Learn About Being a Veterinary Practice Manager

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Veterinary practice managers are responsible for providing business management services and overseeing operations in the veterinary setting.

The Job Duties

Veterinary practice managers ensure that daily operations run smoothly in the clinic, allowing veterinarians to focus solely on practicing medicine rather than the many details of running a business.  Clinics employing veterinary practice managers usually bring in significantly higher practice revenues since vets do not have to take time away from seeing clients to deal with business issues.

Daily duties for a veterinary practice manager may include staff management and scheduling, inventory control, bookkeeping, payroll administration, budgeting, advertising, establishing clinic policies and procedures, training new staff, updating medical records, and overseeing client relations.  The practice manager must ensure that the clinic team provides quality care and brings in adequate revenues so that the business remains profitable.

As is the case with most veterinary career paths, it is not uncommon for a practice manager to work some evening, weekend, and holiday hours.  They may also need to handle animals on occasion if sufficient staff is not available to assist the veterinarians.

Career Options

Veterinary practice managers may work in any veterinary environment including small animal practices, large animal practices, emergency clinics, animal hospitals, university teaching clinics, and veterinary laboratories.  They may find employment with one-doctor general practices or large specialty clinics with many practitioners.

Education & Training

Veterinary practice managers should have a background in business management.  They should have excellent computer and communication skills, mathematical ability, and a knack for multitasking.  Superior organizational ability is also critical for those working in this field.  Managers may also benefit from a variety of certification and training programs designed specifically for this niche career path.

The Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) designation was established in 1992 and is highly regarded in the industry.  The certification program is administered by the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA).  CVPM applicants must have at least 3 years of active employment as a practice manager, 18 college semester hours in management courses, 48 hours of continuing education courses related to management, and four letters of recommendation.  If they meet the prerequisites and pay the CVPM application fee ($675 for VHMA members and $825 for non-members), they will be deemed eligible to take the certification exam.

  This written exam consists of up to 200 questions in both multiple choice and true-false formats.

To maintain certification, a CVPM must complete 48 hours of continuing education credit every two years and pay the $210 recertification fee.  Some colleges and universities offer graduate level courses that count towards the continuing education requirement for the CVPM designation.  One such institution, Purdue University, offers a Veterinary Practice Management program that consists of four courses: human resource management, accounting and financial management, marketing, and strategic thinking.

  Each course is conducted as an intensive four-day session.

Salary Expectations

Many factors can influence the salary of veterinary practice managers including the number of hospitals managed, the number of staff members managed, job responsibilities, the level of experience, certifications, and the location of the practice (Texas and California reported the highest salaries for CVPMs in a 2011 study by the VHMA).  An American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) survey found that veterinary practice managers earned an average of $45,765 in 2009.  The 2014 Firstline Career Path Study reported that 80 percent of salaried practice managers earned more than $51,000 per year.

The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA)’s 2011 Survey of Compensation and Benefits for Veterinary Managers found that veterinary practice managers with the CVPM designation earned $2,500 more each year on average than those without the certification.  Administrators with a CVPM earned $4,000 more per year on average.   The 2014 Firstline Career Path Study reported an average hourly rate of $17.62 for veterinary practice managers, with those holding the CVPM certification earning a higher average rate of $20.55 per hour.

 Some managers also receive additional financial benefits as a part of their compensation plan (such as profit sharing).

Career Outlook

The veterinary industry is expected to continue to show strong growth for the foreseeable future and is part of the juggernaut pet industry that is projected to bring in $58.5 billion in revenues in 2014.  Over $15.25 billion will be generated from vet care alone.  The strong revenues in the industry should ensure that a solid number of practice manager positions will be available to qualified candidates.  Individuals with significant experience and CVPM certification will continue to enjoy the best prospects in the field.