Working with animals and people, veterinary technicians perform essential services in animal care facilities and research institutions of all types.
Vet Tech Career Profile and Job Responsibilities
The duties of a veterinary technician include client and patient interaction, cleaning and sanitizing equipment as well as performing advanced diagnostic procedures and administering medications under the supervision of licensed veterinarians. Veterinary technicians may also be responsible for taking and exposing x-rays, analyzing blood tests and performing diagnostic exams. In addition to maintaining a calm, professional demeanor during physically and emotionally-demanding situations, it’s important for veterinary technicians to be familiar with the detailed-oriented skills required by workers in clinical and laboratory settings.
Veterinary Technician Training Completion Time
Before entering the workplace, all veterinary technicians receive two years of specialized training, which includes a strong focus on clinical techniques and laboratory work. Students who have background in math, science, biology, and laboratory coursework have a competitive advantage when applying for associate’s degree programs. There are approximately 160 veterinary technology programs offered through community colleges and distance learning programs that include curriculum approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Students are traditionally required to perform hands-on work with an approved clinic or research facility before graduation.
The Veterinary Technician Workplace
New graduates and undergraduates enter the workplace as veterinary technician trainees working under the direct supervision of managers and veterinarians. As veterinary technicians gain on-the-job experience, they perform a larger number of tasks without direct oversight. Veterinary technicians gather patient information from clients, assist in holding and carrying animals, and performing diagnostic tests. Whether veterinary technicians are working in a veterinary office, animal shelter, zoo or boarding facility, job duties will typically include sanitizing equipment, tools and cages as well as administering medications and working directly with animals. In any medical environment, it’s important for veterinary technicians to be team members who work together with the veterinarian, client, patient and office personnel to accurately relay and communicate information. Senior technicians may advance to supervisor of team leader positions who are responsible for a variety of services or workers.
Vet Technician Salary Data
Veterinary technicians in entry-level positions typically earn $20,000 annually with a median income of $28,000 for technicians with some seniority. According to government data from surveys performed by the Occupational Employment Statistics program, veterinary technicians in the middle 50% earned between $23,580 and $34,960 per year while top-earning veterinary technicians brought home a little more than $41,000 in 2008. Veterinary technicians in the up-and-coming fields of cloning, gene therapy and biomedical research earn more the national average, but there can be strong competition for the limited number of job openings in these fields. A small number of veterinary technicians are also employed by food manufacturing and inspection facilities, biosecurity and disaster preparedness agencies, pharmaceutical marking groups, wildlife organizations and other industries that require specialized laboratory skills.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Opportunities for Veterinary Technicians
According to employment estimates established by earnings data and government surveys, veterinary technicians and technologists held approximately 80,000 jobs in 2008 with 91% working for veterinarians providing services directly to the public. The remaining 9% are employed by shelters, rescue organizations, kennels, zoos, aquariums and research laboratories in the public and private sectors. Although the number of veterinary technology programs is growing, there are not enough students graduating from these small classes to satisfy the demand, which is growing much faster than average. Government projections estimate the need for veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to expand by 36% due to the increasing importance of pet healthcare and the emerging biomedical research industry.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Veterinary Technician Certification
To legally work as a veterinary technician, graduates must complete a standard certification test known as the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam. Once graduates have finalized their training with an NVT certification, the scores can be transferred to all states where the NVT is valid. Graduates seeking employment in the biomedical or research industries can complete their qualifications by enrolling in the employer-recommended certification program sponsored by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). Before working in the research industry, technicians are urged to complete all three levels of AALAS certification, which include facility management, animal husbandry and health and welfare classes specifically designed for laboratory animals.
Becoming a Veterinary Technician
Successful veterinary technicians are animal lovers at heart who also enjoy the challenge of encountering new situations minute by minute. After enrolling in a veterinary technician course and completing on-site training, Alyssa Galligan was able to land a job as the head veterinary technician of the emergency and critical care units at one of the most prestigious veterinary university teaching hospitals in the country. Today, Galligan oversees 13 veterinary technicians on daily basis comparing her job to being a receptionist, grief counselor and dental hygienist all in one day. Veterinary technicians require detail-oriented, team-friendly personalities combined with analytic skills from the quantitative worlds of math and science. Animal lovers of any age can enroll in a veterinary technology program to learn the medical skills and life-saving procedures needed to become a veterinary technician or enter a profession in the cutting-edge biomedical research industry.