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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!