Can I earn a living wage in veterinary practice?

July 26, 2016
Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA
Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA

Dr. Felsted is a CPA as well as a veterinarian and has spent the last 15 years working as a financial and operational consultant to veterinary practices and the animal health industry. She also spent three years with the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues as CEO. She has written an extensive number of articles for a wide range of veterinary publications and speaks regularly at national and international veterinary meetings. She is the current treasurer of VetPartners, a member of the Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board, a member of the CVPM board of directors and the current treasurer of the CATalyst Council. In 2011, she was awarded the Western Veterinary Conference Practice Management Continuing Educator of the Year and in 2014, the VetPartners Distinguished Life Member Award.Dr. Felsted enjoys exotic international travel, and when the dvm360 team last heard from her, she was headed to the Galapagos.

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"Veterinary medicine is such a great field," says Karen Felsted, CPA, DVM, MS, CVPM, CVA, of PantheraT Consulting. "But nobody can get around the fact that you have to earn a living wage."

And earning that living wage as a veterinary team member in many practices in many places can be hard. Especially if you're trying to support others on a receptionist's or veterinary assistant's or even registered veterinary technician's salary. Even some practice managers get paid peanuts compared to business managers in other industries. You can compare your pay to others in the 2016 Firstline Career Path Study here.

"It's all fine to say, 'Do what you love,' but most people have to eat," Felsted says.

She doesn't have easy answers for those want to stay and grow in the veterinary profession, but she does have a short answer: Acquire as many skills as you can and look for a practice that values those skills and is willing to pay you for them. She's talked about the issue of veterinary team pay before, and you can see her answer this time in the video below.

(P.S. If you're personally feeling the pinch, it might be worth it to talk it over with your boss. Slip them this PDF?)