Veterinary Technician Job Duties, Salary and Career Info

Sep 09, 2019

A career as a veterinary technician requires little formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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A love for animals is a good start to a career as a veterinary technician. Veterinary technicians care for animals under a veterinarian's care, which can include caring for wounds, replacing bandages, and carrying out basic veterinary procedures.

Essential Information

Veterinary technicians perform patient care duties in various animal care facilities, such as the offices of veterinarians. In addition to basic medical knowledge acquired through veterinary technology education programs, veterinary technicians must have effective communication skills and enjoy working with animals.

Required Education Associate degree in veterinary technology
Licensure & Certification Requirements Vet techs must obtain state-issued credentials, which typically requires passing the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam; voluntary certifications are also available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 19% for veterinary technicians and technologists*
Median Salary (2018) $34,420 for veterinary technicians and technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of a Veterinary Technician

Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians in the care of animals. They may perform an initial evaluation of the animal's condition, clean and wrap wounds, check vital statistics, collect samples and administer medication. They also perform basic lab work, including urinalysis and blood tests, and may assist with procedures such as teeth cleaning.

They help during patient examinations and surgical procedures by restraining animals when necessary, stocking examination and surgery rooms with supplies, sterilizing tools and ensuring that equipment is in working order. Veterinary technicians also communicate with pet owners and update patient files. Veterinary technicians often work Saturdays and may be on call in some facilities 24 hours a day.

Necessary Skills

Veterinary technicians must have excellent communication skills, so that they may interact with pet owners and coworkers. They must have an understanding of animal behavior and strong clinical skills in order to properly evaluate an animal's condition and provide treatment. They must be detail-oriented and well-organized so that they may take medical histories, carry out instructions, document patient statistics and update records. It's also essential that they enjoy working with animals and have the ability to comfort, handle and restrain large and small pets.

Salary and Career Forecast

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted excellent job growth for veterinary technicians and technologists, with a projected increase in employment opportunities of 19% during the 2018-2028 decade (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that veterinary technicians and technologists earned a median annual salary of $34,420 in 2018.

Employment Opportunities

According to the BLS, 91% of veterinary technicians work in veterinary offices, clinics and other facilities that provide veterinary services. A smaller number of veterinary technicians work in animal shelters, zoos and research facilities. Many veterinary technicians get their start by taking paid internships with animal health care facilities, which are often available to recent graduates of accredited veterinary technology educational programs.

Most employers require veterinary technicians to have an associate degree in veterinary technology earned through a program that has been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Membership in professional organizations like the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) can also enhance job opportunities by providing job listings, networking opportunities through local chapters and information about continuing education (www.navta.net).

Licensing Requirements and Certification Options

Upon graduation from an AVMA-accredited educational program, veterinary technicians in all states are required to pass a credentialing exam. The BLS reported that the most common exam used by state veterinary regulatory boards is the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam.

Upon passing the exam, candidates gain the Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) designation. Specialized certification is also available to veterinary technicians who pursue advanced training in specific areas, including dentistry, cardiology and anesthesiology, earning the designation of Veterinary Technician Specialist (VTS).

Apart from a degree in veterinary technology, veterinary technicians also need to obtain credentials from the state they work in. They also need to have strong communication skills, be well organized, and have a passion for helping animals. Most veterinary technicians work in veterinary clinics or offices, although some find work at animal shelters and zoos.

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