Mixed practice veterinarians are practitioners that specialize in health management of both large and small animals.
Mixed practice veterinarians are licensed animal health professionals that are trained to diagnose and treat illnesses that affect a variety of species. Most mixed practice veterinarians offer veterinary services for some combination of large animals (cattle, horses, and other livestock) and small animals (dogs, cats, and other pets). Mixed practice vets may either operate out of a clinic or travel to visit their patients on farms using a customized truck containing the necessary medical equipment.
The usual duties for a mixed practice vet include conducting general wellness exams, giving vaccinations, drawing blood, prescribing medications, performing surgeries, suturing wounds, cleaning teeth, performing spay and neuter operations, and supervising veterinary technicians. Other duties may include monitoring the reproductive health of breeding stock, performing artificial inseminations, assisting with problem births, conducting pre-purchase exams, taking radiographs, and performing ultrasounds.
Mixed practice veterinarians may work both day and evening hours, and they usually must be on call for emergencies that arise on weekends and holidays. The work can be physically demanding when treating large animals, as vets must be capable of restraining sizeable (and potentially agitated) animals. They also must be careful to avoid bites and scratches while working with small animals. All vets must take adequate safety precautions while treating their patients.
According to surveys conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the majority of all veterinarians work in private practice. At the end of 2012, the most recent AVMA employment survey available, there were 102,744 practicing U.S. veterinarians, with 64,489 of that number engaged in private practice. The vast majority of practitioners work on small animals. Mixed practice vets make up less than 7% of the total number of practicing veterinarians.
Education and Training
All veterinarians, regardless of specific area of interest, must graduate with a general Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. The DVM program is a comprehensive course of study that covers all aspects of small animal and large animal health care. There are currently 28 colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States that offer a DVM degree.
Upon graduation, vets must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE) to become licensed to practice. Approximately 2,500 veterinarians graduate, complete the licensing exam, and enter the veterinary field each year.
The median wage for all veterinarians was $82,040 in May of 2010 according to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Earnings in 2010 varied from less than $49,910 for the lowest ten percent of all veterinary practitioners to more than $145,230 for the top ten percent of all veterinary practitioners.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the median professional income for mixed practice veterinarians (before taxes) was $88,000 in 2011. Equine exclusive veterinarians shared the same median professional income of $88,000. Food animal and companion animal veterinarians earned a slightly higher median professional income of $100,000.
In terms of average starting salary right out of veterinary school, mixed practice veterinarians began their careers with a first year mean salary of $63,526 in 2013. New equine vets had the lowest first year salary ($47,806), while food animal exclusive vets had the highest first year salary ($76,740).
AVMA studies have also indicated that mixed practice veterinarians earn higher salaries in small and medium sized cities and towns. The best salaries for mixed practice vets are found in cities with populations between 50,000 and 500,000—mixed practice vets in these areas earned a mean salary of $115,358. Towns with less than 2,500 citizens reported the next highest salary for mixed practice vets, with a mean salary of $100,190. Cities with more than 500,000 citizens reported the lowest mean salaries for mixed practice vets ($90,889). In areas where the population is 500,000 or greater it is wise to go companion animal exclusive (mean salary $143,736).
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the veterinary profession is projected to expand at a much faster rate than the average rate for all professions—nearly 33% over the decade from 2008 to 2018. The extremely limited number of graduates from vet programs will translate to excellent job prospects in the field.
Due to the fact that a majority of vets choose to go into small animal exclusive practice (over 42,000 currently employed in this type of work), there should be a continued need for mixed practice veterinarians in the marketplace, especially in small or mid-sized cities and towns.