Increasing Income as a Veterinarian: 9 Strategies
Updated September 2021
When you hear the word “budget,” what do people usually think about doing first (other than running the other way as fast as possible)?
They usually think about decreasing their spending, which is not very pleasant to think about. It brings about feelings of deprivation, scarcity, and hardship because now you have to question every single purchase and make difficult decisions on how to live on less.
Don’t get me wrong- in order to find financial success, you should definitely question where your money is going and find ways to decrease unnecessary spending. But there is only so much you can cut before you are downright miserable. You get to a point where you can barely cover your “needs” category, and everything in your “wants” category feels like a luxury that you need to deny yourself. Budget burnout is real.
Let’s look at the other side of the budgeting equation, which is the income side. If you ignored the spending side and focused on the income side, you could keep your spending exactly the same and use the extra income to boost whatever financial goals you have for yourself. This is an important part of the equation that is too often ignored, but it is incredibly powerful!
THE VALUE OF YOUR DVM DEGREE
First, understand the value of your DVM degree. And no, the answer is NOT how much you paid for tuition or the amount of student loans you carry.
You went through many years of education and training to earn that degree. You spent a lot of money for that degree. You also put in literal blood, sweat, and tears for that degree.
The result? The professional advice and services that you are now providing as a bona fide veterinarian. Be confident in the value that you’re providing to your clients, your employers, and to yourself. Your job is to use that degree to its fullest potential, which also includes its income earning potential!
Below is a list of 9 income boosting strategies:
INCOME BOOSTING STRATEGIES
1.AVERAGE TRANSACTION CHARGE: For those in private practice, one way that you can gauge your contribution to the practice is to look at your average transaction charge. What is your current ATC? Have you been tracking this number over time? Are you making sure that there aren’t any missed charges? Evaluate your ATC and see if this number truly reflects the value that you’re providing. Talk to your employer about ways that you can maximize your average transaction charge while practicing excellent veterinary medicine.
2. SPECIALIZATIONS/CERTIFICATIONS: Board certified specialists, on average, earn a higher income than a general practitioner. But what if you’re not a board certified specialist? You can still niche down by participating in extra training or attaining certifications. Examples include: dental procedures, surgical procedures, acupuncture, hospice care, Fear Free® certification, CPR training, etc. By being known as the “go-to vet” for certain services or procedures, you are bound to make extra income due to the simple economics of supply and demand. For those outside of private practice, honing in on skills that make you unique as a DVM (speaking, writing, teaching, collaborating, etc) will never go out of style.
3. NEGOTIATE: People often shy away from negotiations because they feel uncomfortable when they talk about money, or they don’t feel confident when asking for a raise. However, you have much more to lose by not even trying. If you’ve been proving yourself and you have numbers to back you up, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be negotiating.
4. COMPENSATION STRUCTURE: Are you paid straight salary? Is there an option to go pro-sal? This compensation structure gives you the guarantee of your base pay plus a percentage of production, and many veterinarians have seen a significant increase in income with this one change to their compensation structure.
5. PRACTICE/BUSINESS OWNERSHIP: Becoming a practice owner has been a mainstay for increasing your income over time. Of course, this is a decision that should NOT be taken lightly- it takes time and patience to build a profitable practice. For those of you who like the idea of working for yourself or opening up your own practice, explore your options! This profession will always need excellent, driven, and independent practice owners!
Veterinary partnerships are becoming more popular as practices are getting bigger, so do some research if the opportunity presents itself.
Don’t forget that you can be a business owner without owning a practice. Usually, this will start as a side hustle (see #7 below) that can potentially turn into your main source of income. Again, this will require a learning curve, time, and patience, but the possibilities really are endless when you go this route.
6. PUT IN MORE HOURS!: The old fashioned way of making more money- working more hours! Extra shifts at work, relief work (check out my interview with Cindy Trice DVM, founder of Relief Rover), vaccine clinics: these are all examples of how you can make extra income as a DVM.
7. NON-DVM SIDE HUSTLE: Speaking of different side hustle jobs as a DVM, what about opportunities outside of vet med? Some examples of great side hustles: consulting/coaching, raising quarter horses, running an Etsy shop, blogging, Uber/Lyft driver, and rental real estate/passive income. There really are so many creative and different ways that DVM’s can earn extra income outside of veterinary medicine.
8. CLEANING OUT YOUR HOME: Take a look around your house. Do you have items that you 1) do not use and/or 2) do not need? I am guessing the answer is a YES. Between Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, garage sales, etc….there are plenty of ways to get sell items that need to leave your house pronto.
9. YOUR WORKPLACE BENEFITS: When was the last time you checked your benefits package? Between retirement accounts, healthcare plans, paid time off, CE stipends, insurance, etc, the value of these benefits can easily reach thousands of dollars. If you compare a position with a lower salary with full benefits versus a higher salaried position with no benefits, you can see how having the higher salary does not necessarily mean that you will have more money in your pocket. Make sure you’re looking at the ENTIRE compensation package when job searching. A great benefits package can easily be more valuable than a higher salaried position. Many academic centers provide generous benefits packages- read this post that compares the economics of academia versus private practice.
It is so easy to get stuck in a rut or have tunnel vision when it comes to our jobs and how we earn income. Many times, we’re grateful to have jobs, period.
However, when it comes to getting stressed out about money, one of the very first things people do is to determine what they need to cut from their lives. We have been primed to look at the spending side of the equation.
Let’s start considering the earning income side of the equation, too. You went through the hard work of earning your DVM. It’s never a bad time to think about leveraging that degree to its fullest potential. And there’s plenty that you can do to earn income without your degree….you’re more than “just” a veterinarian after all! Whether you choose a short or long term strategy for increasing income, never underestimate your inner potential.
Which one of these strategies can you take action on right now? Which ones can you see yourself tackling in the near future? Make sure you don’t overlook the power of increasing your income and dreaming big!
How have you increased your income using one of these strategies? Would you add anything else to this list? Comment below!
This reminds me of The Millionaire Next Door: you have to play good DEFENSE (don’t let the money you have go away- be frugal) and good OFFENSE (get more money). All very good tips. My side gig is being a statistical consultant for a countrywide veterinary company for all their house officer projects. It doesn’t bring in much, but it’s fun!
Good point that a side hustle doesn’t have to be earning you a lot of $$$. Building skills, having fun, and getting paid to do both is a great combo!
I was really hoping to find some lightbulb ideas I had never thought of. Work extra shifts? Negotiate better benefits? That’s all ya got?
Everyone says how versatile a veterinary degree is, and after 25 years of clinical practice, I still have not seen that versatility.
Hi- I appreciate you stopping by and reminding me that it was time to update this post. For this recent update, I added some extra information under #5.
When it comes to increasing income, the most “creative” ideas will come from owning your own business. I’m not one to encourage people to pursue high risk/high reward investments or aim for winning the lottery as good income boosting strategies, so this is the list I have for now! I would love for more readers to submit their own suggestions to add to this list!
Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic.