All About Veterinary Technician Careers

Do you love animals and would like to make a career out of working with them? Do you want to begin working within just a couple of years?

If so, training to become a veterinary technician may be the perfect choice! Careers in veterinary technology are quite popular today, and the best thing about them is that you can train for a job in the field within just two short years.

Employment Outlook

If you choose to become a veterinary technician, you will have a vast array of employment opportunities available to you upon completion of your training. While most vet techs are employed by animal clinics or hospitals, you can choose among many other settings as well. Some of the other places where veterinary technicians can be found working are listed below.

  • Animal Shelters and Humane Societies
  • Boarding Kennels
  • Aquariums and Zoos
  • Research Facilities and Pharmaceutical Companies
  • Wildlife Sanctuaries

With so many great opportunities for trained veterinary technicians, the U.S. Labor Statistics Bureau expects that the demand for these professionals will remain high for many years. In fact, the bureau has stated that there will likely be a 52 percent growth rate in the field until the year 2020.

The main reason for this expected growth is due to the fact that there seems to be fewer graduates of vet tech programs than is needed to fill the demands for the field. Another reason is that there is a great need for trained technicians to replace those who have decided to further their education and move on to higher-paying occupations.

Average Salary

The salary you will earn as a veterinary technician may vary depending on various factors such as your work experience, employer, education, location, specialty and qualifications. Of course, technicians that possess more education and qualifications will earn more than those who only have minimal training and education. However, the overall national average salary for vet techs is about $31,000 per year as of December, 2013.

Your work environment and the state you choose to work within are two significant factors that will determine your vet tech salary. For example, technicians who choose to work in research facilities often earn more than those who work in clinics or hospitals. Additionally, vet techs in Alaska earn more than those in North Dakota. Nevertheless, listed below, you will find the highest-paying employers and states for vet techs as of 2013.

Highest-Paying Employers

  • Colleges and Universities – $42,980 Per Year
  • Government Agencies – $42,200 Per Year
  • Specialty Practices – $39,810 Per Year
  • Food Animal Practices – $39,800 Per Year
  • Emergency Practices – $38,860 Per Year

Highest-Paying States

  • Alaska – $39,380 Per Year
  • Virginia – $37,330 Per Year
  • Connecticut – $37,280 Per Year
  • New York – $37,150 Per Year
  • Delaware – $36,780 Per Year

Common Duties

The tasks you will be responsible for as a veterinary technician depends primarily on where you choose to work and whether or not you have chosen a specialty. However, since about 90 percent of all vet techs in the U.S. choose to work in animal clinics or hospitals, listed below, you will find the most common duties of professionals who are employed in one of these settings.

  • Greeting Clients and Answering Phones
  • Taking Payments and Scheduling Appointments
  • Grooming Pets and Clipping Their Nails
  • Caring for Pets After Treatments and/or Surgery
  • Administering Vaccinations and Medications
  • Cleaning Kennels and Examination Rooms
  • Providing Emergency First Aid
  • Conducting Blood Tests, Fecal Exams and Urinalysis
  • Sterilizing Veterinary Equipment
  • Cleaning Teeth
  • Administering Anesthesia
  • Performing X-rays
  • Prepping Pets for Surgery and Assisting During Surgery
  • Assisting During Examinations
  • Taking Pets’ Vital Signs and Restraining Pets When Necessary

Obtaining a Degree/Certification

The first step to beginning your veterinary technician career is locating a college or university that offers approved vet tech training. Check with your state’s veterinary board to ensure that the program you choose is approved for licensing. You will also need to complete any prerequisite courses that your school of choice requires. This will typically involve a general education curriculum that includes such courses as those listed below.

  • Humanities or Fine Arts
  • Sociology/Behavioral Science
  • English Composition
  • College-Level Math or College Algebra
  • Computer Skills
  • Oral and Written Communications
  • College Study Skills

After you complete your general education curriculum, you will be able to begin your veterinary technician program. The length of your program will vary depending on whether you choose to work towards a certificate, associate degree or bachelor degree in veterinary technology. When choosing a program, be sure to check with your state’s licensing requirements as some states have minimum training requirements.

However, keep in mind that the more education you have, the more job opportunities you will have upon graduation. No matter what program you choose, you will need to participate in a variety of classroom lectures, laboratories, clinics and an internship that will fully prepare you for a career as a veterinary technician. Some of the courses you will need to take during your vet tech program are as follows.

  • Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology
  • Veterinary Medical Terminology
  • General Organic and Biochemistry
  • Veterinary Parasitology
  • Veterinary Diseases
  • Veterinary Office Practices
  • Veterinary Lab Techniques
  • Veterinary Clinical Practices
  • Animal Nutrition
  • Small and Large Animal Practices
  • Veterinary Pharmacology
  • Safety in the Workplace
  • Veterinary Radiography

The Veterinary Technician National Exam

After you complete your veterinary technician training, you will need to take and pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam before you can begin working as a vet tech. This test is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards at various locations and on several dates during the year.

