Veterinarian starting salaries increase in 2023, educational debt remains stable

Veterinary graduates in the Class of 2023 appeared well-positioned to start their careers as starting salaries continue to rise and education debt levels hold steady, leading to a debt-to-income ratio not seen since 2004. Additionally, this year’s graduates received near priced offers. record levels.

The average debt-to-income ratio for new veterinarians decreased for the third year in a row, to 1.3 to 1, indicating debt equal to 1.3 times the amount of the graduating veterinarian’s income. The change was also driven by tuition freezes during the COVID-19 pandemic and higher rates of family assistance to cover tuition costs, said Dr. Chris Doherty, deputy director of the AVMA for strategic business research and outreach.

He spoke about “The Next Generation of Veterinary Professionals” at the AVMA Business and Economic Forum, held virtually October 24-25. Many of the results he discussed come from the AVMA’s 2023 Survey of Graduating Seniors, which will be available in the 2024 State of the Profession report.

Student debt

“Student debt has been a big topic of discussion over the past few years,” said Dr. Doherty. “We can see that from about 2001 to 2020, student debt has been on a fairly relentless rise, peaking in 2020 before starting to stabilize and come down a bit in recent years. »

According to the Senior Survey, the average college debt was $154,451 for 31 graduates of veterinary schools in the United States and the two Caribbeans in 2023. Among veterinary graduates alone with debt in 2023, the figure was 185 $486. These figures only take into account debts incurred during veterinary studies.

Two-thirds of graduating veterinarians reported having less than $200,000 in debt in 2023, Dr. Doherty said, adding that just under 17% reported having no debt at all. However, about one in three veterinary graduates this year have debt greater than $200,000.

Benefits and compensation

The percentage of veterinary graduates receiving job offers or positions in higher education remains near record levels (95.7%), with the vast majority (68.9%) choosing to work in private practice, followed by internships (24.6%), then in public practice. (2.4%). Among those who choose to work in private practice, the most accepted job offers are in companion animal practice (56%), followed by mixed animal practice (9%), food (2%) and equine practice (1%).

The vast majority of recent graduates choose to work in private practice, followed by internships, then public practice, according to data from the 2023 AVMA Graduating Senior Survey. Not all respondents were included in this chart, as were those who enter in higher education other than internships.

The average starting salary in 2023 was $124,295 for U.S. and Caribbean veterinary school graduates entering full-time employment.

Average starting incomes in 2023 for the following areas were:

  • $125,416 for a private practice
  • $87,417 for public practice
  • $46,186 for residences
  • $53,266 for internships

When it came to compensation by species, exclusive or predominant pets had the highest income, averaging about $133,000. However, compensation for newly qualified veterinarians entering equine practice has quickly narrowed the gap, with average earnings in this field increasing sharply from 2021 to 2023.

“It’s fantastic for vets looking to get into equine medicine. It makes it more financially viable for them because that pay gap is being closed,” Dr Doherty said.

The most common method of paying new veterinary graduates is a combination of a base salary and a production bonus, also known as ProSal. Among those veterinarians who only paid a guaranteed salary, they reported an average salary of $104,148. People paid through the ProSal method had an average base salary of $112,383 and an average anticipated bonus of $21,000.

Many veterinary graduates also receive additional forms of remuneration, according to Dr Doherty.

“This was quite common, with over 60% of new graduates indicating that when they entered employment, they received a signing bonus. Others received moving stipends and student loan repayments,” he said, adding that housing stipends were less common, but overall many of those entering the market workers benefited from a form of additional compensation.

These additional benefits averaged $19,777 for signing bonuses (64% of respondents), $5,688 for moving allowances (37%), $15,628 for student loan repayment (16 %) and $11,464 for housing allowances (3%).

“These are things to keep in mind for some new veterinarians. These are amounts that could help them determine where they want to go to work,” Dr. Doherty said.


For the past five years, senior survey participants have been asked why they chose the job offer they accepted.

“Every year, without fail, the biggest response has been mentoring,” Dr. Doherty said. “It stands to reason, doesn’t it? After finishing veterinary school, many of us still feel like we have a lot to learn. So it’s no surprise that around 85% of newly qualified veterinarians said the reason they chose this offering was because of the mentoring.

Next, location, people, and pay, respectively, were the second most frequently cited reasons for choosing a job offer.

“The main thing I want to emphasize is the critical importance of mentoring for new graduates,” he said. “Put this in your job posting. Not all clinics have the time and resources to offer mentoring, but for those looking to hire a new graduate, be sure to engage in mentoring.


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