Average Starting Salary of a Vet Who Owns a Clinic

by Mariel Loveland - Updated October 29, 2018
Private practice veterinarians also train and manage staff.

If you have a passion for pets and wildlife, you might want to consider becoming a veterinarian and opening your own vet practice. This field has high rewards emotionally because we all want to save animals, and monetarily since vets can earn a six-figure salary.

But with the long pathway to success and inevitable student loans, becoming a vet or a veterinary practice manager isn't easy. Some might argue that a vet's job is more difficult than that of a human doctor because vets have to have a wealth of knowledge about different species rather than just one, and animals can't speak up and tell us what's wrong. A vet has be an excellent diagnostician and deeply understand the signs and symptoms of illness in animals.

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The good news is that if you're planning on owning a vet clinic, your salary can soar beyond that of a vet working for a large company.

Job Description

Humans have doctors and pets have veterinarians. These health care providers diagnose illnesses and perform medical procedures on animals – be it livestock, zoo critters or your household cat. Some vets look after lab animals and work closely with the Food and Drug Administration; others work with conservationists and wildlife rehab centers to rehabilitate injured wildlife and research ways to improve the survival of threatened and endangered species. For example, they're the people figuring out how to increase survival rates for baby sea turtles. Equine veterinarians focus solely on horses; while others work in food and safety inspection.

Unlike a corporate vet or pharmaceutical vet, a personal veterinarian may own their own vet practice. They'll deliver rounds of immunizations, prescribe medicine, perform regular checkups and emergency surgical procedures and spay and neuter cats and dogs. Some vets specialize in taking care of exotic animals, and others specialize in treating traditional household pets. A veterinary practice manager in a small practice may also see patients, but their duties sway towards the business side of things. They'll schedule patients, develop a rapport with clients and process insurance claims.

Education Requirements

Owning your own vet practice doesn't happen overnight. Hopeful veterinarians must go through seven to nine years of education, and the field is highly competitive. All veterinarians must first obtain an undergraduate degree, which typically takes around four years. After that, they move onto veterinarian school, which is an additional four years. In the United States, there are only 30 schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and in 2013 alone, they saw almost 6,800 applicants fighting for just 2,700 spots.

All vet schools typically have prerequisites students must take during their undergraduate education including chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology, physics, mathematics and general education. You'll want to choose a degree with a focus in biological or physical sciences or a program specifically geared towards preparing you for vet school. To get a leg up, most undergraduate students volunteer with a veterinarian to gain clinical and animal experience. You'll also need to pass a licensing exam before you can practice and complete a residency.

Veterinarians opening up their own vet practice may wish to continue their education with business classes or hire an employee to handle social media and marketing. These responsibilities may also be passed on to the veterinary practice manager.

Industry

Vets can work in a few different industries. Though most of us are familiar with vets who work in the private pet-care sector, there are also veterinarians who work in corporate animal health care, the pharmaceutical industry and agrochemical industry. The latter has the highest veterinary practice owner salary.

Vets who have a pharmaceutical vet practice are the reason new drugs for humans hit the market. The Food and Drug Administration requires pre-clinical testing on animals and humans before a drug is considered safe for the general population. Pharmaceutical vets examine the animals undergoing this pre-clinical testing.

Vets who work in the agrochemical industry are equally as valuable to human health. They typically evaluate livestock and figure out how everything from nutrients in livestock feed, illnesses and drugs such as antibiotics are passed on to humans during meat consumption.

Years of Experience

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinarians make a median salary of $101,530 per year, which mean half make more and half make less. For those owning a vet clinic, the salary might be higher because you're not working for a company that takes a cut of your pay. Veterinarians need about a decade of experience before they start practicing. Their trajectory is as follows:

0-4 Years: complete undergraduate education.
4-8 Years: complete veterinary school.
8-12 Years: complete a three- to four-year residency program.

Those in the earliest stages of their career can make as little as $53,980 per year. Those in the top percentage of earners make over $159,000 per year. If you're working towards owning a vet clinic, the salary will typically rise as you grow your client base.

Job Growth Trend

The demand for veterinarians will always be there as long as humans have pets or work with animals. According to the BLS, employment for vets is expected to grow 19 percent through 2026.

About the Author

Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.

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