If you want to locate a testing site near you, you can visit the board’s website and click on their testing locations option. This option will help you find all of the testing sites and dates that are available in your immediate location. As of 2013, it costs $300 to take the exam, which you must pay at the time you submit your examination application.

You must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam with at least 70 percent for you to be eligible for a veterinary technician license. This is a computer-based test, and you can download a practice exam from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards’ website. You can find all of the current testing requirements on the site as well.

State-Level Requirements

Before you can begin working as a veterinary technician, you will need to obtain a license from the state where you will be working. Licensing requirements vary slightly from state to state; however, you can easily find out what your state requires by visiting the American Association of Veterinary State Board’s website and locating the contact information for your state’s veterinary board.

While all states require you to have completed some form of approved veterinary technician training, as stated above, the length of training they require may vary. For example, whereas some states require vet techs to possess at least an associate degree, there are a few that allow their technicians to work with just a certificate or diploma. Other common state requirements for vet tech licensing are listed below.

  • Successful Completion of the Veterinary Technician National Exam
  • Submission of a Licensing Application and Payment of Current Fee
  • Proof Of Approved Vet Tech Training and Official Transcripts
  • Criminal Background Check (Some States)
  • Recent Passport-Sized Photo (Some States)
  • Notarized Letters of Recommendation (A Few States)

Job Experience and Internships

If you want to become a veterinary technician, an internship can play an essential role in helping you obtain employment. In fact, participating in an internship is perhaps the most important part of your veterinary technician training as it will allow you to work in a real-life veterinary medicine environment.

Job experience can also be quite valuable when training for a veterinary technician career and seeking employment in the field. This can include such jobs as working for pet shops, boarding kennels or grooming shops. If you cannot find relevant paid employment, volunteering at a local animal shelter or humane society can help you gain useful job experience as well.

While many veterinary technician programs do not require you to complete an internship, it is always a smart idea to complete one for the valuable experience that it offers you. Although your vet tech program will teach you how to care for animals in a medical setting, an internship will show you exactly what these careers are like on a day-to-day basis.

Advancement Options/Specializations

Just as with any other medical field, the field of veterinary technology offers many different specialties that you can choose among if you wish to advance in your career. Vet techs who choose to specialize are known as veterinary technician specialists. If you choose to specialize in one of the following top specializations, you will need to participate in additional training to earn your specialty credentials.

  • Veterinary Technician Anesthetist
  • Veterinary Surgical Assistant Technician
  • Veterinary Technician Specializing in Internal Medicine
  • Veterinary Dental Technician
  • Veterinary Technician Specializing in Critical Care and Emergencies
  • Veterinary Technician Behaviorist
  • Zoological Veterinary Technician
  • Large Animal Veterinary Technician
  • Small Animal Practice Veterinary Technician
  • Veterinary Technician Specializing in Nutrition

There are many veterinary technicians who choose to become veterinarians later in their careers. However, it is unfortunate that many of the credits earned during vet tech training are not transferable to veterinary medicine programs. Nevertheless, a few of them can be transferred, and it is definitely possible for you to become a veterinarian if you are a vet tech.

If you do decide that you would like to advance in your career and train to become a veterinarian, you will need to undergo many more years of intense instruction, clinical work and a required internship. Additionally, the admission requirements to veterinary medicine schools are often quite strict. With that said, you will want to maintain a high GPA and perfect attendance record at all times.

Veterinary Technician Versus Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary technicians are known by a variety of names including veterinary technician specialists, veterinary technologists, animal health technicians and animal health technologists. However, veterinary technicians should never be confused with veterinary assistants. These are definitely two very different careers.

First of all, veterinary assistants typically do not require formal education and training. Most of them obtain their training on-the-job. As such, they are not able to perform many of the tasks that veterinary technicians can perform such as laboratory work, administering vaccinations or cleaning wounds.

In most cases, the tasks that veterinary assistants can perform include answering phones, scheduling appointments, greeting customers, taking payments and filing paperwork. They may also be responsible for cleaning kennels and examination rooms. Depending on their experience, some vet assistants may be allowed to clip nails and groom pets as well.

Begin Your Veterinary Technician Career Today!

Are you looking for a career that will offer you the opportunity to help animals? Do you want to begin working within just a couple of years? If so, a career in veterinary technology may be a perfect fit for you. These careers are in high demand today, and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the field will continue to grow by as much as 52 percent for the next several years.

Veterinary technicians play essential roles in the operations of veterinary clinics and hospitals all across the United States. Just as with any other healthcare career, you must participate in intensive training and hands-on clinical work to become a vet tech. If this sounds great to you, the information described above can help you begin a career in this lucrative field.