Census.gov’s Veterinary Employment Statistics Analyzed

In December 2018 the U.S. Census Bureau released veterinary employment statistics as part of a much broader study. Here’s what we found interesting.

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Veterinary Employment Statistics

Are you employing more people than you should? Is expanding into a second location the right decision? How do your employee wages compare to those of similar-sized practices?

These are just a few of the questions the statistics released by the United States Census Bureau in December 2018 may help you answer.

Although the census  contains over 180,000 cells of data, we’re primarily concerned with the veterinary employment statistics. The data we’re reviewing here is for veterinary practices that provide one or more of  the following primary services:

  • Prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and health care management of animals
  • Animal dental services
  • Laboratory testing

The data does not include practices that only provide boarding, grooming, sitting, or training services. Basically, if you offer veterinary health services, whether or not you also provide boarding, grooming, sitting, and training, then you’re counted in this report.

The veterinary employment statistics were segmented into six groups by the number of people employed in each establishment, or as we’ll say, practice:

  • Group 1: 0–4 employees
  • Group 2: 5–9 employees
  • Group 3: 10–19 employees
  • Group 4: 20–99 employees
  • Group 5: 100–499 employees
  • Group 6: 500+ employees

(I honestly don’t understand how a company can operate with zero employees, but we’ll just roll with it.) Here’s my quick analysis of the report:

Veterinary Practices and Locations

GroupEmployeesPracticesLocationsTotal Employees
10-48,7378,79316,984
25-98,0508,06655,462
310-197,8377,964105,356
420-993,6904,101112,842
5100-4999526814,117
6500+222,01348,890
TOTAL28,43131,205353,651

There are a total of 28,431 unique practices that offer veterinary services. They have 31,205 veterinary locations for an average of just 1.1 locations per practice.

Now, that’s interesting to me. I have to ask why nearly all veterinary practices are single-location operations. Perhaps vet practice owners are content with running just one location, or they don’t see the value in adding another one.

But if their veterinary practices are profitable, and they’re the best in their local areas at helping companion animals, wouldn’t they want to expand in order to make more money and help more pets?

Perhaps they simply don’t know how to go about adding another location. This will surely be a topic of discussion for future DVM Insider articles.

With 353,651 employees across 31,205 locations, the average veterinary location employs 11 people.

Group 1 had the largest number of veterinary practices and locations, but the second-lowest number of employees. With an average of just 1.9 employees per location, this group must  include a number of single-person operations. I imagine there’s a handful of sole proprietor mobile vets in here as well.

What’s interesting is that Group 5 employed nearly the same total number of people as Group 1. However, it averaged a whopping 52.7 employees per location! This group is sure to contain a number of sizable, full-service animal hospitals that employ many veterinarians.

How to Use These Veterinary Practice and Location Statistics

Admittedly, what’s missing for a full and accurate comparison are revenue numbers. If we had these, we could extrapolate the revenue per employee and really make use of this these veterinary employment statistics.

But if we work with what we’ve got, you can still measure your practice’s efficiency. If you operate a practice that offers an average menu of animal health services, do you employ more or fewer than the national average of 11 people? Depending on the services you provide, you’d need to adjust this number—up if you provide more services than the average veterinary practice, and down if you provide fewer. Then, if you feel you have more employees than you need, perhaps in-office procedures and systems can be improved upon to increase efficiency.

Veterinary Employee Salaries

GroupEmployeesAnnual PayrollPayroll/LocationAvg. Employee Salary
10-4$717,154,000$81,560$42,225
25-9$1,732,253,000$214,760$31,233
310-19$3,588,250,000$450,559$34,058
420-99$4,257,218,000$1,038,093$37,727
5100-499$724,324,000$2,702,701$51,309
6500+$2,179,139,000$1,082,533$44,572
TOTAL$13,198,338,000$422,956$37,320

Group 2 comes into the spotlight with the lowest average employee salary of just $31,233. What I find significant is the difference with Group 5’s average. Group 5 is over $20,000/year more, which is an astronomical increase of 64 percent. Company size can’t be the reason because Group 6 would then be about the same or more than Group 5.

Considering that these veterinary employment statistics include 28,000 practices nationwide (paying over $13 billion in payroll!), these numbers are as solid as they come. Unfortunately, the census  doesn’t offer the meaning behind them. We can only speculate and go from there.

How to Use These Veterinary Employee Salary Statistics

Candidly, these wage numbers aren’t as useful because what’s missing from this data is how the geographic component affects wages.

The average veterinary assistant in Burbank, CA garners about $34,000 per year, while in Burbank, SD, she only gets about $25,000. That’s a difference of $9,000, which equates to a 27 percent drop!

But if you’re looking to grow your practice with multiple locations and/or employees to expand your offering of services, then you can gauge what to expect when moving up a group or two.

Veterinary Statistics With a Grain of Salt

When it comes to these employee counts and payroll numbers, it may be useful to compare your practice to your category averages.

That being said, I’d be surprised if you find anything in these veterinary employment statistics that is life changing. So please, don’t give them too much weight when it comes to altering the direction of your practice!

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