As nurses are to doctors, veterinary technicians are to veterinarians. They assist vets in diagnosing and treating animals in private clinics, animal hospitals and research facilities. This job title is often used interchangeably with "veterinary technologist," and although there are some differences between the two occupations, they are minor.
Veterinary technicians and technologists held over 80,000 jobs in 2010 (US). Private clinics, laboratories and animal hospitals employed most of them. Others worked at kennels, zoos, animal shelters and animal rescue groups.
Many people become attracted to this occupation because of a love of animals, but there is a downside, both physically and emotionally. Animals may bite, scratch or otherwise injure veterinary technicians who are caring for them. There is an emotional toll that comes from seeing the results of abuse or abandonment, and from having to euthanize ill or injured animals.
Aspiring veterinary technicians attend accredited, two-year veterinary technology programs at community colleges usually earning associate degrees. To become a veterinary technologist, one must earn a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology, which means attending college for four years. Regardless of the which degree you decide to pursue, during training you will do laboratory and clinical work with live animals. If you are a high school student who is interested in this field, make sure to take science classes, including biology, as well as math classes. Also consider volunteering at a facility, such as an animal shelter, where you can get experience and find out if this occupation is really right for you.
Licensing requirements for veterinary technicians vary by state. Typically one must take the Veterinary Technician National Examination which is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). Keep in mind that this agency only administers the test. It does not issue credentials. Use the Licensed Occupations Tool from CareerOneStop to learn about the licensing requirements in the state in which you plan to work.
Those who want to become veterinary technicians must have good communication skills and the ability to work well with others. They must also be well-organized and able to pay attention to detail.
An entry level veterinary technician performs routine tasks under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, but will have greater responsibility as he or she becomes more experienced. Some veterinary technicians advance to supervisory jobs.
The job outlook for veterinary technicians is excellent. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth that is much faster than the average for all occupations through 2020. The projected growth is so high, in fact, that it is on a list of occupations expected to grow faster than others that require post-secondary training or an associate degree (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Veterinary technicians and technologists earned a median annual salary of $30,140 and median hourly wages of $14.49 in 2011.
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much veterinary technicians currently earn in your city.
A Day in a Veterinary Technician's Life:
On a typical day a Veterinary Technician may:
- perform medical tests on animals, including drawing blood and preparing tissue samples
- treat and diagnose medical conditions and diseases
- record case histories
- take and develop x-rays
- provide specialized nursing care
- assist veterinarians with dental procedures
- administer medication orally or topically
- record information about a patient's food intake, weight, and clinical signs of pain or discomfort
- euthanize seriously ill or injured animals
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm (visited January 14, 2013).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/29-2056.00 (visited January 14, 2013).