What's fair compensation one year out of veterinary school? I'm currently working at a two-doctor practice. What do I need to know to make an educated decision about whether to renew my contract?
Roger Cummings, CVPM
"Of course, the level of pay that's fair depends on your contribution and value to the practice," says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Roger Cummings, CVPM, a management consultant with Brakke Consulting in Dallas. To gauge your value, Cummings suggests answering these questions:
- Are you working full time (40 hours) in a small-animal-only practice? "The data you'll find from AAHA and Well-Managed Practice studies pertains only to small animal associates," says Cummings. "If you're in a mixed animal or equine practice, the compensation is significantly different." (AAHA says the average annual compensation for a full-time associate is $65,606, but this includes all experience levels. And the top quarter of Well-Managed Practices—the best of the best—offer associates with one to two years of experience at least $60,000.)
- What was your annual revenue production during your first year and, more important, in the past six months? To earn a compensation and benefits package of $60,000 you need to be producing annual revenue in excess of $300,000. Granted, your compensation may not be tied to production, but your individual production helps justify and quantify the compensation you desire.
- Are you a good team player? Do you work well with other staff members and help others learn and advance? As a recent graduate, you have the most current knowledge about medicine, and you should be sharing your know-how.
- Are you open to learning how things function in your practice and why your team chose this particular approach?
- Are you actively working to build programs to educate clients and support staff members, market the practice, and retain new clients?
"When you review your contract, also consider industry averages for benefits," says Cummings. "AAHA's Compensation and Benefits shows that the average associate receives six paid holidays, 10 paid vacation days (after one year with the practice), and five paid sick days a year, plus a retirement plan. The average practice pays about $1,000 for CE plus travel expenses a year, provides five paid CE days a year, and covers about 90 percent of an associate's health insurance premium, liability insurance, license fees, and professional association dues.
"Of course, these are averages," says Cummings. "So remember, more associates receive compensation that's below this level than receive compensation that's above. That's the way averages work."