State Salary Does Not Equal Compensation
In general, veterinary professionals are underpaid. While such a blanket statement should normally be avoided, this one unfortunately mostly rings true around the world. From support staff to practice owners, profit margins, salaries, and benefits do not equal the amount of passion, skill, and effort put into veterinary careers. So, when finding a new job or negotiating a raise at your current place of employment, understanding how you are compensated is crucial for calculating your true salary.
Types of compensation in veterinary medicine
First, let’s look at the standard compensation types offered in veterinary medicine. In general, support staff are paid hourly rates, while veterinarians fall into one of various categories, which include:
- Hourly rate — You are guaranteed a set hourly rate, based on how many hours you work, and not how many cases you see or how much revenue you bring in. This is typically how extra shift or locum work is paid.
- Production only — A production-only compensation scheme can be worrying if you work at a slow practice, or in a less-populated area. Without a significant client base, you may not bring in much revenue for the practice, which will reflect poorly on your wages.
- Salary — An annual salary provides a guaranteed paycheck that does not fluctuate, and is based on other factors, like revenue produced or hours worked.
- Guaranteed salary plus production — Similar to an annual salary compensation method, you earn an extra boost if your revenue for the hospital exceeds your guaranteed salary.
- Base salary plus production — While this compensation scheme rewards you for revenue produced for the practice, you may not always earn that monthly production bonus because of a factor called “negative accrual.” This means that every time you don’t make enough revenue during a month to cover your salary, that amount eats into your production until repaid.
When your paycheck is calculated on the revenue you generate, or a base salary, consider how vacation days or time spent at CE conferences will affect your pay. Read your contract carefully, and check whether these days will count against the revenue you produce, and whether you’ll need to cover the negative accrual generated because of your reduced work days.
In addition, determine if your production factors in all products and services you “sell,” or if your production pay is based on services only. This can make a substantial difference in the production portion of your wages.
Tangible benefits offered in veterinary medicine
In addition to your monetary wages, consider the benefits a prospective or current job includes. Attractive benefits that may be part of a well-rounded compensation package include:
- Retirement plan
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
- Scrub allowance
- CE allowance
- Pet care discount
- Pet health insurance
- Paid time off
- Flexible scheduling
- Student loan repayment
- Maternity/paternity leave
While a job listing may include a higher salary to attract you, weigh the benefits offered. For example, if a practice is offering $23 per hour, but is taking $3 per hour for health insurance, you won’t actually be taking home $23 per hour, minus taxes. However, if a practice offers $21 per hour, but provides a full benefits package, you’ll technically make more after adjusting the wage.
Keep in mind that a high wage that is listed may not always be an up-front wage. Job ads that state they offer an attractive $25 per hour may be referring to an hourly wage plus benefits and production-based bonuses, so read the fine print carefully.
Intangible benefits offered in veterinary medicine
In addition to tangible benefits that can equate to dollar signs, you need to weigh a prospective practice’s intangible perks. While these benefits may not be visible on your paycheck, they can make a vast difference in your overall mental and emotional well-being, which is priceless. Intangible factors to consider when choosing your ideal practice include:
- Commute time
- Practice environment
- Practice type (e.g., general practice, emergency, specialty)
- Coworkers’ personalities
- Management style
- Room for growth and advancement
- Fear Free, Cat Friendly, or AAHA accreditation
How to determine an appropriate compensation and benefits package
With so many variables in a compensation and benefits package, comparing apples to oranges can be tough. But, when searching for greener pastures, list what’s important to you. A short work week with longer days, a substantial 401k match, and room to grow with a hefty CE allowance at a specialty practice is likely the dream job that will tempt you to move from a six-day work week at a general practice.
If you are looking to make your own schedule and work at a variety of practices to continue growing and learning, consider offering relief services. Contact Veterinary System Services to learn how you can join our team of veterinary professionals who work when they want, where they want.