Clinical practice veterinary technicians have special training and certification to assist veterinarians as they work on specific species in a clinical setting.
Veterinary technician specialists in clinical practice provide skilled care in one of three specialty areas of practice: canine and feline, exotic companion animal, or production animal.
Routine tasks for a clinical practice vet tech may include a variety of tasks related to skilled nursing, veterinary case management, and therapy protocols. Additional duties may include administering fluids, post-operative care, assisting vets with exams, and maintaining medical equipment.
Veterinary technicians, including those in clinical practice, are often required to work schedules that may include some nights, weekends, or holidays. A technician’s hours are designed to mirror those of the veterinarians that they are attending, and some vets may work “on call” or at 24-hour emergency facilities.
Clinical practice vet techs usually work in a veterinary clinic or hospital, but they may also find positions with other organizations such as zoos, aquariums, and research laboratories. They specialize by working with a specific category of patients (dogs and cats, exotic companion animals, or production animals).
Some veterinary technicians also choose to transition into other positions in the animal health industry, such as veterinary pharmaceutical sales.
Education & Licensing
There are currently more than 160 accredited veterinary technician programs in the United States. These institutions offer two year Associate degrees. After completing an accredited program, a vet tech must pass a licensing examination in their state of residence before being approved to practice their profession. State certification is granted through the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) certification exam, though some states may have additional requirements for licensing.
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) is the certifying body for the 11 veterinary technician specialist (VTS) certification paths. The currently recognized specialties for veterinary technicians include anesthesia, nutrition, surgical, behavior, dental, zoo, internal medicine, emergency & critical care, equine, clinical pathology, and clinical practice.
The Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Clinical Practice (AVTCP) oversees the VTS specialty certification process. It offers certification to licensed vet techs that have completed at least 10,000 hours (5 years) of vet tech experience. At least 75 percent of that time must have involved work in the field of clinical practice. Additional educational prerequisites include completing at least 50 case logs, submitting four detailed case reports (focused on nursing care, therapy plans, and management), and documenting at least 40 hours of advanced continuing education.
Veterinary technicians that meet the prerequisites for skills and experience are eligible to take the AVTCP certification exam at the symposium each fall.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a mean annual wage of $3,290 ($14.56 per hour) for the category of veterinary technicians during the most recent salary survey of 2012. The lowest 10 percent of all techs earned a salary of less than $21,030 per year, while the highest 10 percent of all techs earned a salary of more than $44,030 per year.
Benefits received by vet techs may include compensation in the form of salary, medical and dental insurance, paid vacation, a uniform allowance, and discounted care for the tech’s personal pets at the clinic. As is to be expected with any position, salary is based on the tech’s level of experience and education. Specialists usually can command top dollar as a result of their expertise in the field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 84,800 veterinary technicians employed in the United States during the 2012 salary survey. The BLS study projected that the profession would grow at a rate of about 30 percent, much faster than the average for all positions. Approximately 4,000 new technicians enter the field each year.
The limited number of new veterinary technicians is not expected to meet the strong demand from veterinary employers. An even smaller number of veterinary technicians are able to become certified in a specialty. This limited supply should translate to strong demand for vet tech specialists in clinical practice and other specialty areas.