If you’ve always wanted to work with animals, there hasn’t been a better time to become a veterinary technician, often shortened to vet tech. Not only does the job market look incredibly strong for this profession, with the number of jobs estimated to grow by over 50 percent by the end of the decade, but it is also easy to earn your veterinarian technician degree.
A veterinarian technician degree is a good substitute for people who would like to work with animals but who do not have the time or finances to consider getting a veterinarian doctorate.
Unlike with many other jobs, a veterinarian technician only needs a two-year degree, which means that someone can earn their degree and get two years of job experience before several other people finish earning a four-year degree. A few years of earning a vet tech salary can put additional money in the bank while you do something that you love and have always wanted to do.
What Does a Veterinary Technician Do?
A veterinary technician assists veterinarians in a variety of ways.
Veterinary technicians are expected to perform and complete several tasks, including:
- providing immediate emergency care to wounded animals.
- explaining treatments and medications that are prescribed by a veterinarian.
- diagnosing the condition of animals based on their behavior.
- preparing for surgeries and administering anesthesia to animals.
Veterinary technicians are also responsible for a significant portion of lab work. Vet techs take x-rays, collect fluid samples and perform the required tests on the samples. In many ways, a veterinary technician is like a nurse for human doctors.
While most veterinarian technicians work in animal clinics, animal hospitals and veterinarian laboratories, there are some veterinarian technicians who work in the field of veterinarian medical research. In these cases, a veterinarian technician will make sure that the test animals are treated with care and respect, and the veterinary technicians will also administer care to the animals as it is needed.
Because most vet technicians work with animal practitioners who specialize in small animals, a vet technician will usually be dealing with dogs and cats. However, vet technicians should also be trained for and prepared to deal with mice, birds, horses, sheep, rats, cattle and other assorted farm animals.
Veterinarian technicians work in a demanding environment, both physically and emotionally. Vet technicians will potentially have to deal with abused animals, and they may also have to help euthanize animals for a variety of reasons.
Veterinarian technicians also experience on-the-job injuries at a much higher rate than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor. Animals that are startled, scared or are simply aggressive can kick, scratch and bite vet technicians.
These injuries can occur at just about any time that a vet technician is holding or otherwise restraining an animal, which can include when an animal is being cleaned, being examined or being medicated.
Some animal clinics and laboratories aren’t unlike their human counterparts in that they have to be staffed around the clock. Some veterinarian technicians will have to work late hours, on weekends or even on certain holidays.
On the other hand, dealing with animals on a regular basis can be comforting and can be quite rewarding.
To be especially skilled at their jobs, veterinarian technicians should exhibit the following skills:
- attention to detail
- a certain level of dexterity
Doctors and medical assistants of all varieties, including ones who take care of animals, have to exhibit a high level of compassion.
Not only must animals be treated with care and kindness, but veterinarians and veterinarian technicians also need to be sensitive to the emotional needs of the owners of ill or injured pets.
Additionally, veterinarian technicians need to be able to communicate well. Not only do vet technicians need to be in constant contact with members of their own office, but vet technicians also spend a lot of time counseling pet owners on proper treatment, animal behavior and animal hygiene.
Veterinarian technicians must also be able to have a steady hand and be able to pay attention to detail. A successful diagnosis depends in part on a veterinarian’s ability to accurately record information and monitor behavior. It’s also important to have steady hands, especially when administering certain types of care, to ensure that the animal doesn’t needlessly suffer. Other tasks, like giving anesthesia, handling lab equipment or taking x-rays can also require dexterity.
Veterinarian Technician Schools and Degrees
Veterinarian technicians typically hold a two-year degree from an educational institution or a vet technician educational program. A veterinarian technician degree qualifies a person to work with a licensed veterinarian in an animal medical practice.
A veterinarian technician with this degree will perform a majority of the jobs that have been outlined in the previous section, including immediate animal care and lab work. Veterinarian technicians will also frequently deal with animal owners and will need to explain what an animal’s condition is, how to care for an animal and how to properly administer medication to the animal.
There are close to two hundred veterinarian technician programs that are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association and that can confer upon a successful student a two-year veterinarian technician degree. In addition to a veterinarian technician degree, many states require a potential veterinarian technician to become certified or credentialed before they can practice.
In most states, this is accomplished through the Veterinarian Technician National Examination. Some vet tech schools require their students to take the test and become accredited as part of the coursework of the program. Vet tech schools that do not make taking the test mandatory in order to be eligible for graduation will still have several resources to help their students prepare for the examination.
Veterinarian technicians who wish to be employed in a research laboratory can obtain additional certification by taking the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) examination. While most laboratories and employers do not consider AALAS certification to be a requisite for employment, it does make a candidate more attractive and can lead to pay bonuses.
In addition to all of the brick-and-mortar educational institutions that offer veterinarian technician programs, there are also several online vet tech programs, and there are a handful of colleges that offer distance learning vet tech programs.
Vet Tech Jobs And Career Prospects
- Most veterinarian technician jobs are focused within the veterinarian services sector.
- These jobs are typically located in animal clinics, animal hospitals and veterinarian laboratories.
- Many of these jobs can also be located within private clinics, animal shelters, animal rescue organizations, zoos and boarding kennels.
- The Bureau of Labor suggests that 91 percent of all vet technicians work in these types of jobs and environments.
- Other veterinarian technician jobs can be found in the fields of disaster and emergency response services, food safety and biomedical research.
As of 2010, there are 80,200 people who are being employed as veterinarian technicians, according to the Bureau of Labor. The Bureau of Labor also projects that, over the next 10 years, the job market for veterinarian technicians will grow 52 percent, which is much higher than the national average of 14 percent.
Ultimately, this growth will result in 41,700 jobs being created in the next 10 years.
A licensed and accredited veterinarian technician will potentially be able to find employment quickly in urban, suburban and rural settings across the nation. Veterinarian technicians who have obtained specialized accreditation will be even more in demand and should be able to secure higher salaries.
In fact, the job market for veterinarian technicians is so strong that the number of open positions is expected to outpace the number of veterinarian technician graduates for the next several years.
The median pay for veterinarian technicians as of 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor, is about $29,710. This translates to about $14.28 per hour. Veterinarian technicians who have specialized certification, however, have the potential to earn annual salaries of $38,000 to $48,000, depending on their specialization.
Furthermore, veterinarian technicians who work strictly in laboratory settings as a researcher tend to make more than their counterparts do. Veterinarian technicians employed by educational research laboratories, including university laboratories, have a median pay rate of about $36,000 per year.
Vet Tech Specialties
Although all veterinarian technicians will be educated in all of these fields and might be expected to perform all of these services, students can still earn credentials in these fields to become more marketable to potential employers. Many of these specialties, once certification has been earned, can also translate into a boost in yearly salary.
What are you Waiting for?
For further information about how to become a veterinarian technician, including info on specific schools and programs, please consult other articles on our website. And remember, it’s never too late to change your career path and do something that you’ve always wanted to do. Earning a degree and becoming a veterinary technician can be done in as little as two years, and it can also put you in a place of safe employment for years to come.
Vet Tech Training Requirements And Programs By State
View schools in each state and what is required in that state to become a vet tech.