What is a veterinary technician?

Veterinary technicians work in similar ways as nurses. Techs may perform laboratory tests, take blood samples, assist with dental care and perform diagnostic tests on animals with the supervision of a veterinarian. These workers may also administer vaccines and medicines, as well as weigh animals and record information on their diet and genealogy, as well as sterilize equipment and provide postoperative care. While the duties of veterinary technicians are varied, the skills they need can often be acquired during veterinary training, regardless of where they work.


What education is needed to become a veterinary technician?

Students need to earn an associate’s degree in order to become veterinary technicians. Some schools offer online degree options for technicians, but most earn their credentials in campus-based programs. Veterinary training also requires extensive knowledge of science, biology and math. For further employment opportunities, those interested in the field may want to earn a bachelor’s degree to become a veterinary technologist. Technologists perform many of the same duties as technicians, but are also able to work in research fields.

Veterinary technicians and technologists must have a degree accredited by the American Veterinary Medicine Association. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011, there are 160 different accredited programs in the U.S. In addition to a degree, all graduates must pass a credentialing assessment. Most states require the National Veterinary Technician exam.


What kinds of jobs are available for veterinary technicians and technologists?

Technicians primarily work in private clinics or animal hospitals, but can also sometimes find work in zoos, aquariums or in other fields that deal primarily with animals, such as wildlife services. Research options available to veterinary technologists may include jobs in the biomedical, wildlife, pharmaceutical and biosecurity industries.

Those who receive veterinary training work with domesticated animals like sheep, cattle, horses, mice, rats, pigs, fish, turtles, cats, dogs and other animals often kept as pets. Some technicians who work at zoos or with wildlife agencies may deal primarily with non-domesticated animals like wolves, bears, wild birds and more.
What is the average salary for veterinary technicians?

Median salaries for veterinary technicians and technologists vary depending on location and industry. According to the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics from May 2010, a total of 79,810 technicians were employed in the U.S. Of these, over 90 percent worked in private practices or animal hospitals and earned an average salary of $30,450 per year. About 630 technicians worked for the federal government, and tended to earn the highest salaries, on average. Federal veterinary technicians earned an average salary of $48,430 per year in 2010.


What do career prospects for veterinary technicians look like?

The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 shows an excellent job outlook for students pursuing veterinary training. Positions are expected to grow by 36 percent by 2018. Additionally, the BLS projects that current graduate numbers will not meet demand in the field, with an estimated 28,500 jobs opening in the next few years, and only about 4,200 graduates from associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs each year.

Despite these shortages and anticipated openings, positions at zoos and aquariums are expected to remain highly competitive, as many candidates are attracted to these positions.


What are the benefits of going into a career in veterinary medicine?

Veterinary technicians can have very rewarding careers, as their constant work with animals and pet owners can provide immense satisfaction. While on occasion technicians may have to euthanize a pet or treat dangerous animals, these circumstances may be outweighed by the pleasure of spending time with friendly pets. Many animal hospitals are open 24 hours a day, and therefore require some technicians to work night shifts, though the average full-time employee still only works 40 hours a week.


*Source Reference: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov