How Much Do Veterinarians Make? Vet Salary Guide

Humans and pets need vets. Like humans, pets have health and grooming needs that require substantial investments of time and money. Pet products and services are a global billion-dollar industry worth $261 billion, and Americans are responsible for nearly half that figure.

In 2022, Americans will spend $109.6 billion on processed and raw premium food, treats, preventative medications for flea control, grooming, pet-sitting, daycare services, and veterinary care. Fueling this spending is an uptick in animal ownership which has skyrocketed since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A record high of 70 percent of American homes own a pet, which is about 90.5 million families. As a result, veterinarians are predicted to be in demand in the coming decade, with average annual salaries nearly double the national average.

Veterinarians are responsible for providing healthcare to domesticated and wild animals. They use various medical equipment to diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses and perform surgery. Some veterinarians specialize in treating a particular species or breeds such as companion animals, exotic, or farm animals. Vets may work in food safety and inspection, or advise on general care and preventive public healthcare measures.

  • Typical veterinarian responsibilities include:
  • Assessing health in routine examinations
  • Diagnosing acute or chronic health problems
  • Taking temperature, weight, and vital signs
  • Treating and dressing wounds
  • Advising animal preventative health measures
  • Performing routine procedures (such as spaying and neutering) or complicated surgeries (such as tumor removal)
  • Testing for the presence or absence of diseases
  • Administering vaccines to protect against diseases such as parvo, rabies, and feline leukemia
  • Operating medical equipment
  • Prescribing medication
  • Euthanizing animals

To become a veterinarian, one must spend at least eight years in school: four years for an undergraduate degree and four years in a DVM (or similar) program. While a bachelor’s degree in any field is typically accepted, to be considered for admission into competitive veterinary programs, undergraduates should take classes in hard sciences, animal anatomy and physiology, and earn experience in extracurricular veterinary clubs. After earning a bachelor’s degree, aspiring vets apply for vet school, which requires four years of study and confers DMV or doctorate of veterinary medicine degrees. After graduation, vets much take and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE) and meet any state-specific requirements to practice legally.

Arizona State University

After spending significant time in school, veterinarians can begin their careers and earn money. Veterinarians earned an average annual salary of $109,920, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021)—the latest data available as of November 2022. This amount is nearly twice the national average for all occupations, which was $58,260. Salaries vary depending on years of experience, place of employment, and the cost of living in a specific area.

What types of salaries can veterinarians expect to earn? Read on for detailed salary data for veterinarians, including the number of veterinarians employed, salary percentiles, top-paying cities and industries, and the states which pay top salaries for pet and animal healthcare.

Number of Employed Veterinarians & Salary Percentiles

The BLS (May 2021) reported that 77,260 veterinarians were employed across the United States. Here is a breakdown of their salary profiles based on education, experience, place of employment, and cost of living:

Number of professionals employed 77,260
10th percentile $60,760
25th percentile $78,920
50th percentile (median) $100,370
75th percentile $128,410
90th percentile $165,600

Top-Paying Cities for Veterinarians

Here is a list of the top-paying cities and metropolitan areas with the highest salaries for veterinarians. Also shown are the estimated number of employed professionals and their annual average salary, according to the BLS (May 2021).

Metropolitan area Number of employed vets Annual mean wage
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 3,190 $136,340
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 2,100 $121,750
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 1,860 $106,960
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 1,690 $131,430
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 1,530 $115,790
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 1,410 $109,460
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH 1,380 $118,100
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 1,360 $126,090
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 1,220 $117,980
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 1,220 $107,530

Top-Paying States for Veterinarians

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021, the top-paying states for veterinarians are on the East Coast. However, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2022) cost of living index shows that the cost of living in these states is higher than the national average. For example, MERIC shows the cost of living in New York is the third most expensive state to live in, while Washington, D.C. and Hawaii take the number two and one spots, respectively.

State Number of employed vets Annual mean wage
District of Columbia 80 $137,170
Connecticut 920 $134,050
Rhode Island 250 $129,880
New York 3,640 $129,210
New Jersey 1,770 $127,360

Top-Paying Specializations for Veterinarians

Veterinarians can specialize in a specific area of animal healthcare or veterinary education and possibly increase their earning potential. The list below shows five of the top-paying veterinarian specializations and their correlating salaries, based on self-reported data from in November 2022:

Specialization Average annual salary
Board certified vet surgery specialist $266,908
Professor of veterinary medicine $166,350
Veterinary research scientist $111,691
Military veterinarian $103,090
Small animal veterinarian $100,708

Top-Paying Industries for Veterinarians

The top-paying industry for veterinarians is general medical and surgical hospitals, where they can expect to earn an annual salary of $140,470. The BLS (May 2021) lists the top-paying industries for veterinarians as follows:

Industry Number of employed vets Annual mean wage
General medical and surgical hospitals 50 $140,470
Scientific research and development services 390 $135,670
Spectator sports 30 $122,770
Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers Not available $118,840
Support activities for animal production 80 $116,100
Rachel Drummond, MEd
Rachel Drummond, MEd Writer

Rachel Drummond has contributed insightful articles to since 2019, where she offers valuable advice and guidance for those pursuing careers in the healthcare field, combining her passion for education with her understanding of the critical role that healthcare professionals play in promoting physical and mental well-being.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.