How Much Do Vets Make?

Updated on April 9, 2024

At a Glance

  • Veterinarian salaries vary based on factors like experience, practice type, and state.
  • Starting salaries range from $50,000 for equine vets to $87,000 for small animal vets.
  • Mid-level vets can earn above the national average of $84,555, with higher incomes for private practice, professors, researchers, and consultants.
  • The best states for veterinarian salaries include Montana, North Dakota, and Vermont, while Alaska, Hawaii, and Oklahoma have lower averages ranging from $90,453 to $150,024.

Becoming a veterinarian is a great way to work with animals, be close to them, and help them stay safe and healthy. But before you start working towards becoming a vet, you may be wondering “How much do vets make?”

Veterinarian salaries differ from one area to another, and some states have very high salaries compared to others. In this post, you will learn about vet salaries and how much one earns by taking care of animals.

Veterinarian Salary Overview

The vet profession is a very stable one. It pays well, especially considering what petcare can cost — and the salary increases annually. But the salary is usually influenced by a few factors such as the vet’s experience, practice, and the state they’re working in.

Veterinarian Starting Salary

A vet will start with a lower salary that grows over the years as the person gains more experience.

Usually, vets tend to specialize in one animal category. The salary will then depend on the veterinary practice type that the vet is working in. The area of specialization will influence the starting salary, as the American Veterinary Medical Association discovered.

Domestic pets like cats and dogs, as well as small animals like hamsters, gerbils, and rabbits, are part of the companion animal category. Most veterinarians are involved in companion animal veterinary clinic practices. Working with small animals as a veterinarian will usually bring salaries of about $87,000 annually.

Meanwhile, large animal vets will have a starting salary of $75,000. They are also called food animal vets, exotic animal vets, or zoological vets.

There are also equine vets, respectively veterinarians that treat horses. They start with the lowest salary, which is just a bit over $50,000. Equine vets are the veterinarians with the smallest salary.

Another category is that of mixed practice vets. Their salary is around $75,000.

Veterinarian Salary by Experience

Experience is another aspect that influences a veterinarian’s salary. As the vet advances and gains more experience, the salary will increase. In order to gain some extra experience, a vet who wishes to specialize may need an internship after vet school.

A lot of post-graduate internships are paid, although with smaller amounts compared to entry-level jobs.

Internships are optional, so you do not need one. Still, if you aim for a higher salary, you may want to consider an internship. Apart from increasing your earnings, it also allows you to gain some experience in the field, so you can progress faster in your career. When you start your veterinarian career with an internship, your starting salary will be around $32,894.

Many vets who graduate end up going to public or private practice directly. As a result, they will get entry-level salaries, which may range from $70,000 to $85,000 in their first year. Of course, the starting salary will differ from one vet to another depending on the specialization area.

How the Vet Salary Increases

As vets keep working and achieving a few years of practice, their salaries will grow. In fact, they will slowly get closer to the national average vet salary, respectively $84,555 per year.

What’s more, there is a very high demand for companion animal mid-level vets – therefore, they may end up earning more than the average salary. There are even private practices that offer bonus incentives and profit-sharing for doctors with more experience.

When a vet reaches the “experienced” status, they can end up with an average income of over $150,000 per year if they work in a specialty area with board certification, according to a report from AVMA. Conversely, a generalist vet’s salary is usually about $88,326 per year according to a report from PayScale.

Late career vets or partners who are non-specialized have an average salary of $91,752. However, it may reach $143,000, including dividends, profit sharing, and regular salary.

Veterinarian Salary by Practice

Apart from private veterinary practices, a lot of veterinarians now also operate in different industries.

Veterinarians can work as veterinary professors, getting a salary of $120,000 per year on average. Certain discoveries will help make progress when it comes to the treatment of disorders and diseases. As a result, a veterinary researcher will earn a high salary, of around $110,000 per year.

One can also work as a commercial or consultant vet. Commercial vets earn the highest incomes. The approximate annual salary is $160,000 for them. At the same time, consultants can earn about $150,000 per year.

Private practice veterinarians earn high salaries too. Usually, private practices differ by veterinarian type. One can either be a companion animal practice veterinarian, equine or mixed animal vet.

A companion animal practice veterinarian will get about $110,000 per year. Then, a mixed animal vet can get about $100,000 per year on average. Food animal practice vets also earn around $100,000 per year.

Equine veterinarians are the lowest-earning vets, with their annual salary being around $90,000. Vets in non-profit practices earn around $90,000/year as well.

Then, some vets work in the armed forces or within the federal government. Typically, they will work with dogs, which includes security dogs or therapy dogs. Their salary is about $100,000 per year.

Local and state governments also require veterinarians for law enforcement dogs, as well as other animals. Vets are also needed to assist local government-funded animal control facilities with animals suffering from diseases. These vets earn around $100,000 per year.

10 Best States for Veterinarian Salaries

Some states have amazing salaries for vets. So, if you want to become a vet, you might want to choose one of these 10 states:

  1. Montana – $150,024
  2. North Dakota – $149,635
  3. Vermont – $135,938
  4. New Jersey – $134,359
  5. New York – $134,163
  6. Maine – $132,515
  7. Utah – $131,888
  8. Massachusetts – $131,876
  9. Pennsylvania – $131,008
  10. Maryland – $130,880

10 Worst States for Veterinarian Salaries

Before you work to become a veterinarian, perhaps you want to know which states offer the lowest salaries for this profession. Here are the top 10 worst states for vet salaries:

  1. Alaska – $90,453
  2. Hawaii – $93,232
  3. Oklahoma – $96,440
  4. South Dakota – $102,613
  5. Florida – $103,534
  6. Arkansas – $105,907
  7. Nevada – $106,930
  8. Kentucky – $107,295
  9. South Carolina – $108,411
  10. Colorado – $110,276

Veterinarian Salaries by State

Here is the average veterinarian salary by state:

  • Alabama – $118,075
  • Alaska  – $90,453
  • Arizona – $122,849
  • Arkansas – $105,907
  • California – $127,629
  • Colorado – $110,276
  • Connecticut – $124,947
  • Delaware – $123,678
  • District of Columbia – $126,875
  • Florida – $103,534
  • Georgia – $118,165
  • Hawaii – $93,232
  • Idaho – $121,619
  • Illinois – $126,924
  • Indiana – $121,323
  • Iowa – $124,184
  • Kansas – $117,965
  • Kentucky – $107,295
  • Louisiana – $114,943
  • Maine -$132,515
  • Maryland – $130,880
  • Massachusetts – $131,876
  • Michigan – $128,059
  • Minnesota – $128,881
  • Mississippi – $111,897
  • Missouri – $118,788
  • Montana – $150,024
  • Nebraska – $118,922
  • Nevada – $106,930
  • New Hampshire – $118,457
  • New Jersey – $134,359
  • New Mexico – $130,336
  • New York – $134,163
  • North Carolina – $119,296
  • North Dakota – $149,635
  • Ohio – $129,865
  • Oklahoma – $96,440
  • Oregon – $123,628
  • Pennsylvania – $131,008
  • Rhode Island – $128,996
  • South Carolina – $108,411
  • South Dakota – $102,613     
  • Tennessee – $119,790
  • Texas – $126,835
  • Utah – $131,888
  • Vermont – $135,938
  • Virginia – $116,158
  • Washington – $123,113
  • West Virginia – $127,290
  • Wisconsin – $116,400
  • Wyoming – $113,324

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Final Thoughts

It’s important to know the average salary for vets in your state if you want to become a veterinarian. The salary is influenced by multiple aspects, so if you want to be paid more, you should get as much education as possible and gain experience through internships.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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