The Importance of Knowing Where You Stand in an Unstable Economy
As we enter the New Year, wouldn’t it be great to ring in 2012 with some good news? In the field of veterinary management, the economy has presented many challenges in the area of salary and compensation.
But surprisingly, not all news on the salary front is negative. In fact, some news is encouraging. The recently completed VHMA 2011 Survey of Compensation and Benefits for Veterinary Managers offers food for thought for veterinary managers. An overview of the results and findings are discussed below.
The VHMA Survey, Laying the Foundation
The 2011 Survey of Compensation and Benefits for Veterinary Managers is a member service provided by the VHMA. Designed to examine the level of compensation and benefits provided to veterinary managers, the survey was distributed to 1,441 VHMA members with 160 completed questionnaires returned. An overwhelming majority of responses (88%) were from the United States and 12% from Canada. Responses were lowest among office managers. This biennial survey was last distributed in 2009.
The survey examined characteristics such as type of practice, years in practice, location, and more and evaluated their effect on the level of compensation and benefits for office managers, practice managers and hospital administrators.
Comparing 2011 wage information with data from the 2009 report reveals that annual salaries increased for all but office managers. This good news is followed by a more sobering development; every type of manager worked longer hours in 2011, reflecting calculated hourly rates that grew at a slower rate than salaries. According to Darren Osborne, MA, an economist working with the VHMA, “Adjusting for the consumer price index that grew 5% since 2009, hospital managers’ and administrators’ salaries outperformed inflation, but this gain is negated when the longer hours are factored in. Higher salaries divided by longer hours results in lower hourly wages in 2011, compared to 2009.”
Impact of Experience and Seniority on Salary
Experience is what makes higher salaries, and the VHMA found that experience has a positive impact on compensation, with a caveat. Generally, salaries increase with experience, but, Osborne notes, “practice managers reported a drop in median salaries for managers with more than 10 years’ experience. Because this group reported fewer hours worked annually, when hourly wage was calculated, these managers showed an increase in hourly wage.” Although hospital administrators with more than 10 years’ experience reported higher salaries, the gains were offset by working more hours annually. According to Osborne, “Seniority has little to do with determining salaries but did affect hourly wages, which increased with seniority.”
A Matter of Degree (and Credentials)
Office managers with postsecondary education earned significantly higher salaries than those with no formal credentials. Practice managers who earned the CVPM certification reported the highest salaries and calculated hourly wages. Median salary for CVPM accredited practice managers was $10,000 higher than for practice managers without formal credentials. Hospital administrators with CVPM certification, university and postgraduate degrees all earned higher-than-average salaries.
Other Factors and Their Impact on Salary
Osborne reviewed a number of factors, which, according to the survey, influenced compensation, including:
• Number of hospitals managed
• Number of staff managed
• Job description that outlines responsibilities and obligations
• Location of practice, with Texas and California managers reporting the highest annual salary
Vacation Time and Benefits
In general, two weeks seemed to be the average vacation time for all managers, with practice managers and hospital managers earning more vacation time with seniority.
Overall, more hospital administrators received benefits than practice managers, and office managers received the fewest benefits. Insurance benefits and discounts have remained flat since 2009, and in some cases were reduced or even eliminated.
Continuing education fees and paid days for continuing education were benefits that increased conspicuously.
As Osborne noted, “Practice managers and hospital administrators have enjoyed salary increases since last surveyed in 2009 while office managers have seen their salaries decrease. All managers have seen the number of annual hours that they work increase. Furthermore, a detailed examination of the survey results shows that managers are now performing more tasks outside their traditional job descriptions than they have in previous years.”
Given the economic climate, the news about salaries and compensation for managers is generally positive. For managers who are interested in improving their level of compensation, Osborne recommends certification and advanced degrees. As the data indicates, employers are making continuing education benefits available to staff, and employees with advanced degrees and certification command higher salaries. Osborne also recommends that employees take steps to make sure their contributions to the office are known and understood. Providing progress reports and updates to administrators is essential if supervisors are to comprehend employees’ contributions to the organization. Monitor the budget with monthly reports and regular meetings to discuss progress and projects. Regular meetings to discuss specific events and issues are also advisable.
Above all, keep in mind that to protect your position and to demonstrate your worth in a tough economy, you must be proactive in showing how you and your skills have a positive impact on your organization.
Best of luck and the best of everything in 2012!
Christine Shupe is the Executive Director of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. The association is dedicated to enhancing and serving professionals in veterinary management through superior education, certification and networking. For more information, visit www.vhma.org.