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Non-DVM wages are the second largest expense in a veterinary practice. Second only to drugs and supplies costs, non-DVM wages account for 1/3 of all expenses for Canadian veterinary hospitals. Results from the 2009 CVMA Practice Owners Economic Survey show that wages do not play a key role in retaining staff; more specifically, the provinces with the highest wages do not necessarily have the highest staff seniority.
Key veterinary hospital staff includes the receptionist, manager, technical staff who can be classified as credentialed and non-credentialed technicians, and kennel or barn assistants. In addition to these positions, some practices may employ a groomer, student, or bookkeeper. For the purpose of this article, the analysis is limited to the key staff roles.
Information on staff wages comes from the 2009 CVMA Practice Owners Survey which was conducted in veterinary practices across Canada. Figure 1 and Table 1 show 2009 wages from 625 hospitals, representing 4752 staff in companion, mixed, and large animal veterinary practices.
Median wages are presented for key positions in each of the provinces, along with the median for Canada. Variability in wages occurred from province to province, but after accounting for the cost of living adjustment in the provinces, wages became more equal. After the cost of living adjustment, no single province came out ahead in every category, but Prince Edward Island and Quebec led the way with the highest wages for 4 of the 5 key staff positions.
Quebec had the highest non-DVM wages in the country after cost of living adjustments were applied (Figure 1). Even before the adjustment, median wages in Quebec were higher than the national average for non-credentialed technicians and assistants (Table 1). Managers’ wages were on par with the national median.
One factor that prevented Quebec wages from eclipsing other provinces was very low credentialed technician wages. Credentialed technicians in Quebec earned below the national median after the cost of living adjustment and, unlike the situation in most other provinces, they earned only slightly higher wages than non-credentialed technicians. Nationally, credentialed technicians commanded a 30% wage premium over non-credentialed technicians, but in Quebec the difference was only 3%.
Prince Edward Island had the second highest wages in 2009 (Figure 1). Before adjusting for a lower cost of living, median wages for receptionists and managers were already comparable to the national median. After the adjustment, these positions earned the highest wages in the country.
Newfoundland and Labrador paid the highest wages for credentialed technicians after the cost of living adjustment. Interestingly, this was the only position that received a premium, as all other positions earned wages at or below the national median after the cost of living adjustment.
British Columbia and Manitoba veterinary hospitals paid slightly higher than the national median after the cost of living adjustment for 4 of the 5 positions, while Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick paid wages that hovered close to the national median for most categories.
Ontario and Alberta hospitals fell to the bottom of the list after the cost of living adjustment. Alberta started out with median salaries higher than the national average and highest wages in 4 of the 5 categories, but this province had the highest cost of living in the country and wages fell to the bottom of the list. Ontario wages were mediocre before the adjustment, with most positions at or even below the national median. After adjusting for the higher cost of living, Ontario wages fell to levels comparable with those of Alberta.
Wages were measured against seniority in each of the provinces to determine whether or not average wages played a role in determining average seniority (Figure 1). A wage index was constructed using a weighted average of all staff wages in each of the provinces. The index was calibrated so 100 represented the national median wage. The lowest wage index was found in Ontario and Alberta, as both provinces were 9% below the national cost of living adjusted wage. The highest wage index was found in Quebec, where wages were 9% above the national median after the cost of living adjustment.
A similar index was constructed for seniority using the median current years in practice for all staff. The province with the highest staff seniority was Prince Edward Island with a median staff seniority of 7.8 years. The provinces having the lowest staff seniority were Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador with 3.0 years. The national median was 3.9 years seniority for all staff. There was no clear trend between seniority and cost of living adjusted wages. Prince Edward Island may have held the highest seniority with the second highest wages, but the province with highest wages (Quebec) experienced seniority that was below the national average. At the other end of the spectrum, Alberta was tied with Newfoundland and Labrador for the lowest seniority, but had very different positions for cost of living adjusted wages.
In determining what makes non-DVM staff decide to stay at their job, factors other than wages clearly come into play.
Use of this article is limited to a single copy for personal study. Anyone interested in obtaining reprints should contact the CVMA office ( gro.vmca-amvc@nothguorbh) for additional copies or permission to use this material elsewhere.