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Animal Nurse: Job Description, Duties, Salary and Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an animal nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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A veterinary nurse can become qualified to practice by completing a 2- or 4-year degree program. They can work in animal clinics or laboratories, and typically focus on either small or large animals. Job growth for these professionals is expected to be faster than average in the coming decade.

Essential Information

Animal nurses - otherwise known as veterinary technicians, technologists, or assistants - work alongside veterinarians in veterinary offices, animal hospitals, and research laboratories. Veterinary technicians perform a range of duties, such as assisting with surgery, collecting laboratory samples, and maintaining records. Veterinary technicians must complete a 2-year degree program that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), while veterinary technologists train through 4-year AVMA-accredited programs. Most states call for licensing or certification for technicians and technologists, but each state's requirements vary.

Required Education Associate's degree for technicians; bachelor's degree for technologists
Other Requirements Most states require licensing or certification
Projected Job Growth 19% from 2014-2024 for veterinary technologists and technicians*
Median Salary $31,800 (2015) for veterinary technologists and technicians*

Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description for Animal Nurses

As part of the veterinary staff, animal nurses help diagnose, treat, and monitor animal patients while licensed veterinarians supervise their work. They can assist with all aspects of an animal's medical care - including dental work - and train other staff members. Most animal nurses tend to work with either small or large animals, but rarely with both. In research settings, they may conduct medical tests on animals that may lead to findings that ultimately benefit both animal and human health.

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Duties of Animal Nurses

In clinics, animal nurses collect and prepare laboratory samples, conduct intake of patients, take x-rays, and assist with laboratory tests. They care for hospitalized animals, monitoring their condition, and ensuring that they get proper nutrients and hydration. For surgeries, animal nurses set up surgical instruments, anesthetize animals, and conduct post-surgical clean up. They also keep inventory of medications and maintain records. For seriously ill animals, they may perform emergency procedures, and sometimes, euthanize them.

Animal nurses in research facilities work with veterinarians and other scientists in conducting research experiments. They typically observe laboratory animals and record vital statistics as well as test information. As in clinical settings, their job also involves the general daily care of laboratory animals.

Animal Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinary technicians and technologists had a median annual salary of $31,800 and a mean annual salary of $33,280 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Due to the increased willingness of pet owners to pay for veterinary care, the BLS estimated the job outlook for animal nurses to increase well above the average growth for all national occupations. Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS research showed an expected 19% increase in jobs for veterinary technicians and technologists. This high rate was also predicted to be due to the relatively low number of veterinary technology graduates every year.

To recap, an animal nurse can either assist a veterinarian in caring for animals in a clinic setting, or work in research facilities caring for animals and helping conduct experiments. Both positions require a degree from an AVMA-accredited program, and most states also require licensing. Jobs for veterinary technologists and technicians are expected to increase at a much faster than average rate from 2014-2024, and the average salary for these jobs was about $33,000 in 2015.

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