five salaries were concentrated in the Northeast. Lawyers earned the most in the District of Columbia, where the average salary was $165,590. All of the top five states were located on the East Coast, from Massachusetts in the North to Florida in the South.


Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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