Physician Salary Vs. Veterinarian Salary

Physicians and veterinarians do best with a pleasant bedside manner.
Physicians and veterinarians do best with a pleasant bedside manner. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Both physicians and veterinarians administer medical care and need a state license. However, doctors focus on human patients and are often assisted by nurses. Veterinarians deal with pets, livestock and zoo animals and are helped by veterinary technicians. They also have the added complication of dealing with animal owners. Salaries for these occupations reflect the training required as well as the type of patient.

Veterinarian Training and Pay

Veterinarians require at least 45 to 90 semester hours of undergraduate education before they are admitted to veterinary schools. However, most have undergraduate degrees. They then go through four years of education to get their doctor of veterinary medicine degree. New graduates normally enter a one-year internship, though those looking for board certification must finish a three-to-four year residency program in a specialty like internal medicine, surgery or exotic small animal medicine. As of May 2009, their salaries were a mean $90,110 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Physician Training and Pay

Physicians must start their training with a minimum of three years of college. However, most have a bachelor’s degree, with some having more advanced education. They then enter four years of medical school, which is highly competitive. Most graduates then complete a 12-month rotating internship, before entering a residency program that may last from two to six years. Salaries depend on specialty. For example, in 2009, anesthesiologists earned a mean annual wage of $211,750. Psychiatrists received a mean $163,660.


Most veterinarians worked either for themselves in their own offices or in veterinary hospitals and clinics. These workplaces comprised 49,700 out of the 54,130 total positions and paid a mean $90,470 per year. Physician employment varies by specialty but most, 65,340 out of the 99,000 general practitioners, had their own practices and received a mean $174,280 per year. For vets, the employers with the highest pay were medical and diagnostic labs, with an annual mean of $114,590. For doctors, the highest salaries were in office administrative services, with yearly means of $193,250.


The most populous U.S. state, California, is a useful gauge of employment for these medical professionals. For May 2009, the state boasted 656,080 health-care practitioner jobs, receiving a mean annual income of $82,880. The 5,160 veterinarians earned more than 20 percent over that mean at $99,940 per year. All physicians also earned over the overall health-worker amount, with the highest pay going to 3,450 anesthesiologists at a yearly mean of $219,340. The 3,260 psychiatrists got $184,980 per year.

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