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Can Vet J. Jan 2011; 52(1): 84–86.
PMCID: PMC3003585

The relationship between associate compensation and provincial population

The 2010 Survey of Compensation and Benefits is a member service provided by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the provincial veterinary medical associations. The 2010 Survey was designed to examine the level of compensation and benefits provided to associate (non-owner) veterinarians in 2010. Information in the survey applies to associate veterinarians in private practice only.

Survey design

The survey was distributed to all (3600) associate veterinarians in Canada. Researchers received 1019 completed questionnaires for a response rate of 28%. The information in the survey is compiled to represent both national and provincial results, and is generally accurate to ± 1.9%, 19 times out of 20.

Respondents were asked to complete the questionnaire based on their compensation and benefits in private practice in 2010. The survey was conducted in the summer and fall of 2010 with instructions to provide information for the current year.

Several characteristics (type of practice, years in practice, location, etc.) were examined and the effect of these characteristic on the level of compensation and benefits for associate veterinarians by province was evaluated. Not every question was answered by all respondents, so the number of responses for characteristic groups varies. The results in each provincial report are presented for full-time and part-time associates. The information presented in this article is for full-time associates who work more than 20 h/wk.

Information for the survey was submitted anonymously. Individual responses could not be cross-referenced; therefore, only “median” figures are reported. The median is obtained by ranking all responses from lowest to highest and then taking the mid-point. The advantage of using the median for anonymous surveys is that the results are not influenced by extreme responses.

Annual increases

Associate salaries held the pace with inflation for 2010; nationally they have increased by 2% since 2009. According to the Statistics Canada report, Latest Release for the Consumer Price Index, October 2010, Canadian inflation during that time was 1.9%. With many practice owners anxious about protecting their practices from the lagging economy, the increase in associate salaries is a powerful gesture.

Within each province, salary increases ran from < 1% in Prince Edward Island (PEI), to 6% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In some cases, weak increases in salaries matched inflation. For example, Alberta experienced the lowest inflation in the country at < 1%, and posted zero growth in associate salaries. In contrast, Ontario associates experienced a lower than average gain in salaries at 1%, but their inflation was the highest in the country.

In summary, it looks like provincial inflation has little to do with associate salary increases. According to Table 1, there is a definite east verses west split when it comes to associate salaries. These salaries are not yet adjusted for the cost of living, but show a clear division between Ontario and Quebec. East of Ontario, provincial salaries are below the national average. In comparison, Ontario and western provinces have higher than average salaries. This makes for an interesting political debate but does not take into account the economies of the different provinces. Generally speaking, the eastern provinces have a lower cost of living which may explain this division.

Table 1
Annual associate salaries by province for 2010

Cost of living comparison

To account for economic differences in each province, adjustments are made to salaries to enable an equitable comparison. For example, the cost of living in Alberta and Ontario is the highest in the country, so associates in those provinces have to earn more to get the same as associates in Prince Edward Island (PEI), where the cost of living is lower. Adjustments are made based on household expenditures in those provinces. In provinces with a higher cost of living, associate salaries go down and in provinces where the cost of living is lower, they go up. For example the median annual salary in Alberta was $80 000; however, after the cost of living adjustment was made this figure decreased to $65 689.

After the cost of living adjustment, a different pattern emerges. Figure 1 shows provincial salaries look like they are tied to population. With the exception of PEI, there is a fairly consistent pattern where cost of living adjusted salaries go in the opposite direction to the population. If the provincial population is low, then the salary is high. If the provincial population is high the salary tends to be low. This could mean that salaries are less affected by inflation and more affected by the supply of associates. Provinces with higher populations are more attractive but present a more competitive environment for associates. Maybe fewer associates are looking for jobs in Newfoundland because they have all left for Alberta and Ontario. This certainly ties into the fact that there are fewer veterinarians practicing in the rural areas of Canada (1).

Figure 1
2010 Cost of living adjusted associate salaries.

Interestingly, PEI is the smallest province with the lowest salaries; however, PEI associates also work fewer hours than those in other provinces making their hourly adjusted wage more favorable. Another factor to explain Prince Edward Island salaries is the location of their veterinary school in Charlottetown. The seemingly unending supply of new graduates means there are more associates available to work fewer jobs; resulting in a less competitive salary.

Adam Smith (1723–1790), celebrated author and considered by many to be the “father of economics,” coined the term “the invisible hand” to describe the way a market looks after itself. His theory was that markets operated like there was an invisible hand guiding them to settle the forces of supply and demand. One could argue that associate salaries are no different. If you can’t attract an associate because your practice is off the beaten track, then you simply have to raise the stakes until the invisible hand pushes someone your way.


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.


1. Jelinski MD, Campbell JR, Naylor JM, Lawson KL, Derkzen D. Demographic survey of veterinarians employed in western Canada. Can Vet J. 2009;50:621–629. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from The Canadian Veterinary Journal are provided here courtesy of Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
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