How Much Can Veterinarians Earn in the U.S?

By Angela Beal, DVM

U.S. veterinarians make substantially more money than those in other countries, according to a recent global veterinary salary report. If you live outside the United States and want to maximize your earning potential, moving could be smart, and may increase your career and educational opportunities.

However, the cost of veterinary education in the United States is rising, and salaries are struggling to keep up with inflation. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the average veterinary student graduated in 2020 with $157,146 in debt.

Industry leaders have long acknowledged the rising tuition costs and are slowly progressing in the battle. As schools and officials work to improve graduate debt loads, U.S. veterinarians must find jobs that suit their financial needs. 

Veterinary Salaries in the US

Veterinarian salaries in the United States fall on a bell curve, with a median in 2021 around $100,000. The lowest-paid 25% make around $78,000 annually, and the highest-paid 25% bring in $128,000 or more. One of the greatest things about veterinary medicine is the wide variety of opportunities available after graduation, but each industry and sector offer different salaries. Location also plays a major role in earning potential, because individual regions, states, and metropolitan areas boast different cost-of-living ranges and demands for specific skills. Individual employers and experience also contribute to compensation variability.

What are the highest and lowest paying U.S states for veterinarians?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the states with the highest average salaries in 2022 include Hawaii, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Arizona, Utah, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine, which all average between $124,000 and $155,000. States with the lowest average salaries include Nebraska, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and South Dakota, which offer between $84,000 and $101,000 annually. 

States with the highest average salaries generally include large metropolitan areas with high demand for companion animal veterinary services, while those with lower salaries include a higher proportion of rural and large animal veterinarians. Keep in mind that states with the highest salaries also have the highest cost of living, and expenses in these states can outweigh the perceived salary bump.

Vet Salaries by role and industry

The veterinary medicine type you choose to practice, or the related industry you choose, greatly influence vet salary possibilities. For example, board-certified veterinary specialists in private practice have a higher earning potential than general practitioners, because they can charge more for their services and expertise, while the same specialists may earn less in a government or grant-funded teaching position.

A 2017 AVMA survey found salary differences across industries. Board-certified specialists earned around $175,000 compared with generalists, who earned $106,000. Veterinarians with bachelor’s and veterinary degrees earned less than those who pursued master’s degrees ($123,000) and PhDs ($167,000). Food animal-exclusive veterinarians earned $132,000, which is more than companion animal and equine veterinarians, who earned $118,000 and $116,000, respectively.

Outside private practice, research veterinarians earned the most ($212,000 on average), followed by consultants ($192,000), and those in veterinary industry organizations ($183,000). The lowest-paid roles in the public sector included uniformed services veterinarians ($85,000), state and local government workers ($91,000), and those in non-profit organizations ($96,000). Interns and residents earned an average of $50,000 annually while they pursued further education.

Financial resources and planning for veterinarians

Generally speaking, the more education, the higher your potential earnings, but your debt load may also increase. You should take your finances into account when choosing your veterinary career path, but money shouldn’t be the only factor. When you follow your interests and pursue your passions, you’ll be happier and more productive, and ultimately more successful, wherever you land.


Contact The Vet Service to find out more about job openings, job growth, and relocation to take advantage of the U.S. veterinary job market, and to learn how we can help you find your dream job—wherever you choose to land – including Vet Jobs in the USA, Vet Jobs in Canada, Vet Jobs in Australia, Vet Jobs in New Zealand, Vet Jobs in the UK, and Vet Jobs in Ireland. 

Would you like to know what it is like to work as a veterinarian in the United States? Then check out our blogs: “What is Like to Work as a Veterinarian in the United States?” &  “How to Become a Veterinarian in the United States”