AAEP Commission on Veterinary Sustainability: Compensation Matters
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The Compensation subcommittee of the AAEP’s Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability did a survey that had 1,378 respondents. Photos.com

The AAEP’s Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability includes a subcommittee on Compensation. The charge of this group is “To ensure that members understand what current financial numbers are, what the market demands at present, and what actions they can take to increase their salaries, benefits and overall compensation to be competitive and equitable with the goal of making compensation more attractive to pursuing a career in equine practice.”

The co-chairs, Drs. Travis Boston and Jim Zeliff, are joined on the committee by a group of veterinarians with diversity in age, gender, practice size and equine sector. The AAEP Officer liaison is Dr. Amy Grice.

Compensation Survey Results

As a first step in gathering information, the AAEP engaged Comer Research Consultants to perform a compensation survey under the guidance of the leadership of the compensation subcommittee. The survey was emailed to 6,564 active members of the AAEP in of September 2022. The 1,378 respondents yielded a participation rate of 21%, which is an excellent response rate.

Compensation was determined by asking respondents for their 2021 annual taxable income from veterinary employment as reported on their federal W-2 statement.  This was chosen in order to simplify the reporting of the many different forms of compensation within the industry.

In interpreting the compensation survey results, it is important to remember that 2021 graduate respondents were still students for the first 6 months, and about 75% of 2020 graduate respondents were interns for the first 6 months.

In Table 1, the average salaries for those in the graduation years 2016–2019 was $88,973. This is much higher than the starting salaries reported in the annual AVMA Senior Survey, as those figures are most likely the base salaries before emergency duty compensation and/or production bonuses. Although these compensation figures are sharply higher than those reported by the AVMA, they pale in comparison to the remuneration for companion animal veterinarians. As an industry, we must do better.

Table 1. Equine Veterinary Compensation by Various Subgroups

All Respondents2021 Graduates2020 Graduates2019 Graduates2018 Graduates2017 Graduates2016 Graduates2016-2019 Graduates
$154,217$45,115$62,970$77,601$78,805$91,803$107,684$88,973
        
2011-2015 Graduates2006-2010 Graduates1996-2005 Graduates1986-1995 Graduates1976-1985 GraduatesGraduated prior to 1976MalesFemales
$123,465$164,398$187,044$209,275$177,307$188,729$210,873$118,637

Compensation: Revenue Production

Because compensation typically follows revenue production, the survey also asked respondents for their 2021 personal revenue production. Again, the results must be interpreted carefully for the graduates of 2021 and 2020.

With the recommended percent of revenue production for compensation generally in the range of 20-23%, one can easily see why salaries are low in the equine field. Exploring ways to increase revenue production for veterinarians in entry level equine positions will be critical in increasing compensation. This could include raising fees, sharing more lucrative work, and mentorship in valuing the services provided and minimizing imposter syndrome.

Table 2. Personal Revenue Production by Various Subgroups

All Respondents2021 Graduates2020 Graduates2019 Graduates2018 Graduates2017 Graduates2016 Graduates
$623,377$131,900$187,044$209,275$410,653$521,063$464,444
24.7%34.2%33.7%37.1%19.2%17.6%23.2%
       
2011-2015 Graduates2006-2010 Graduates1996-2005 Graduates1986-1995 Graduates1976-1985 GraduatesGraduated prior to 1976 
$569,987$616,787$640,656$797,915$687,937$897,177 
21.7%26.7%29.2%26.2%25.8%21.0% 

Compensation Committee Actions

According to Zeliff, co-chair of the Compensation Committee, the group will utilize AAEP channels to educate practice owners in the following in order to raise compensation:

  • appropriate fee setting,
  • the need for regular fee increases,
  • fee collection/accounts receivable management,
  • control of costs of running a practice, and
  • the value of participation in peer mentorship groups. 

Other areas the subcommittee will address include educational debt management, compensation methods (production-based vs salary), fee limitations in rural areas, competitive pressure from other veterinary practices to lower fees, lay practitioners and catalog sales, and unequal distribution of profitable work within a practice.

“Change is hard,” he said. “But we must be open to it in order for our wonderful profession to continue to thrive, and the nation’s horses to continue to have high-quality health care.”

Editor’s note: The subcommittees of the AAEP Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability will be offering updates from their work in EquiManagement’s quarterly magazine and monthly online. You can click here to see the other articles in this series.

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