You’ll find most veterinary technicians working in a private clinical practice, doing the same job a nurse would for a doctor. Duties vary by employer, however many of the tasks are similar to a veterinary technologist’s. A veterinary technician is similar to a veterinary technologist, but the two jobs are different in many ways, even though both are trained to assist veterinarians.
A veterinary technician works directly under the supervision of an experienced and well trained veterinarian during all aspects of the job. The veterinarian relies heavily on the veterinary technician to facilitate and execute procedures prescribed by him or her when necessary. Veterinary technicians are a crucial part of the veterinary team, but their main responsibility isn’t just to the team, as it also includes providing high quality, humane care to animals during all stages of their life.
Veterinary Technician Education
Veterinary technicians need to have credentials. To gain these, they must attend a two-year AVMA or CVMA accredited school. If a student wishes to go further, they can attend a four-year AVMA or CVMA accredited school and be awarded a bachelor’s degree. By earning a bachelor’s degree, vet techs are considered veterinary technologists and have the option to work in a more advanced research-related job.
The 2-year program earns a veterinary technician an associate degree. This can be obtained from an AVMA accredited community college program, at a university or at a vocational school, as long as it’s AVMA accredited. Graduating from an AVMA accredited program allows you to take the credentialing exam in any state. All states require a vet tech to take and pass a state credentialing examination, as passing assures the public that the technician has gained sufficient knowledge to work in a clinic or hospital. The test usually consists of oral, written and practical portions that are regulated by the State Board of Veterinary Examiners or the appropriate state agency. Some states allow candidates to become registered, licensed or certified and most states, excluding California in particular, utilize the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). It’s extremely important that you check with your State’s regulations and licensing requirements before beginning school.
As a vet tech gains knowledge and experience, they will be able to take on more responsibility and carry out assignments without the supervision of a veterinarian. Plus, it’s possible for them to become supervisors too.
Veterinary Technician Duties
Depending on where they work (private clinic, laboratory, research facility, pharmaceutical sales, etc.) there are many duties a veterinary technician must handle throughout the course of his or her day. Besides assisting the veterinarian with what they’re doing, a vet tech (as they’re commonly called) may also have to:
- Perform medical tests
- Perform laboratory tests such as urinalysis and blood counts
- Assist with dental care
- Prepare tissue samples
- Take blood samples
- Record patient’s case history
- Expose and develop X-rays and radiographs
- Knowledge of the medical equipment
- Administer inoculations
- Prepare and restrain animals during procedures
- Advise pet owners of proper care
- Provide specialized nursing care
- Discuss pet conditions with owners
- Train new clinic personnel
- Care for all types of animals
- Administer medications
- Sterilize laboratory and surgical equipment
- Provide routine post-operative care
- Assist in euthanizing seriously ill, severely injured or unwanted animals
It is important to know that as a veterinary technician, you do not diagnose conditions or diseases under any circumstances. Only veterinarians have the ability to diagnose a sick animal. The main goal of the veterinary technician is to assist the veterinarian by carrying out the veterinarian’s orders, while providing humane, quality care to animals and their owners.
Veterinary Technician Employment
Not all veterinary technicians work under the supervision of a veterinarian, nor do all of them end up working with pets. Other career options for veterinary technicians include:
- Animal Control
- Humane Societies
- Marine Parks
- Wildlife Refuges
- Food Industry
- Biomedical Facilities
- Animal Shelters
There are many diverse opportunities in the field of veterinary medicine that are in need of skilled professionals. The locations listed below are just some of the other places a veterinary technician who has special skills is needed:
- Animal hospitals
- Colleges and universities
- Emergency clinics
- Drug and feed manufacturing companies
- Food safety inspection
- Spay and neuter clinics
- Military service
- Boarding kennels
Salary for Veterinary Technicians
Plus, keep in mind that your field of work greatly influences your salary and benefits. If you work in private practice, you may not make as much annually if you were working in a laboratory or if you were doing a research job. However, the median salary for veterinary technicians was $28,900 in 2008. The bottom 10% earned less than $20,000 annually, while the top 10% earned more than $41,000. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, career opportunities in this field are expected to increase by more than 36% by 2012. In some regions, experienced veterinary technicians can earn up to $80,000 annually because of the need for more veterinary technicians.
Learn more about Veterinarian Salaries.
Learn more about Veterinarian Education.