Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The myth of the rich veterinarian.

In this episode:

Show announcements
Pet joke of the week
The decade's biggest animal news stories
Personal Comment: The myth of the rich veterinarian

Transcript of personal comment from this episode of The Web-DVM:

In my personal comment tonight, I just want to briefly address a misconceived notion that I saw gradually materializing in this past decade, and that is the notion that veterinarians generally are very wealthy people. I do not fully know the origins of this idea, but the truth is actually quite the opposite. While most veterinarians earn enough to live a comfortable middle class existence, only a very select few ever enjoy the kind of wealth that many people erroneously believe is the status quo. Where this can shed a poor light on us in the minds of pet owners is when, frustrated with having their own earning power ever decreasing in this currently challenging economic climate and faced with veterinary bills for their pets’ health care, some cynically characterize vets as fat cats, living in the lap of luxury as we gouge the pet owning public for every last cent they have. So let me set the record straight tonight and tell you how it really is.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, our governing body, the average veterinarian makes $79,000 per year. When taken in the context of the average veterinary graduate starting their careers $120,000 in student loan debt, most of us have an insta-mortgage with payments ranging from $700 - $1200 per month right out of the gates, only with no home to show for it. Factor in rent or an actual home loan, car payment, and other expenses, and one can see how that average salary does not go as far as one would think, or as one would like it to.

Others think, well the average veterinarian does may not make all that much, but the owners of practices are cleaning up. This sentiment is also quite wrong, with practice owners being included in that average salary statistic. The truth is that in order to buy a practice, yet more money has to be borrowed, with significant portions of gross revenue allocated to practice, real estate, and working capital mortgages. Add payroll and tax liabilities, property and business insurance, employee health benefits, utilities, equipment maintenance, building maintenance, inventory costs, continuing education, corporate taxes, and a huge gamut of permit, business, and professional licensing fees, and one gets a clear picture of the staggering overhead of a veterinary hospital.

Now, am I complaining about this? Am I unhappy about this? Absolutely not! I love my job and can envision doing nothing else, and that, is priceless. I thank the good Lord every day that I get to be a veterinarian, not because it stands to make me rich, but because it is my passion. Understand that if money was our primary motivation, any one of us could have attained the big bucks having gone the route of human medicine. It sure would have been a heck of a lot easier, with 131 medical schools in the United States as opposed to only 28 veterinary schools, making acceptance to veterinary school 5 times more difficult. And medically mastering only one species instead of 7? It may seem more attractive to some, but not to those of us that chose to take the harder road that ultimately pays considerably less.

Again, most veterinarians are not hurting for money and most make a good old fashion American middle class living with a decent degree of financial security. And one day when I have my student and practice loans paid off and I sell my practice, I stand to have what will likely be a comfortable retirement. Life certainly could be a heck of a lot worse. But make no mistake, the vast majority of veterinarians, especially young veterinarians are not wealthy, and certainly do not act the part of fat cats with money as our primary motivation. We did all the school and do what we do first and foremost because we love it.

Next week's personal comment: Who is smarter, dogs or cats?

Don't forget to catch my live broadcast this Sunday 8 PM EST at blogtv.com, where I will address comments posted on this blog installment!


Horse Girl said...

I am so glad you talked about barbaro. I was one of those people that in the nation hwose heart was captured by that magnificent creature.

I followed the story closely and correct me if I am wrong, the surgery actually healed, but he ultimately had to be put down because of other life threatening ans excruciating cimplications. On your live show can you explain what these complications were and whay there was no other choice than to put him down?


MD Fatcat said...

Okay, I am one of those medical doctors that you talked about and I will concede that most of us make more that $79,000 per year, some us A LOT more, but I take exception to the notion that it is so much easier to become an MD than a vet. The easier road?

I don't think so! For one thing, as far as I know, you guys don't have to do residencies. I am a surgeon, and to become one I had to do a 5 year residency post med school, during which time I was paid virtually peanuts (I think I topped out at $55,000 my last year), never slept, and worked 80-120 hours per week!

Did you do that Dr. Harder Road?

Anonymous said...

Dude I am hispanic and not sure if I like that joke, possibly offensive, no?

Melanie said...

You know there are a lot of people that would consider themselves very lucky to make $79,000 per year, maybe even consider themselves "rich" if they made that much. You can see why if you think about the average income of all people in the US being $46,326 per year. (from wikipedia)

So while you do not make as much as human doctors, you guys still do pretty good compared to the rest of us. I am glad you are not complaining about this because you really have no reason to.

Craig said...

Your joke was funny, but your vid's thumbnail??? EVEN FUNNIER!!! LOL!

Anonymous said...

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Pet Insurance said...

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Anonymous said...

Most starting Veterinarian salaries are actually closer to the average American's salary (between $40, 000 - $50, 000), although after a decade a better salary is possible ($60, 000 - $80, 000).

Veterinarians do have residencies after they graduate, which are typically more difficult to get accepted into than MD residencies due to the scarcity of program offerings. Vet School is more difficult to get accepted into than Medical School to begin with (once again going back to the fact that there are only 28 vet schools in the US, and competition for slots is fierce), and the students take courses that are equivalent to their human counterparts (not to mention they have to learn different species - MDs just focus on one). Taken into consideration that a DVM is often considered "inferior" to an MD by the general public, then it is definitely understandable why being a veterinarian is the "harder" route than being a medical doctor. You do the same, if not more work, and receive less recognition and pay.

Still, most vets aren't in it for the money. They love medicine and animals, and they just want to make a difference in the world. It would be nice though if they received a little more credit or compensation for their work and education level.

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Oparinha Mascarenhas said...

Yes it does sound great but I have to pay 60,000$ for 4 years on vet school alone. That's 240,000$ in debt, excluding undergrad and interest. For working beyond 9-5, evenings, weekends and holidays. We don't do it for the money, we do it in spite of the money!

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