How much are vets and vet nurses paid?
One of the long-held myths about the veterinary profession that seems impossible to shake off is the misconception that vets are wealthy. This myth probably starts in the consulting room: when owners hand over wads of cash for treatment of their pets, in their minds, this money is going straight to the vet. They don’t understand that over 70% of the cost is eaten up by practice overheads. So when vets complain about their lack of wealth, this tends to be met by public disbelief.
Salary surveys expose the reality about veterinary pay
Partly for this reason, surveys about vet salaries are viewed with interest by the profession: perhaps if the public see these surveys, they will gradually begin to realise that vets are not paid nearly as much as they had assumed. And when this happens, the hope is that pet owners will eventually begin to acknowledge the excellent value that they get from their local vet. Vet fees may seem high, but that’s not because vets are “ripping them off”: it’s because veterinary overheads are high.
Young vets in particular are also intrigued by salary surveys: they allow them to determine if they are being paid a reasonable sum, or is it time that they negotiated a pay rise or moved to another, better paid job?
Different salary surveys are available
The granddaddy of vet salary surveys has been organised by the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) nearly every year for over twenty years. This has provided an annual review of what’s happening to vet salaries: the 2020 version has just been launched, and you don’t need to be a SPVS member to take part. All vets are welcome to submit their own details, and if you do this, you will be given access to the full survey results when it’s released later this year. SPVS members are given access to the survey results even if they don’t take part themselves, and they’re also given access to the invaluable SPVS veterinary fees survey.
Other veterinary salary surveys are also produced from time to time, and these also provide a useful benchmark. The latest to be released is a salary survey conducted by recruit4vets. The survey is interesting and valuable to read, and it’s interesting to compare it side by side with the most recent SPVS salary survey, which was in 2018.
So what do the figures tell us about vets?
In the following section, the SPVS 2018 figures are in brackets after the recruit4vets figures. To be clear, the recruit4vets figures are “means”, whereas the SPVS figures are “medians”, and statisticians among you will understand the difference: they cannot be directly compared.
Means can be criticised because they can be distorted by occasional outliers at very high and very low levels.
In contrast, medians can be accused of not being affected enough by the high and low outliers. Nonetheless, inclusion of both figures can help to gain a broad sense of what is happening in the veterinary salary arena.
Highlights from these two surveys are listed below.
- The mean salary for permanent vets with 2 years or less experience was £28,181 (£34317)
- The mean salary for permanent vets with between 3 and 5 years’ experience was £35,312 (£41,730)
- The mean salary for permanent vets with over 6 years’ experience was £46,282 (£59025)
- Overall the mean salary for permanent vets was £40,000 in 2019 up from £37,365 in 2018 representing an increase of 7%, according to the recruit4vets survey. The SPVS overall median salary for vets in practice in 2018 was £47756.
What do the figures tell us about veterinary nurses?
Vet nurse salaries are also included in both surveys, with the following results:
- In the recruit4vets survey, the mean salary for permanent nurses was £21,911 in 2019 up from £19.635 in 2018 representing an increase of 11.6%.
- In the SPVS survey, the median salary for permanent nurses was £23,000 in 2018.
How does this compare with other professions?
It’s difficult to find a reliable source to compare veterinary salaries with other professions in the UK: there are many surveys carried out by a wide range of agencies. A simple and general answer is to use figures from an article in the Cosmopolitan magazine, derived from statistics from the Office for National Statistics website for 2018. The figure for vets was £39000 (not dissimilar from the results above) while the figure for doctors were £41,494, with architects at £39,101. So while vets may not feel wealthy, these figures would suggest that we are not the only ones to feel this way: everyone can all find examples of well-paid individuals to compare ourselves negatively against, but overall, it seems that none of the professions are as wealthy as the public impression would suggest.
Other areas seem to do better, lawyers at £63,771, information technology and telecommunications directors earning over £70,000 and marketing directors on salaries over £90000. But life isn’t all about money: it’s far more important to find a career that suits your likes, strengths, interests and abilities. Money as a sole focus rarely leads to satisfaction.
What about work life balance and quality of life?
And of course, other aspects of the workplace are also important: work life balance, staff morale, team spirit. These factors contribute to a measure known as the Net Promoter Score (NPS): the Recruit4Vets survey reviews the veterinary profession for these aspects too. Read my next blog post for more on this.
What about locum work as an alternative?
Locum work is sometimes seen as being a more flexible, better paid alternative (but less secure) alternative to a permanent job. Vets4pets have also carried out a survey on locum rates: read a blog post coming soon to find out more on this.