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Locum salary survey for vets and vet nurses

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Pete the Vet

Can locums in the veterinary world make a good living? Pay rates – anecdotally at least – sometimes sound far higher than salaries for permanent jobs. But what’s the truth? 

The latest recruit4vets survey investigated this topic, using their own database of locum vets and nurses.

Locum vet pay rates

  • The mean pay rate for locum vets with 2 years or less experience was £290 per day

  • The mean pay rate for locum vets with 3-5 years’ experience was £300 per day

  • The mean pay rate for locum vets with 6+ years’ experience was £307 per day

  • Overall the mean pay rate for locum vets in 2019 was £304.37 per day compared to £268 per day in 2018, representing a 13.5% increase in locum vet pay rates between 2018 and 2019.

Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in pay rates between geographical areas.

Over 80% of locum vets choose this way of working because of flexibility, while over 70% cite better pay. Interestingly, over 80% felt both that their skills were utilised by vet practices and that they were valued in their work. Would such high percentages apply to vets with permanent jobs?

Locum vet nurse pay rates

  • The mean pay rate for locum nurses with 2 years or less experience was £16.50 per hour

  • The mean pay rate for locum nurses with 3-5 years’ experience was £16.85 per hour. 

  • The mean pay rate for locum nurses with 6+ years’ experience was £17.56 per hour

  • Overall the mean pay rate for locum nurses in 2019 was £16.60 per hour compared to £15.87 in 2018, this represents a 4.6% increase in locum nurse pay rates between 2018 and 2019.

As with vets,  there was no noticeable difference between geographical areas.

So pay rates for locum work really are much higher than permanent jobs?

The pay rates do seem high when compared to permanent jobs.

  • For vets, £300 per day, for a 5 day week, 47 weeks a year, brings in £70500 per annum, significantly higher than the £30000 to £50000 identified in the veterinary salaries survey. 

  • For vet nurses,  £16.60 for a 40 hour week brings in £664, meaning £31208 for a 47 week year, significantly higher than the £21,911 mean salary identified in the recent survey. 

There are downsides to locum work: temporary staff carry more of their own costs, they accept an itinerant lifestyle, and life goals like home ownership and family life are more difficult to attain.

‘In what circumstances would locum staff consider taking a permanent role?’

The criteria that would tempt locum vets and nurses to take on a permanent job are predictable:

• Better work life balance

• Better pay

• Greater flexibility

• Higher holiday allowance

This is the obvious challenge for those running veterinary practices who are struggling to recruit permanent veterinary staff: how to achieve these four goals while still offering an affordable service to pet owners?


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