Day in and day out, veterinarians treat the ailments of animals of all shapes and sizes. They make diagnoses without the benefit of being able to ask their patients any questions. And they do all this while trying to avoid getting bitten or scratched or allowing their “sick puppies” to jump off the table.
But veterinarians sign up for all this because they truly love what they do. And that love also drives them to sacrifice the time and money that it takes to earn their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average D.V.M. graduated with $166,714 of student loan debt.
That’s a huge debt load, especially when you consider the national median veterinarian salary is $93,830 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
To help veterinarians find the best places to work, Student Loan Planner ranked the top 10 cities in the continental U.S. Each city was ranked by average annual veterinarian income.
Next, location quotient data was factored in, which showed the concentration of veterinary jobs for each city. Finally, each city’s cost of living was taken into account.
10 best cities for veterinarians
Where you choose to work can play a major role in how much money you make. Here are some of the best places to work as a veterinarian.
10. Bristol, Tennessee
Home to NASCAR’s Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee came in at No. 10 on our best cities for veterinarians list. With a mean veterinarian wage of $110,000, Bristol ranked No. 54 out of 265 cities analyzed. That’s over $16,000 more than the national average.
Bristol has a lot to offer when you’re away from the veterinarian’s office as well. Obviously, the two big NASCAR races each year are a big deal. But even if you’re not into racing, Bristol has plenty of other stuff going on. From its Sounds of Summer Concert Series to its famous Bristol Burger Week, there’s always some fun event around the corner.
9. Columbus, Ohio
The capital of Ohio, Columbus came in at No. 9 on our best cities for veterinarians list. At $110,150, Columbus’ average veterinarian mean wage is just slightly above Bristol’s.
And with a reasonable cost of living and an above-average location quotient (No. 70 overall), Columbus has all the ingredients that could lead to a successful and lucrative veterinarian career.
On your weekends, you may enjoy walking or biking the Scioto Mile, which winds through several beautiful parks on either side of the Scioto River and features an interactive fountain. And kids will enjoy visiting the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a hands-on museum and planetarium
8. Charlottesville, Virginia
At $110,130, Charlottesville’s annual mean wage ranked only one spot behind Columbus at No. 53. That’s over $16,000 more than the national average. But they were 10 spots better in location quotient at No. 60. Although Charlottesville’s cost of living was right near the national average, these other factors helped it to make it on this list.
Charlottesville has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor recreation, from biking to paddling to camping. Charlottesville was also the hometown of Thomas Jefferson. Learn more about his life at United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites or at Monticello, his primary home during his presidency.
7. Jacksonville, North Carolina
Not to be confused with the more well-known Jacksonville, Florida, this Jacksonville is a coastal town in North Carolina that’s home to the largest Marine Corps base on the Eastern Seaboard.
Jacksonville boasts an average veterinarian income of $111,490. And veterinarian jobs are in demand in Jacksonville — about 65% more than the national average. It ranked in the top half for cost of living as well. When you’re not working, enjoy some fishing and paddle boating or check out one of its six military memorials.
6. Santa Fe, New Mexico
The oldest U.S. capital city and home to the third-largest art market in the country, Santa Fe ranks No. 6 on this list.
Its veterinarian location quotient of 1.95 is what put it on our radar for this list. That means Santa Fe has nearly twice as many veterinarians jobs in relation to the overall population than the national average. Veterinarians, on average, in Santa Fe also make a healthy $110,610.
On your weekends, you can visit one of Santa Fe’s nearly 300 nearby art galleries. Santa Fe also has the third-largest state museum systems in the country and is home to the Santa Fe Opera.
5. Kingston, New York
Located right in the middle of New York City and Albany, Kingston, New York is No. 5 on our list of best cities for veterinarians. The city has a low cost of living that’s 15% less than the national average. And veterinarians employed in Kingston have annual mean salaries of $111,830.
Area attractions include the Catskill Mountain Railroad, the Hudson River Maritime Museum and the Trolley Museum of New York.
4. East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
East Stroudsburg made it onto our list primarily because of the incredible mean pay veterinarians enjoy there — $127,950. That ranked No. 15 out of all 265 cities and over $30,000 more than the national average! East Stroudsburg also ranked in the top 100 in cost of living and location quotient.
Located in the Poconos mountains area, people travel from all over the world to enjoy this area’s first-class ski resorts and state parks. But as an East Stroudsburg resident, all the Poconos fun could be just a short car ride away!
3. State College, Pennsylvania
Home to Penn State University, State College is also our No. 3 city to work in as a veterinarian. Veterinarians in State College enjoy a mean salary $112,060. That’s great. But what really caught our attention was State College’s location quotient. It ranked No. 17 in this category, with veterinarian jobs being more than twice as prevalent in State College than the national average.
When you’re not working, you can immerse yourself in all the hustle and bustle of a big college town. Football games in the fall are obviously incredibly popular, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a ticket.
2. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Known for being a popular vacation destination, Hilton Head Island is also a great place to set up shop as a veterinarian. The annual mean wage for veterinarians is an incredible $142,640. That’s over 50% more than the national median pay! That also ranks it No. 7 out of all 265 cities considered.
Hilton Head also has a lower-than-average cost of living and came in the top 100 for location quotient as well.
Living on an island means you’re literally surrounded by water fun. Spend your weekends kayaking, fishing, water skiing, parasailing or just soaking up the sun. Or plan a picnic day with your kids at a beach that was ranked one of the top 10 family beaches in the United States.
1. Harrisonburg, Virginia
Nestled in the middle of the beautiful and popular Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg is No. 1 on this list of best cities for veterinarians. At $116,410, Harrisonburg’s annual veterinarian mean wage is great; it has an attractive cost of living as well.
But what vaulted Harrisonburg to No. 1 on this list was its location quotient. With a location quotient of 2.43, veterinarians are nearly 2.5 times more in demand in Harrisonburg than the national average.
Biking is a big part of Harrisonburg culture. In fact, around 800 bikers gather each year to ride the Tour de Belt, a relaxing 20-mile ride through Harrisonburg’s most beautiful parks and most well-known landmarks. Harrisonburg is also home to the first-recognized “Arts and Cultural and Culinary District” in Virginia, so you should have plenty of spots to explore and enjoy when you’re off work.
To come up with our list, Student Loan Planner began by pulling occupational income data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for each metropolitan statistical area (MSA). Student Loan Planner also used the BLS database to extract location quotient data.
Next, Student Loan Planner pulled Regional Price Parity (RPP) data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). RPPs measure the differences in price levels across states and metropolitan areas and are expressed as a percentage of the overall national price level. RPPs cover all consumption goods and services, including rents.
Finally, we screened out states with a population of less than one million people, as it’s easier for data to skew with population sizes that small.
To determine the final rankings, annual median wage counted for 50% of the final score, while cost of living and location quotient rankings counted for 25% each of the final score.