How Much Do Vets Make? Average Veterinarian Salaries

The veterinarian is checking the dog's eyes using medical equipment.
razyph / Getty Images/iStockphoto

When choosing a career path, many young adults who love taking care of animals consider becoming a veterinarian. But how much money can they expect to make if they do, and is the cost of schooling worth the income vets generate? Anyone considering a career in veterinary medicine should know what the average vet earns annually. Here’s a closer look.

How Much Do Vets Make?

The average salary of a veterinarian in the U.S. is around $100,370. The bottom 10% of income-earning vets generate around $60,760 per year, while the top 10% of income earners in the field make over $165,600 per year.

The amount of money a vet earns is largely dependent on their experience, location, whether the vet is a partner in their practice and the type of practice they’re part of.

Starting Vet Salary

Entry-level vet salaries range from about $70,000 to $85,000 per year, but this can vary widely depending on location and practice type.

Highest Paying U.S. Locations

Here’s a look at the states and metropolitan areas where vets typically earn the most.

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The highest paying U.S. states for veterinarians are: 

State Salary
1. District of Columbia $137,170
2. Connecticut $134,050
3. Rhode Island $129,880
4. New York $129,210
5. New Jersey $127,360

The highest paying U.S. metropolitan areas for veterinarians are:

Metropolitan Areas Salary
San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward, Calif. $144,440
San Jose, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, Calif. $141,670
Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk, Conn. $140,390
Santa Rosa, Calif. $140,340
New York; Newark and Jersey City, N.J. $136,340

How Vet Salaries Change With Specialty and Experience

After practicing for a few years, veterinarians earn an average of $85,000. Experienced generalist vets can anticipate an annual salary of $88,000. However, experienced veterinarians who have board certifications in specialties can expect a higher income of around $150,000.

Types of Vet Practices

There are several different types of veterinarians. Depending on the area of practice, a vet can earn varying annual salaries. Here are some of the most common types of vets.

  • Canine and feline vets: These vets focus on the health of dogs and cats — two of the most popular pets in the U.S. They typically handle everything including general care, teeth cleanings, dispensing pharmaceuticals, diagnosing and treating conditions and surgery.
    • The average feline vet salary is around $73,697 but will vary from state to state. A canine vet’s salary typically varies by state and can range between $60,130 and $131,500, in line with standard veterinarian salaries.
  • Equine Vets: Licensed veterinarians who focus their efforts on diagnosing, treating, and caring for horses are equine vets. These vets are often mobile because of transportation limitations surrounding such large animals. 
    • The average American equine vet’s salary is around $72,468.
  • Food Animal Vets: As their name suggests, food animal vets focus their efforts on livestock raised for consumption. They’re experts in caring for animals like cows, pigs and goats, and they help farmers maintain the health and value of their livestock. Like equine vets, food animal vets are often mobile due to the transportation limitations associated with livestock.
    • Some food animal vets make as much as $121,000 per year, while others make as little as $16,500 per year. The average annual income for a food animal vet is around $70,477.
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Becoming a Vet: Is It Worth It?

For some people, being a veterinarian and helping make animals’ lives better is more about passion than money. Those passionate about caring for animals will find a career as a vet incredibly rewarding. 

However, animal lovers who are more inclined to focus on their earnings may want to reconsider this career path.

Veterinary School Tuition Costs

Tuition can vary widely for veterinary school, depending on whether it’s public or private, whether a student receives financial aid or not as well as other factors.

For example, vet school at the University of California, Davis typically costs around $200,000 or more for the full four-year tuition. That’s in addition to the cost of a bachelor’s degree (with tuition, fees, room, and board), which averages around $21,000 per year at a public school.

Eight total years of undergraduate schooling and veterinary specialization can cost around $300,000.

While some vets will make over $100,000 annually, many will not, adding to the stress of student loan debt that could be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those considering a career in this field may want to consider whether or not they’d be comfortable acquiring high levels of student debt

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Final Take

A career as a veterinarian can be a very rewarding one. However, due to the high cost of education — especially when considering the average salary — this career is a good fit for those who are passionate about caring for animals with relatively little concern about what their annual salary will be.

How Much Do They Make

Frequently Asked Questions

It's normal for people to have questions, especially when determining their career paths. Here are some of the most common questions about pursuing a veterinary career.
  • What is the highest paying vet job?
    • The highest paying vet job is that of a board certified veterinary surgeon. These vets perform surgeries that requires a higher level of specialization than a regular veterinarian. This job makes an annual salary of around $267,000.
  • Do vets make a lot of money?
    • The amount of money a veterinarian earns is largely dependent on:
      • — Specialties, including animal types and conditions treated
      • Location
      • Experience
      • — Ownership or partnership in a practice
    • Vets who practice in low-income areas where work is scarce generally earn less than those living in high-income areas.
  • How long is vet school?
    • Traditionally, veterinary school takes four years to complete and begins following the completion of a bachelor's degree. Some schools have fast-track programs that can shorten the time to graduation to three years and three months.

Information is accurate as of April 28, 2022.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

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