Top Paying Animal Health Careers

Farriers Fitting Horse with Horseshoes
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There are several careers in the animal health field that offer compensation in the range of $50,000 or more per year. While veterinary medicine is commonly recognized as a high paying career path by members of the general public, there are a number of other animal health career options that can offer high salaries. Here are a few animal health options (including veterinary medicine) that offer strong salaries:

Board Certified Veterinarian

Board certified veterinarians earn salaries at the top end of the veterinary salary spectrum, usually averaging more than six figures. To achieve board certification, vets must study for several years after graduating from veterinary school, completing residencies and internships under the supervision of top specialists. After achieving diplomate status in their particular specialty area they are well compensated for having acquired this additional expertise. Top paying specialties include veterinary ophthalmology ($215,120 median salary in 2009), veterinary nutrition ($202,368 average salary in 2008), and veterinary surgery ($183,902 average salary in 2008).

When considering all veterinary salaries (not just those of vets who are board certified), the median annual wage in May of 2010 was $82,900. The lowest ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of less than $50,480 each year while the highest ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of more than $141,680 each year.

Farrier

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.

A 2011 American Farriers Journal survey found that the average yearly compensation for a farrier was $92,600. The job requires a fair bit of physical labor, but strong compensation is available with no college degree required.

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 base salary, commission, and bonuses), but 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.

Animal Nutritionist

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 the surveys conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and according to the BLS they averaged an annual wage of $60,180 in the most recent salary survey conducted in 2010.

Those specifically working in the animal food manufacturing industry averaged a salary of $70,060 per year. Nutritionists who achieve board certification as veterinary nutritionists can earn significantly higher salaries (see the board certified veterinarian category above).

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 (as they are often paid a base salary plus commission on sales), the mean annual wage for all insurance sales agents was $62,520 in the most recent salary survey taken by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those working in the specific subcategories of pet or equine insurance can expect to earn similar salaries.

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 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 earned a median salary of $41,390 per year in the 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, and the median salary was significantly higher in some states (i.e. a median salary of $66,520 in Connecticut and $59,200 in New York). Indeed.com cited a similar average salary of $47,000 per year for animal health inspectors in 2013.

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