What is a Veterinary Technician or Technologist?

A veterinary technician, or “vet tech” for short, assists a veterinarian in providing medical care to animals. Vet techs perform a wide variety of duties in a veterinary office, from holding the animal patient still, helping with shots, tests, and procedures, as well as cleaning and prepping exam rooms between animal patients.

Vet techs may also assist

with taking x-rays, administering anesthesia, or prepping animals for surgery, collecting case history on each animal, and administering vaccines or medications, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

As such, vet techs are vital members of a the veterinarian’s practice, as they help provide proper care and treatment of all the animals in every aspect.

There are two types of vet techs.

A veterinary technologist has a four-year degree in veterinary technology or a related discipline, while a veterinary technician has a two-year associate’s degree in animal science or veterinary technology. Both types of vet techs often work in office-based veterinary practices, but due to their more in-depth education, veterinary technologists may also hold more advanced careers in research, academics, zoology, and more.

Most vet techs are generalists, working with a variety of household pets, most commonly seen in an average veterinary office-based practice. However, some

vet techs may instead work in farm or zoo settings and help treat larger or more exotic animals. Additionally, vet techs can specialize in a particular area of veterinary medicine, such as veterinary dentistry, emergency care, anesthesiology, or zoology.

Education and Degree Requirements for Vet Techs

Whether you become a technician (two year associate’s degree) or a technologist (four year degree), a certification exam is required to work as a vet tech.

Additionally, for those interested in working in a research facility, certification is also required by the American Association for Animal Laboratory Science.

Skill Requirements

Vet techs benefit from a variety of skills, including attention to detail, communication skills, problem-solving skills, and, like other health professionals, compassion is paramount. Also, manual dexterity and physical strength is important for handling the animals.

Work Environment

Vet techs can work in veterinary offices, laboratories, shelters, or animal hospitals.

Since facilities have to be staffed 24 hours a day to provide around the clock care for the animals, many vet techs will work weekends, nights, and extended hours.

Additionally, vet techs must be prepared to work in a physically demanding environment, and handle potentially aggressive animals which may bite, scratch, or kick, etc. 

Job Outlook

There are currently about 84,000 vet techs working in the United States. The field is expected to grow by thirty percent through 2022, according to the BLS. This growth rate is considered “much faster than average”, and equates to about 25,000 new jobs. 

Average Compensation for Vet Techs

The median (mid-point) annual salary for vet techs, according to the BLS is $30,290, as of 2012, which is the most recent data available.

Additionally, the top ten percent of earners were paid over $44,000. 

Vet techs in academic settings, such as university research or colleges earned slightly higher than the average.

Related Careers:

If you are interested in veterinary medicine, you may also want to consider a career as a veterinarian, or a veterinary assistant.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, 
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm 

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