Becoming an Alaska Veterinary Technician
As a state with a vibrant combination of urban regions and large rural and wilderness areas, Alaska possesses a growing veterinary care sector, both for pets and for various types of production and working animals.
Due to this, the need for skilled veterinary technicians continues to be an important factor in the state.
What is a Vet Tech?
A vet tech assists the veterinarian in providing high quality veterinary care for animals. In many respects, a vet tech’s duties are much like those provided by registered nurses. The common duties of a vet tech include the following:
- Vet techs often conduct the initial exam, obtaining the baseline information that the veterinarian will need to treat the animal.
- In emergency situations, a vet tech will provide first aid in order to stabilize severely injured or ill animals until the veterinarian can attend them.
- In some cases, a vet tech may work as a surgical assistant, helping the veterinarian before, during and after the surgical procedure.
- Vet techs can administer drugs that have been prescribed by the vet. In many cases they will also instruct pet owners in how to administer drugs that have been sent home with their animal.
- Many vet techs work with the vet in taking and testing various samples in order to create a clear picture of the animal’s condition.
- There are a number of vet tech specialties, including clinical pathology, internal medicine and behavioral medicine that can offer improved career and salary options.
Finally, a vet tech must have a very strong work ethic, be able to effectively communicate with the public and his or her coworkers alike, and have a firm grasp of the theory and practice of veterinary medicine. A vet tech must also be able to reassure animal owners that his or her skills are adequate to provide the needed care for their pet.
Becoming a Vet Tech in Alaska
Like many states, Alaska requires that vet techs be licensed by the state before they can practice. This licensing certifies that the vet tech has met the professional qualifications that Alaska has established for this field.
The requirements include the following:
- Completing a veterinary technology program at an accredited school.
- Alternately, the completion of at least two years of on-the-job training can be substituted for the vet tech program.
- Passing the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
- Three letters of recommendation.
Completing a Veterinary Technology Program
Accredited veterinary technology programs have been evaluated and accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This national body ensures that approved programs can effectively prepare their students for the duties and responsibilities of the vet tech.
Most vet tech programs last approximately two years for full-time students. However, many programs offer part-time programs, including evening and weekend classes for those students who are currently employed or otherwise unable to attend school full-time. Finally, and especially important for a largely rural state such as Alaska, some vet tech programs offer distance learning and online courses, allowing the student to take a majority of his or her courses at home.
Alaska also permits the use of on-the-job training in place of a formal program of study. This requires that the candidate have worked under a licensed veterinarian for at least two years. This vet must then fill out and send in forms attesting to the candidate’s skills in order for the work experience to count for purposes of licensure.
All vet tech candidates must take and pass the VTNE. This test is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB), and is continually updated by veterinarians and other professionals to ensure that it reflects the current status of the field of veterinary medicine. Passing the VTNE proves that the candidate has mastered the academic and practical skills required to effectively work as a veterinary technician.
The minimum passing score on the VTNE is no less than 425. While it is possible to retake the VTNE, the AAVSB reserves the right to restrict the number of times an individual can retake the VTNE, so it is important that any candidate pass the test the first time he or she takes it.
Finally, the state also requires that the candidate provide three letters of recommendation. These letters must be notarized, and at least two of them must be from licensed doctors of veterinary medicine. Any candidate should be certain to contact his or her references well before the deadline to ensure that these letters will be available on time.
The Benefits of Becoming a Vet Tech
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently projects above average growth for the field of veterinary technology through the year 2020. In addition, the annual median wage for Alaska vet techs is currently over $38,000. This is well above the national median of just over $29,000. Finally, Alaska’s mixture of urban, rural and wilderness areas have created a wide variety of potential employers for qualified vet techs.
Vet techs in Alaska enjoy high levels of compensation, in addition to being part of a vibrant and growing professional field. Furthermore, due to their role in caring for livestock and pets alike, they are well respected by their fellow veterinary professionals and the public alike. As such, the field of veterinary technology is a very promising field for those seeking a financially and personally rewarding career.
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