AVMA Economic Summit highlights veterinary income, job market

Real income is declining, starting salaries are increasing, employment is high, compassion satisfaction is low

At the fifth American Veterinary Medical Association Economic Summit, held Oct. 23-24 in Rosemont, Ill., the latest AVMA pet demographic survey highlighted interesting findings regarding ownership and veterinary income.

According to the report, which will be released in 2018, the number of dog-owning households is the highest since the AVMA began measuring pet ownership, the number of cat owners has dropped drastically, horse and pet bird ownership are declining, and backyard poultry ownership is increasing.

In the scheme of ups and downs, Frederic Ouedraogo, Ph.D., assistant director of the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, said that real veterinary income has been declining for more than seven years.

Further, veterinarians are likely to experience peak income of about $125,000 annually by age 59, and those who become practice owners soon after graduation earn more than those who become owners later in their career.

“If you’re not an owner after 10 years postgraduation, continue being a nonowner,” he said. “Owners make money in the first years after graduation … nonowners have low income initially, but after 30 years, their income is equal to owners’.”

Charlotte Hansen, a statistical analyst in the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, compared the value of obtaining a veterinary degree versus a bachelor’s degree.

“Female veterinarians (on average) earn $300,000 in today’s dollars over their lifetime more than they would have had they stopped at a bachelor’s degree, while men (on average) make less money with a DVM than if they had just taken a bachelor’s degree,” she said.

Starting salaries for male and female veterinarians continue to increase, with men earning roughly $2,500 more than women, Hansen said. Further investigation of veterinary unemployment revealed the current rate to be 0.5 percent, not 1.5 percent as previously thought, she added.

“The low level of unemployment is an indicator of the vigor of the market,” Hansen said.

More than 3,000 full-time–equivalent veterinarians are needed to satisfy the work hour preferences reported by practitioners, she added.

However, during her research, she found more veterinarians are reporting low compassion satisfaction, she said, and added that high educational debt and declining real income could be to blame.

Save the date

The 2018 AVMA Economic Summit is scheduled to take place Oct. 22-23 at the Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites Hotel.
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