Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Associate|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||83,350|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||5.5%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||5,570|
What's needed: Whereas most veterinary technicians can find suitable employment with two-year associate degrees, veterinary technologists typically obtain four-year bachelor degrees. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer veterinary technician degrees. There are fewer degree options for aspiring veterinary technologists. These four-year degrees are currently offered by about 30 accredited institutions, including nine online-based universities. Those who wish to go into either field should be sure to choose accredited degree programs that offer extensive instruction in clinical settings.
What you study:
Aspiring veterinary technologists and technicians typically study the following subjects:
- Animal physiology
- Basic pharmacology
- Clinical skills
Aspiring veterinary technologists who wish to run their own laboratories or clinics may need to take additional business and management courses.
Briefly introduces the veterinarian technician occupation. Produced for the US Department of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a veterinary technician, you'll probably work in a laboratory, veterinary clinic or animal hospital. You'll be responsible for performing a variety of tests and treatments on the animals in your facility while simultaneously ensuring that they remain comfortable and healthy.
On a typical day, you'll arrive for your shift and meet with the licensed veterinarian who oversees your clinic or department. He or she will impart any important information, including an overview of any new animals that have arrived while you were away.
Over the course of your day, you'll work with many different animals. You could start your shift by placing a splint on the broken leg of a dog that was hit by a car. You'll ensure that the leg is immobilized and any wound is properly bandaged and disinfected before placing the animal in a pen for observation. While you're in the boarding area, you'll carefully observe the other sick and injured animals at your clinic and note any changes in their appearances or conditions.
As the day goes on, you'll meet with several animal outpatients and draw blood, urine and feces samples for diagnostic tests. You might check these samples for heartworm, fleas and other common parasites. While you're performing these tests, you'll also administer a wide variety of injections and immunizations. Over the course of your day, you may give a half-dozen rabies shots under the supervision of your veterinarian and take X-rays on several different animals.
Part of your afternoon might be spent in surgery. Cleaning incision sites and administering drugs to dogs, cats and other animals in preparation for surgery is an important part of any veterinary technician's job. Although a veterinarian will perform the actual surgery, you'll be on hand to provide assistance during the procedure.
Throughout your day, you'll also meet with the owners of your furry patients. If the veterinarian is too busy, you'll have to answer all of your clients' questions and provide detailed instructions regarding the care of their animals. If their pets need medicine, you'll explain how and when to administer it. Once your office is closed and all of the boarded animals are secured in their cages, you'll go home with the knowledge that you've positively affected the lives of multiple animals and pet owners.
Certifications and Licensing
There are two parallel certification tracks for veterinary technologists and technicians. First, the American Association of Veterinary State Boards administers the Veterinary Technician National Examination. Aspiring veterinary technicians must take this exam in order to practice in the vast majority of U.S. states. Recent graduates are advised to check with their state's veterinary board to ensure that they are not required to receive additional certification.
Meanwhile, those who wish to work in a research laboratory should receive certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. There are three cumulative certificates:
- Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician
- Laboratory Animal Technician
- Laboratory Animal Technologist
Many aspiring laboratory animal technologists receive lower-level certifications in preparation for becoming fully-certified technologists. Although such certification is not mandatory, certified technologists typically enjoy more robust career opportunities and may earn higher starting wages.
Full-time versus part-time:
Most veterinary technologists and technicians work in veterinary offices and clinics during regular business hours. Those who work in clinics with animal boarding operations or in laboratories that house ongoing experiments may be required to put in occasional weekend shifts as well. In addition, laboratory veterinary technologists are often on call. Some overnight shifts in these high-priority facilities may be required as well.
The following resources are helpful for those who wish to pursue careers as veterinary technologists and technicians:
- American Veterinary Medical Association -- The AVMA represents veterinarians as well as veterinary technicians and assistants. Its "Professional Development" section provides resume-building, interview and job-seeking advice. It also outlines various opportunities within the veterinary field and contains a robust job-search feature. Prospective veterinary technicians can find information about education requirements, earnings and ongoing training protocols here.
- Explore Health Careers -- Sponsored by the American Dental Education Association, this non-profit career resource contains a detailed fact sheet on veterinary technologist and technician careers. Those who wish to go into the field can find detailed, up-to-date information on salary requirements and statistics-based job growth projections for the coming decade.
- National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America -- NAVTA advocates specifically for veterinary technologists and technicians. Its career resource center puts out an easy-to-read primer on the field and provides practical information for students interested in pursuing careers as veterinary technicians. It also points prospective veterinary technicians to educational programs and credentialing organizations. Finally, it allows job-seekers to search for open positions in their respective states.
- U.S. Department of Labor -- This official Bureau of Labor Statistics resource provides updated salary, credentialing and education information for prospective veterinary technicians. It also offers long-term industry guidance and employs statistical analysis to estimate how many veterinary technician jobs will be created over the next decade. Although this is a great introductory resource, it lacks its own job-search function.