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CAREERS

VETERINARY TECHNICIAN

Learn more about how veterinary technician schools can prepare you for a new career.

Veterinary Technician

If you're interested in becoming a veterinary technician, you probably already know this occupation involves working with animals. However, not everyone knows exactly what that entails.

What does a veterinary technician do?

A veterinary technician career could have you doing all the following:

  • Providing emergency or first aid care to injured or ill animals.
  • Collecting and recording information about an animal's health history.
  • Preparing animals for exams, surgical procedures and grooming.
  • Administering medications, vaccines and treatments as directed by a veterinarian.

The type of work a veterinary technician does can depend on where they are employed. For instance, here are some common work settings for professionals in the field.

  • Private clinics and animal hospitals employ veterinary technicians to provide nursing care, laboratory testing and additional services for pets and other animals.
  • Humane societies and animal shelters use technicians to evaluate incoming animals, provide medical treatment and prepare pets for new homes.
  • Zoos and wildlife centers may hire technicians to care for animals or assist with rehabilitation services.
  • Biomedical research facilities rely on veterinary technicians to ensure animals used for research purposes receive humane and appropriate care.

How to become a veterinary technician

Ready to learn how to become a vet tech? It starts by getting the right education and then meeting your state's licensure requirements. Here's a look at the steps that are usually involved:

  1. Earn a veterinary technician degree.To become licensed in many states, workers need to meet veterinary technician degree requirements. In most cases, that means graduating from a two-year degree program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
  2. Become licensed. Once you've earned your veterinary technician degree, you have to pass an exam to become licensed in most parts of the country. Most states require applicants pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) which is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.
  3. Consider a specialty certification. Although not required, some veterinary technicians become certified in a specialized field. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes more than a dozen professional academies that offer credentialing to veterinary techs. They cover specialties such as animal behavior, dental care and zoological medicine.
  4. Take continuing education courses: To maintain state licensure, vet techs may be required to earn continuing education credits. These credits may be earned through in-person training or online courses offered at veterinary technician schools.

Skills and abilities needed for a veterinary technician career

Veterinary technician classes prepare students to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam, but you'll need more than book knowledge to be successful in this field. You'll also need the following skills and abilities:

Skills

  • Active Listening: Veterinary technicians who work in private clinics often complete intake evaluations of animals. They must be able to listen carefully to pet owners and ask appropriate questions in order to understand the reason for the visit.
  • Service Orientation: Just like medical professionals who work with human patients, veterinary technicians need to have a heart for service. That means looking for ways to improve the care provided to animals and their owners.
  • Judgement and Decision-Making: Whether providing emergency or routine care, veterinary technicians need to be able to quickly evaluate an animal's condition and take the appropriate action.

Abilities

  • Oral Expression: It may fall to veterinary technicians to follow-up with owners to relay instructions from veterinarians, and oral expression is the ability to share information so it can be easily understood.
  • Auditory Attention: Measuring vital signs is a typical duty of technicians, and they must be able to listen to relatively quiet sounds, such as an animal's heartbeat, even in a distracting environment.
  • Manual Dexterity: A veterinary technician needs to have manual dexterity to restrain animals during exams, administer medication and perform other hands-on duties.

Career outlook and salary for vet techs

Most jobs in the health care industry are expected to be in demand in the coming years. However, keep in mind pay might vary by things like location, education level completed, and experience. Here's an idea of the job growth and salary vet techs might expect in the coming years:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean WageProjected Job Growth Rate
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians106,680$35,56019.9%
2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Professional organizations for vet techs

Founded in 1981, NAVTA works to strengthen vet tech professions and advocate for workers in the field.
While this organization is the professional group for veterinarians, it also accredits veterinary technology programs.
The AAHA was founded in 1933 and is the only group that accredits companion veterinary hospitals.

Don't overlook veterinarians if you want a hot career in health care. They may not treat humans, but they are in demand all the same.

Sometimes called ultrasound technicians or diagnostic sonographers, these professionals take internal images of patients that are used by physicians to diagnose and treat medical conditions. Learn more about sonographer careers below.

Sources
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Accessed March 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm
  • Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, O*Net OnLine, Accessed March 2019, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2056.00
  • Specialty Information, National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, Accessed March 2019, https://www.navta.net/page/SpecialtyInformation