Veterinary technicians are currently in high demand across the United States, with rapidly improving job and compensation prospects available in every state.
Due to the rising importance of high quality veterinary care for America’s beloved companion animals, many states are currently suffering a shortage of qualified veterinary care professionals, including vet techs.
The National Picture
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2010 there were over 80,000 veterinary technicians employed across the United States.
That number is expected to increase by at least 52 percent by 2020, resulting in nearly 122,000 vet tech job openings in 2020.
However, when considering vet tech employment options, it is important to note that many currently employed vet techs will have left the field, due to retirement, career change or other causes. For that reason, there will actually be more job openings available in 2020 than those produced by the natural growth of the vet tech field.
The national median annual wage for veterinary technicians in May 2012 was over $31,000. This wage level is extremely competitive with other fields requiring a similar level of education and certification. The top 10 percent of vet techs currently earn over $44,000, although the salary level of any given vet tech will vary depending on their location, experience level and any extra training they may have.
Vet tech wages and employment patterns vary greatly depending on the state. States with small populations will employee fewer vet techs, although they may have a higher percentage of vet tech openings compared to their population. This is especially likely in rural states, where farms and ranches have led to a need for production animal veterinary care specialists.
Wages can vary dramatically, especially when the cost of living of any given state is taken into account. Individuals who are considering becoming a vet tech should be aware that the actual purchasing power of a vet tech’s salary might not reflect the dollar amount.
For example, while vet techs in New York may earn more than an Arizona vet tech, the cost of living in New York is considerably higher than it is in Arizona and so a New York vet tech will be spending a higher percentage of his or her salary on housing and other necessities.
The Five Top States for Veterinary Technician Jobs
The following states currently have the higher number of veterinary technician jobs, and are likely to see a continued expansion of employment opportunities between the present day and 2020. These employment numbers are based on the most recent BLS information and thus may not reflect the exact number of currently employed vet techs.
- California: 8,670.
- Texas: 7,730.
- Florida: 7,140.
- Pennsylvania: 3,660.
- New York: 3,630.
When considering employment as a vet tech in these states, it is important to note that local conditions may impact the demand for vet techs in any given area.
For example, the California vet tech job market is likely to see more demand for vet tech employees in urban pet clinics in the major city areas, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Rural areas in the central part of the state are likely to have a greater demand for vet techs who work in part or whole with farm animals.
The Top Five Salary Levels
Salary levels are usually controlled by the state’s cost of living the current demand for vet techs and how competitive the market is.
A state that is suffering a shortage of qualified veterinary technicians may see improved salary options as employers attempt to attract and keep skilled veterinary technicians. These median state salary levels were recorded in May 2012. For this reason, they may currently vary, although the salary increases for vet techs are currently largely to equal or greater than current inflation levels.
- Alaska: $39,380.
- Virginia: $37,330.
- Connecticut: $37,280.
- New York: $37,150.
- Delaware: $36,780.
As with employment numbers, a vet tech candidate should consider these salary levels in light of the state’s cost of living, location and the nature of its employment. Due to the somewhat harsh conditions many vet techs working in Alaska experience, the state must offer a higher salary in order to attract qualified vet techs. Conversely, while New York and Delaware are quite popular destinations, the higher cost of living in those states demands that employers offer better salaries when compared to states with a lower cost of living.
Choosing Where to Work
Although salary and employment levels are an important part of any vet tech’s decision on where to seek employment, they should not be the only factors the vet tech evaluates.
Some states may have a high salary level, but due to the nature of the employment, the cost of living or a very competitive job market, may not be an attractive choice.
Furthermore, vet techs who currently have a family or who are planning to start one must determine whether or not they would prefer to raise their family in the state, regardless of its employment opportunities. Working in a region with a superior educational system, even at the cost of a slightly lower salary, may be a wise decision for a vet tech who currently has school-aged children.
Finally, it is important to remember that every state has major internal differences. A vet tech who accepts a job in a rural part of California will operate in a radically different environment from one who works in a major city. Choosing what city or county to work in is at least as important as deciding what state to seek employment in.
Ultimately, a vet tech should make his or her decision based not only on salary and job openings, but also on what state he or she will feel most comfortable working in. Being a vet tech is not simply a job, but a career that will see the veterinary technician becoming part of his or her local community. However, by working in a high paying and high demand state, the vet tech can help ensure that he or she continues to enjoy excellent professional and personal advancement options.