Associate veterinarians’ compensation far outstripped the pace of inflation from 2005 to 2007, according to recently released research from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. The average annual salary for associates who belong to the VHMA was $84,331 in 2007, exceeding the 2005 average salary by 17 percent. The median salary of $77,096 in 2007 also exceeded the median in 2005, by 13 percent. Inflation during that same period was about 6 percent.
Associates’ hourly wages increased dramatically as well. The average hourly wage of $46.50 an hour beat 2005 levels by 18 percent, while the median hourly wage of $44 bested that reported in 2005 by 19 percent. And while compensation is up, annual hours worked are down, with the average associate working about 1,820 hours per year, or 35 hours per week.
According to the VHMA, this data demonstrates that, despite the worries of recession in both the United States and Canada spurred by housing slumps and falling interest rates, the demand for veterinary medicine remains high. Of course, 2008 has ushered in a new set of economic worries that may put the brakes on the rate of associate pay increases, but the results still indicate a positive trend for the profession, VHMA representatives say.
Associates in California saw the greatest increases in annual salries and hourly wages. The median hourly wage for these doctors in 2007 was $65.39, almost 76 percent higher than the median wage reported in 2005. The VHMA reports that this is most likely because of the trend for retiring baby boomers to move to warmer climates—most are empty nesters, meaning they likely have pets and disposable income to spend.
The largest increases in hourly wages were seen among veterinarians in practice between one and nine years. For brand-new associates and those with more than 10 years of experience, there was little or no change in hourly wages. According to the VHMA, these results may reflect the fact that many veterinary programs now teach students how to negotiate salaries, and associates are putting these skills into practice. Compensation for brand-new associates doesn’t show the same trends because these veterinarians lack experience and may not be in the same position to negotiate as their more seasoned peers, the VHMA says.
So what’s the bottom line, according to the organization? The demand for veterinary medicine remains strong. And once we weather this current economic crisis, associates can look forward to stronger salaries and wages in years to come.