Top-Paying Animal Health Careers
Several careers in the animal health field offer compensation of $50,000 or more per year. While people generally recognize veterinary medicine as a high-paying career path, a number of other animal health career options can offer high salaries, with the top-paying job in the field, board-certified veterinarian, with compensation topping $200,000 a year.
Board-certified veterinarians earn salaries at the top end of the veterinary salary spectrum, usually averaging six figures. To achieve board certification, vets must study for several years after graduating from veterinary school and completing residencies and internships under the supervision of top specialists.
After achieving Diplomate status in their particular specialty area, they are well compensated for acquiring additional expertise. Top-paying specialties include veterinary ophthalmology (median salary of $215,120), veterinary nutrition (median salary of $202,368), and veterinary surgery (median salary of $183,902).
When considering all veterinary salaries (not just those of vets who are board certified), The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that veterinarians earn a median salary of $90,420. The best-paid veterinarians earn $159,320, while the lowest-paid earn $53,980, according to the most recent statistics, published in 2017.
Farriers provide comprehensive care and maintenance for the equine foot, applying shoes when needed and trimming the hoof to maintain proper balance. Farriers may learn the requisite skills for this career path either by taking classes at a trade school or apprenticing with an experienced professional. In some cases, the wage gap can be as great as $40,000 for pleasure horses to $200,000 or more for race and show horses.
An American Farriers Journal survey found that the average annual salary for full-time farriers in the U.S. was reported to be $92,623 per year and for part-timers, $21,153. The job requires a fair amount of physical labor, but that is offset by the strong compensation available with no college degree required.
Animal nutritionists work to create nutritionally balanced rations for pets and livestock. Animal nutritionists are included as a part of the food scientist category in surveys conducted by the BLS. According to the BLS, animal nutritionists average an annual salary of $60,390 a year. Most of these scientists make from $37,830 to $120,500 a year. Nutritionists who achieve board certification as veterinary nutritionists can earn significantly higher salaries.
Veterinary Pharmaceutical Sales Representative
Veterinary pharmaceutical sales representatives sell a variety of animal health products through direct marketing to veterinarians (either through field sales or inside sales methods). Sales reps can earn widely varying salaries due to the nature of their compensation which is usually comprised of a combination of salary, commission, and bonuses.
That said, most can expect to earn a salary of $59,122 to $119,826 per year according to PayScale.com. The veterinary pharmaceutical sales career path is commonly recognized as one of the top-earning options in the animal industry.
Equine Dental Technician
An equine dental technician rasps a horse’s teeth (in a process commonly known as “floating”) to keep them in proper alignment. Dental technicians may be certified through completion of trade school programs, and many states require that dental techs work under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
According to several equine dentistry trade schools, equine dental technicians average a salary of more than $50,000 per year. SimplyHired.com cited a slightly higher salary range of $69,000 to $76,000 per year.
Animal Insurance Agent
Insurance sales agents may offer either equine insurance or pet insurance coverage options as a part of their sales portfolio. While total compensation may vary for insurance agents—because they are often paid a base salary plus commission on sales—the mean annual wage for all insurance sales agents is $49,990 per year and $24.03 per hour, according to the BLS. Those working in the specific subcategories of pet or equine insurance can expect to earn similar salaries.
Animal Health Inspector
Animal health inspectors monitor livestock production facilities, laboratories, pet stores, breeding operations, and animal shelters to ensure that all animals are being treated humanely and in accordance with state and federal laws.
Animal health inspectors earn a median salary of $47,000 per year according to the BLS, and the median salary was significantly higher in some states (e.g., a median salary of $66,520 in Connecticut and $59,200 in New York).