A veterinarian examining a brown dog on an exam table

A career in veterinary medicine can be greatly fulfilling, considering the myriad of personal and professional benefits that it brings to the table. It not only results in emotional fulfillment but also allows you to improve an animal’s overall health and quality of life. Additionally, a recent survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics concluded that, by the end of the year 2031, employment in this field is expected to witness a significant rise of 19%.

On that note, let’s explore the varied veterinarian salaries across different American states. You’ll also get to learn about some of the basic roles and responsibilities of a relief veterinarian and the skill set you need to be successful in this field.

What is A Relief Veterinarian?

Simply put, a relief veterinarian can be described as an animal health expert who provides temporary or part-time services to a clinic. They are usually called in to fill in for regular veterinarians, who might be unavailable or on leave for vacation or sabbatical. In their absence, relief veterinarians are entrusted with the responsibility of providing accurate medical diagnoses and administering treatment.

“Researchers expect a 33% increase in pet healthcare spending over the next 10 years, and 41,000 new veterinarians are needed to meet this demand. Despite a regular pipeline of veterinary graduates, there will still be a shortage of about 15,000 veterinarians by 2030.”

In recent years the industry has seen many veterinarians leaving the field resulting in a vet shortage. As a result many clinics deploy relief vets as regular parts of their team. Furthermore, corporate consolidation in the industry has resulted in more revenue pressure than ever on clinics. Relief vets can help meet revenue goals by allowing clinics to add shifts, see more patients and ensure coverage when their doctors are out. All this is to say, the opportunity for relief vets has grown exponentially.

The demand for relief veterinarians has grown exponentially over the past few years as well. In fact, according to an AVMA survey, the number of relief or locum vets grew 30% between 2008 and 2018 and is likely to increase in the future as well.

Due to the nature of their job profile, relief veterinarians often get to enjoy the flexibility and freedom of working independently. While some manage their own client relationships, others might work for a company that hires relief veterinarians and ensures they have ample work opportunities. They usually work in various settings ranging from small animal clinics to reputed animal hospitals and corporately owned clinics.

Roles and Responsibilities of A Relief Veterinarian

As stated earlier, the job roles and responsibilities of a relief veterinarian are somewhat similar to a full-time veterinarian. However, their exact responsibilities might vary depending on the medical institute or the clinic. Some of the most common roles and responsibilities that every relief veterinarian is expected to fulfill include:

  • Annual exams and wellness visits
  • Client education and consultation
  • End-of-life care and euthanasia
  • Public health education
  • Administering vaccinations
  • Nutritional consults and behavioral recommendations
  • Sick visits for unwell patients
  • Running and ordering diagnostic testing
  • Prescribing treatment
  • Surgery (including spaying and neutering) if the veterinarian is comfortable
  • Post-operative rechecks

Skills Required To Be A Relief Veterinarian

Before delving into the details of average relief vet pay across different American states, let’s take a look at some of the important skills you must have to become a relief veterinarian.


Since the job role of a relief veterinarian requires them to work in a variety of clinics, flexibility and adaptability are a must. You must be flexible enough to jump into different work environments and adapt to each clinic’s rules, protocols, and culture. Additionally, you must also be able to learn quickly so that you can generate accurate medical diagnoses, even when there is very little background information provided.


Relief veterinarians must possess excellent communication skills so that they can explain scientific concepts and share crucial information in an efficient and detailed manner to just about any audience, including co-workers, pet parents, the front desk, etc. The nature of this job requires you to collaborate frequently with other veterinary professionals and clinic managers. Therefore, you must be able to communicate your thoughts and ideas in a clear and concise manner, leaving little to no room for any form of misunderstanding.

Emotional Intelligence

Most vets are, by nature, empathetic individuals, able to soothe a worried client and intuit what the animal might be experiencing. That empathy can sometimes become overwhelming, especially on days when euthanasia is required or a treatment plan is not accepted by a client. Knowing when to take a step back to prioritize your mental care is another aspect that is critical. Many vets suffer from compassion fatigue so understanding how to set your own boundaries against this is crucial.

Business Acumen

For those relief veterinarians who work independently, it is important to have strong business skills and adequate knowledge of the principles of sales, accounting, and marketing.  Not only does a relief vet practice medicine, but they are also running a business. That’s called working “on the business” not working “in the business,” and that takes a ton of time and mental space.

Relief Veterinarian Salary Across Different States

According to data from Indeed, the relief veterinarian pay scale actively fluctuates according to the different states in the U.S. Below are a few examples of U.S. states that are known to provide the highest salary to relief veterinarians.

Average Relief Veterinarian Salary

The average relief veterinarian salary may differ widely based on numerous factors such as years of experience, location, shift type, as well as the workplace you choose to work for.

The Path Forward

The job role of a relief veterinarian is undoubtedly quite demanding and requires a lot of flexibility and hard work. Nonetheless, it can be quite rewarding. Overall, the employment rate, especially in the veterinary medicine industry across the globe, is quite stable. Salaries are increasing for both permanent and locum positions.

On that note, if you are looking for a place that offers both benefits and convenience, then what’s better than IndeVet? With a team dedicated to your happiness and growth every step of the way, we provide the most flexible working environment to all your team members.

So what are you waiting for? Apply now!

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