Animal veterinarians make their money by taking care of animals in the same way that doctors take care of humans. Both can use X-rays to diagnose internal conditions, prescribe and administer medications, and record patient progress. But vets must guard against kicks, scratches and bites from their patients. Their salaries are higher than average.
Animal vets made a mean $91,250 per year, as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their annual pay ranged from below $50,480 to above $141,680. Compare this to the $72,730 per year averaged by all health-care practitioners, or the yearly mean $45,230 earned by all workers in the country. Veterinarians must be able to determine the problems of patients who cannot communicate with language. They must also relay progress reports and offer care advice to animal owners. Among the specialties for the profession are food animals, pets and companion animals, and research.
The biggest employers of vets are veterinary facilities, such as veterinarian offices and animal hospitals. They had 50,900 of the total 55,410 U.S. jobs and paid a mean $91,160 per year. Veterinarians in their own practices often supervise assistants and technologists, and also tend to business matters, such as billing clients, ordering supplies and marketing. The highest-paying employers of vets were scientific research and development services at a mean annual $124,610. Professionals here used animals to create products and processes that improve human and animal health.
Places with high populations also had the most animal owners and veterinarian jobs. California topped the state list, with 5,250 positions averaging $97,190 a year. Other states with excellent opportunities were Texas, Florida and New York. For cities, Chicago ranked first, with 1,260 vets making a mean $87,120 yearly. Other cities with good employment levels were Phoenix, New York City and Washington, D.C. The state with the best-paying employers was Connecticut, at a mean annual $125,810. The metro area with the same claim was New Haven, in the same state, averaging $158,240 per year.
To enter the profession, animal vets need a doctor of veterinary medicine degree, which takes about four years to complete beyond the bachelor’s degree that many take as a prerequisite. All states require licenses. Qualifications vary by state, but typically mandate an accredited education and passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Jobs for vets are expected to increase by 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, primarily because of a growing population that will keep more pets. Prospects will be excellent because the country’s 28 veterinary medicine programs produce only about 2,500 graduates a year. Competition will be strongest in pet and companion animal care, because most vets go into that specialty.