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15 Highest-Paying Veterinary Specialties in 2023

Being a veterinarian is one of the highest-paying jobs involving animals. Veterinarians are responsible for providing treatment for animals, including pets we keep at home.

It’s also important to note that besides treating injuries and illnesses in animals, these professionals are also responsible for protecting people’s welfare.

There are various veterinary jobs that pay really well in the United States. This article highlights fifteen of the highest-paying veterinary specialties, including the mean annual salaries.

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Which are the highest-paying veterinary specialties?

With the right qualifications, interests, and skills, there are various careers in the animal field that pay very well. Notable careers you can consider if you’d like to become a veterinarian include:

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1. Animal Welfare Veterinarian

Animal welfare veterinarians specialize in animal welfare and ethics. Their roles include ensuring wild animals and pets receive adequate care and live in comfortable and conducive habitats.

You need a degree in the veterinary field such as veterinary medicine or veterinary tech and enroll for certification with the American College of Animal Welfare if you wish to become an animal welfare veterinarian.

Most animal welfare veterinarians find jobs in animal humane, rescue, or shelter societies, wildlife parks, and animal control offices.

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Being an animal welfare veterinarian is one of the highest-paying careers in animal rescue with the estimated total income being $129,000 and the highest-paid getting $168,000 a year.

2. Regulatory Medicine Veterinarian

The primary job of a regulatory medicine veterinarian is to test and inspect animal meat according to regulations to ensure its safety for human consumption.

These professionals do not deal with living animals but inspect their meat for disease-causing pathogens or diseases that may harm human beings. A doctorate degree in Veterinary Medicine is required for this role.

Being a regulatory medicine veterinarian is among the highest-paying veterinary specialties. The national average salary for a regulatory medicine veterinarian is $173,509 with the highest-paid earning up to $400,000 per year. 

3. Public Health Veterinarian

The primary duty of a public health veterinarian is to help prevent both animals and humans from getting exposed to interspecies infectious diseases. They do this by consulting with vet physicians both at local and state levels on controlling illnesses and potential risks of an outbreak. They also collect and analyze data that shows the risk factors for the transmission of animal diseases to humans.

To qualify as a public health veterinarian, one needs to have a master’s degree in public health specializing in veterinary medicine and have a DVM (although not a must). You also need to have certification and licensing from the American Association of Public Health Veterinarians.

Essential skills include a passion for working with animals, excellent math and analytical skills, and readiness to work in different environments.

The average salary for a public health veterinarian is $94,382. Salaries range between $53,210 at entry-level to as high as $158,260 per year at an advanced, experienced level.

4. Veterinary Research Scientist

A veterinary research scientist is responsible for planning and conducting studies that involve animals. While performing their research, these experts also provide primary animal care.

Veterinary research scientists also design and implement medical programs that ensure the proper treatment of animals used in research laboratories. Doing this ensures the animals remain healthy for an extended period.

They also train laboratory technicians and researchers on handling and caring for the animals they supervise and advise  them on suitable methods to use on the laboratory animals and the correct dosages of analgesics and anesthetics,

These professionals research in teams or individuals and enhance communication between different regulatory groups and their facilities to ensure compliance with standards and the law.

To work as a veterinary research scientist, one must have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, physics, math, biochemistry, social sciences, humanities, English, or genetics. It would help if you also had a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree.

Undertaking a residency program in research veterinary to train in different science topics such as animal husbandry, surgical treatments, and medicine gives you an upper hand.

A veterinary research scientist gets an average salary of $65,658. The highest earners get $117,000 per year, which makes this one of the highest-paying veterinary specialties.

5. Equine Veterinarian

Equine veterinarians are veterinary specialists who provide healthcare services to horses, which include vaccinations, treating injuries and illnesses, and carrying out routine health exams to make sure they are healthy.

One needs a significant amount of schooling to become an equine veterinarian. According to Glassdoor, equine veterinarians earn an average salary of $125,940 per year.

However, equine veterinarians working for private firms, especially those dealing with racehorses can earn as high as $296,000 per year. This makes this career path one of the highest-paying equine jobs in the world.

6. Military Veterinarian

This career is also among the highest-paying veterinary specialties in the United States. Their primary duties include the provision of proper healthcare for animals in conflict zones and military dogs, giving veterinary care and support in underdeveloped areas, and carrying out research related to animals on behalf of the military.

The qualifications of a military veterinarian include a degree in veterinary medicine and expertise in animal dentistry, medicine, and biology.

The essential skills and traits for this job include excellent verbal communication skills, high patience and resilience to work in stressful environments, and an ability to pay attention to details and work correctly with your hands.

The average salary for military veterinarians is $94,509. The highest-paid gets as high as $132K per year, which also makes this among the highest-paying veterinary jobs in the U.S.

7. Professor of Veterinary Medicine

This career involves giving academic knowledge to students in colleges and universities. They take part in teaching, lecturing, and supervising students in the clinical training setup. They also give the necessary advice and mentor the students who pursue studies geared towards working in animal health fields.

To qualify as a professor of veterinary medicine, one needs advanced courses at the high school level that include math, science, computer science, history, and English. A degree in pathology, oncology, parasitology, and animal diseases and a doctorate in veterinary medicine is essential.

