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Veterinarian: What I do and how much I make

What is it like to work as a veterinarian? In this video, Betsy talks about the challenges and rewards of being a veterinarian, as well as typical compensation for someone in her role.

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Video transcript

I'm Betsy Feighner, I'm an Associate Veterinarian, I'm 32 years old and my annual salary is $85,000 plus production. Assistants and technicians and myself, we're kind of like the core veterinary team. Typically, it's myself with two support staff directly with me. A technician will walk into the room, basically kind of interview the client, figure out what they're here for, what their problems are. If there's no concerns, just kinda basic wellness stuff, you know, how are they doing, what are they due for? After that assessment, they'll also, my technician will also take a temperature, a pulse, a respiratory rate, come back and find me back in my office, kind of go over what this patient is here for and then I'll go back in and spend anywhere from between 10-20 minutes talking to the client, doing my physical exam on the patient, and then having a discussion with the client. Some cases, if the pet is very sick, we'll keep them here for many hours so that I can do some x-rays, review those, do blood work, get all those results back, and form a treatment plan. It very much turns into a juggling act, because throughout that time period, you're still seeing a new patient every 30 minutes. I can have days that are 10 hours of just go, go, go, where I don't even sit down or get to eat lunch. I have other days that have some openings and you get to sit down and rest. You have to be able to think on your feet, you have to be very much a multi-tasker. You are juggling so many different things and people and patients and tasks every minute that you're here, so multitasking, being able to communicate extremely well with your support staff, as well as your clients is paramount. I see that's where a lot of the stressor issues arise, if you're not communicating properly. More than 50% of what we do is communicating and dealing with people. Now sometimes that's great, and that can also be the worst part of our job. You know, some clients can be very emotional, understandably, and it can be um, kind of, their emotions can be directed at us in a very hostile manner, or in a manner of blame if things don't turn out the way that we wanted. Kind of closely associated with that would be the finances. We have to deal directly with cost of everything, there's a price tag on literally everything we do, and it's my impression in other health fields, there's someone else between the bill and the patient, and in veterinary medicine, it's me with everything and um, so yeah, hate dealing with money, but that's what I need to do. A large part of what I do is also delivering very bad news and end-of-life discussions, terminal illnesses, and one day can involve those conversations back and forth. Just this morning, I had a 16-year-old dog who had reached the end of its life with a terminal disease more or less, and you know, those are discussions that, unfortunately, have to become very commonplace as a veterinarian. But then at the same time, after you go through a euthanasia, you know, you have to be able to turn around and put a smile on your face again and then go meet a new client and a new puppy and start all over again. So it can definitely be a rollercoaster of emotions all day. So the best part of my job is getting to meet puppies and kittens all day long. Some days more than others, but on some days, the best days I maybe have three or four new puppies and that's just the best day ever. So getting to form those relationships with those pet parents and then really get to guide them through to adulthood and really forming relationships with those people as well. I have some clients that I've known for, you know, four or five years and they become more like friends. Another really rewarding aspect is just having a really complicated case that initially is a mystery and then, you know, with time, using your brain and solving that can be really, really rewarding. So I was not very familiar with what an average salary would be for a veterinarian. I think that's something that, in general, veterinary schools are starting to do a better job of that, recognizing that, um, it's a profession that a lot of people go into loving animals and not knowing the full financial, the financial side of it. And then you kind of slowly start to learn that the average salary coming out of vet school is a lot lower than maybe what one would expect. When I graduated, and I think it still holds true, it's I believe roughly 60,000 base salary for a new graduate. So compared to how many, how much, how much student loans you're taking on, it can definitely set you back. Starting off again, it's typically around 60,000. That was my case, pretty average. Personally, I started earning production only recently, about a year ago. Basically, depending on how much I bill per month, how productive I am for that month, I'll make a certain percentage of what I bill. So I have to make a certain goal per month basically to fulfill my obligations. So a busy month, I can make, bring home an extra $500 to $1,000. If it's a slow time of year, I still make my base salary, but then the next month, I have to make up that portion before I'll then start making more the next month. It definitely can be kind of hairy in the slower maybe winter months, that's typically when it can be slow and it gets a bit more stressful knowing that you're maybe not gonna make your production for that month. The plateau that I probably will expect to make will be anywhere between maybe 95,000 to 100,000. It's pretty unlikely that I would make more than that. The way to really increase that amount would be to pursue a more advanced training, being a board certified specialist, and that could be in surgery, internal medicine, cardiology, oncology, there are, most specialties that they have in human medicine, they also have in veterinary medicine, but that does require going on and completing three to four years of specialized training. Another way to really increase your salary would be to own your own practice, which in the first couple years would probably be stressful and you wouldn't make much, but ultimately, that would be the most lucrative way to be a veterinarian.