Equine Veterinary Technician Salary and Career Profile
The equine or horse industry was worth an estimated $122 billion in the United States. That's according to the American Horse Council Foundation 2017 study on the industry's impact on the nation's economy. The group regularly conducts research on the horse industry in the United States.
The industry, the group also noted, employs about 1.74 million people across the country, with about $79 billion in salaries and benefits. Some of those jobs include medical and veterinary positions— including those employed as equine veterinary technicians.
Duties and Schedule
Equine veterinary technicians assist equine veterinarians with treatments and procedures including routine health exams and surgeries. They may be responsible for a variety of duties such as safely restraining horses during exams, jogging horses for lameness tests, administering medication, bandaging wounds, preparing surgical sites, running laboratory tests, taking x-rays, giving injections, drawing blood, maintaining patient records, and coordinating appointment scheduling.
Depending on the schedule of the veterinarian they are work with, some equine veterinary technicians may be required to work nights, weekends, holidays or extended hours during certain seasons. It is important for technicians to take proper safety precautions while working with horses so they minimize the risk of serious injuries from kicks or bites.
Equine veterinary technicians can work stationary equine clinics or they may travel with equine vets who provide on-site care at farms. Some equine vet techs also find full-time roles with large commercial breeding farms (especially in the thoroughbred industry), zoos, educational institutions or research firms.
Equine veterinary technicians can use their experience to move into a related field such as equine pharmaceutical sales, equine equipment sales or farm management roles. Others choose to move into positions like barn managers, riding instructors or trainers.
Education and Licensing
There are over 221 accredited veterinary technician programs in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of these institutions provide training that allows a student to pursue a two-year associates degree in the field, with 21 programs that offer a four-year Bachelor of Science degree. After completing their course of study, vet techs must also take an exam to be eligible for licensing in their state. Most states require techs to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE), though specific requirements may vary from one state to the next.
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes over 14 specialties for veterinary technician specialist (VTS) certification, one of which is the equine veterinary nursing specialty certification. The equine specialty certification is administered by the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians (AAEVT). The AAEVT is a professional membership organization that also provides continuing education and networking opportunities for equine vet techs. The organization has more than 1,000 members across the world.
Veterinary technicians can also qualify for VTS specialty certification as surgical technicians or in other fields such as anesthesia/analgesia, internal medicine, dentistry, emergency & critical care, behavior, zoo, clinical practice, nutrition, clinical pathology, dermatology, ophthalmology and The Academy of Laboratory Animal Veterinary Technicians and Nurses, which was officially recognized in 2016.
Most equine veterinary technicians also have significant practical experience working with horses in a “hands-on” capacity, whether this experience was gained in the racing, breeding or showing segment of the industry. There is no substitute for direct experience working with horses as it gives the technician valuable insight into equine behavior.
Data on the specific earnings of equine veterinary technicians is difficult to obtain, as most salary surveys do not separate out equine technician earnings from the larger category of veterinary technician salaries. Salary may also vary widely within the equine veterinary technician field, as those with additional education, experience, or certifications tend to earn higher salaries than those who do not have these additional qualifications.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinary technicians earned a median salary of $33,400 per year ($16.06 per hour) in 2017. The BLS survey also reported that the job category of veterinary technicians and technologists had a wide range of earnings, with the lowest tenth earning less than $22,880 and the highest tenth earning more than $49,350.
Benefits and job perks for equine veterinary technicians vary but may include a combination of health insurance, dental insurance, paid vacation days, uniform allowances or discounted veterinary services for their own horses.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were nearly 102,000 veterinary technicians employed during the 2017 survey. The BLS predicts the profession will expand at a rapid rate of more than 20% from 2016 to 2026, making this career path a healthy choice for the foreseeable future.
The BLS survey indicates that many job opportunities will be available for the relatively small number of newly licensed vet techs that will graduate each year from accredited programs. While it is true that more positions exist for veterinary technicians in small animal clinics, job prospects should still be strong for equine veterinary technicians over the next decade as the equine industry shows signs of continued growth.