The average salary for a professor of veterinary medicine is $175,603 with the potential to earn as high as $334,000 per year. This makes it one of the highest-paying veterinary jobs in the United States of America.

8. Small Animal Veterinarian

The primary duty of small animal veterinarians is to provide care and treatment for house pets and small animals. They can work in vet hospitals, clinics, and offices to examine and treat the animals, develop rehabilitation plans, and carry out surgeries.

The minimum qualification for the job is a doctor of veterinarian medicine (DVM). Special certification in critical care, therapy, anesthesiology, and ophthalmology is a plus. This means you should have studied biology, animal science, and agriculture education in high school.

The average salary for small animal veterinarians is $46,189 and the top-paid earn $81,000 per year.

9. Zoo Veterinarian

A zoo veterinarian is responsible for examining, treating, rehabilitating, and performing surgeries on exotic animals and those that live in sanctuaries and zoos. These specialists are highly trained in caring for and treating exotic animals in captivity, such as tigers, lions, elephants, and rhinos.

Zoo veterinarians have advanced training in marine wildlife conservation and may specialize in caring for a specific group of animals such as reptiles. A zoo veterinarian can either engage in private practice or work in an existing zoo.

The qualifications of a zoo veterinarian include; a bachelor’s degree in animal science, biology, or in a similar field and a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM). Going through an internship program with a licensed vet to gain practical experience is also critical.

Essential traits of a zoo veterinarian include; excellent communication skills, compassion for the animals, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Zoo veterinarian is one of the highest paying veterinary jobs as it attracts an average salary of $120,483 with the highest earners getting $232,000 per year.

10. Veterinary Hospital Manager

Another high-paying veterinary specialty is that of veterinary hospital managers. Their primary responsibility is to oversee the smooth running of the animal hospital. While this specialist does not provide animal care, they give the necessary support to those who do.

Their job involves hiring and training workers, balancing expenditures and budgets, managing programs and software, and completing inventory orders.

The qualifications of a veterinary hospital manager include having a degree in business or a similar field and being competent in financial reporting, budgeting, and staff management

The average salary for veterinary hospital managers is $59,322. The highest-paid gets $122,000 per year.

11. Board-certified veterinary surgery specialist

Besides performing surgical operations on animals, these professionals diagnose diseases, design treatment plans for the animals, and organize rehabilitation programs.

To qualify as a certified veterinary surgeon specialist, one needs to graduate from veterinary school. It helps to also have many years of advanced training in veterinary and experience and specialization in veterinary medicine.

The mean annual salary of a board-certified veterinary surgery specialist is $98,521 and the highest salary earns more than $192,000 a year.

12. Veterinary Practice Manager

A veterinary practice manager provides business management services to a veterinary facility or office. They oversee the smooth running of the facility by supervising its operations and organizing various elements such as payroll, office maintenance, and scheduling.

Although a veterinary practice manager does not care directly for the animals, they ensure that the environment is suitable for such operations.

The qualifications of a veterinary practice manager include a bachelor’s degree in business management (or another field related to business) and competence in financial reporting, staff management, and budgeting.

The average salary for a veterinary practice manager is $58,421, with the highest salary at $98,000 per year.

13. Veterinary Ophthalmologist

This career is also among the highest-paying jobs for veterinarians. These professionals are specialized in the optical health of animals. Their main duties include diagnosing eye problems and performing cataract surgery on animals, removing tumors, and documenting data for case studies and reports on animal health.

You must be a licensed veterinarian who completed a veterinary ophthalmology residency that the American Board of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ABVO) approves to qualify as a veterinary ophthalmologist. This residency takes 2 to 4 years to complete.

You should also undertake and pass a series of skill and knowledge-based tests in veterinary ophthalmology and be a member of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (AVCO).

The national average salary for a veterinary ophthalmologist is $295,662. The highest-paid veterinary ophthalmologists earn $400,000 per year making this career one of the highest-paying veterinary specialties.

14. Lab Animal Veterinarian

Lab animal veterinarians focus on providing proper health care to animals used for scientific research. They help in the breeding and testing of animal species such as rabbits, rats, primates, and dogs.

To qualify as a lab animal veterinarian, one has to be experienced in laboratory animal medicine and have a VMD/DVM from an AVMA-accredited institution.

Having completed post-doctorate training in laboratory animal medicine, being a license holder for practicing veterinary medicine in one state or more, and eligibility in the ACLAM board is also important.

The average salary for a lab animal veterinarian is $58,252, with the highest-paid earning $123,000 per year.

15. Veterinary Radiologist

This career involves conducting imaging tests and reviewing the outcome to make an informed medical diagnosis. Diagnostic imaging includes ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and CT (computed tomography) scans.

Qualifications of veterinary radiologists include a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a strong score on MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). You also need proof of experience working in clinical settings with animals and to pass the American College of Veterinarian Radiology examination.

The national average salary for a veterinary radiologist is $181,693. The highest-paid veterinarian radiologists earn $250,500 per year, which makes this one of the highest-paying veterinary specialties in the United States.

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Highest-paying veterinary jobs

There are many high-paying veterinarian jobs for you if you have the relevant academic qualifications and interests. You only need to pursue your passion and be willing to work in this field. As you can see, some of these veterinary specialties can pay as high as $200,000 per year.

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