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Animal Science: Overview for Becoming an Animal Health Technician

Animal health technicians require some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification requirements to see if this career is right for you.

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In order to work as an animal health technician you'll need an associate's degree in a relevant field. You'll also need to hold certification, licensure and/or registration depending upon the state in which you are employed. Finally you'll need extensive on-the-job training.

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Essential Information

Animal health technicians are responsible for assisting veterinarians with animal health care procedures, standard animal care activities and providing diagnostic services. Getting into this field typically requires an associate's degree in animal science. Additionally, hands-on training and certification or licensure are typical, depending on the state.

Required Education Associate's degree
Additional Requirements Certification, licensure or registration may be required depending upon state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 19% for veterinary technicians and technologists
Median Salary (2015)* $31,800 for veterinary technicians and technologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Attain a Degree to Become an Animal Health Technician

Animal health technicians, often referred to as veterinary technicians, work in the animal science field. They generally focus on animal health care, reproduction and research issues. An associate's degree is typically required, while a bachelor's degree is needed to work as a veterinary technologist. Some schools offer certificate programs for individuals who already possess an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in another field.

These degree programs may allow students to focus on an area of study such as radiology, companion animal medicine, equine medicine or veterinary hospital management. Courses vary by concentration, but topics may include hospital procedures, pharmacology, small animal care, veterinary medical terminology, parasitology, veterinary surgical procedures and large animal diseases.

Step 2: Get On-The-Job Training

Veterinary students may obtain on-the-job training through volunteer work with veterinarians and animals specialists. Some schools offer distance learning courses that allow students to complete courses online and complete internships in veterinary clinics or hospitals. On-the-job training allows individuals to demonstrate their understanding, interest and passion in working with animals.

Step 3: Certification for Animal Health Technicians

Many states require graduates of an animal health technician program to pass a state exam before they are allowed to work. Requirements vary by state and graduates may be become licensed, registered or certified. Graduates typically obtain certification in their area of specialty. For example, graduates interested in research may need to obtain a certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. The National Veterinary Technician examination, which is used in several states, requires students to pass a written, oral and practical skills test.

Step 4: Employment Outlook for Animal Health Technicians

Individuals trained and educated in animal sciences may pursue careers in animal industries, laboratory animal science and pre-veterinary medicine and research. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for veterinary technicians are expected to increase 19% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This growth is attributed to an increase in pet ownership and the desire by owners to provide better medical care to their pets. The median annual earnings for veterinary technicians and technologists was $31,800 in May, 2015, according to the BLS.

With a combination of an associate's degree, state certification or licensure, and on-the-job-training, you'll be well on your way to becoming an animal health technician. In addition, it helps to be a true animal lover and to have excellent communications skills.

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