What Does an Equine Veterinary Technician Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
An equine veterinary technician specializes in the care of horses. The vet tech is responsible for carrying out lab tests, clinical procedures, and other tasks but can't prescribe, diagnose, interpret test results, perform surgery, or do anything else that's prohibited by the veterinary practice act in the state where licensed.
Approximately 106,680 veterinary technicians were employed in the United States in 2018 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These technicians usually work in animal hospitals, clinics, and labs, although an equine vet tech may work in an equine veterinarian mobile practice, visiting barns and farms with the vet and helping with whatever the vet needs at each location.
Equine Veterinary Technician Duties & Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of an equine veterinary technician require the ability to do the following work:
- Check a horse's vital signs and take blood and other samples.
- Restrain an animal so the vet is able to examine and treat it.
- Provide first aid to an injured horse.
- Assist with diagnostic tools such as X-rays.
- Change bandages, administer medications, give injections, and manage anesthesia.
- Arrange a sterile area for surgery in a barn or stable.
- Sterilize surgical equipment and instruments and prepare a horse for surgery.
- Assist with surgery and euthanasia.
- Talk to the owner about a horse's condition and how to properly administer medications.
- Respond to emergency calls.
As a member of an equine veterinarian's practice, the equine vet technician plays an essential role in the delivery of high-quality patient care. The vet technician functions as the vet's second pair of hands and eyes before, during, and after surgery, and acts as a valuable liaison between the vet and the owner. The vet technician also keeps the mobile unit fully equipped at all times, and takes care of various clerical tasks, such as returning calls, doing paperwork, and taking inventory, so the vet is free to focus on diagnosing, prescribing, and performing surgery.
Equine Veterinary Technician Salary
The salary of an equine veterinary technician varies depending on education, certification and area of expertise, quantity and quality of experience, and the location of the practice. Techs who hold research positions at colleges and universities usually earn more than their counterparts in private practice. Salary information for veterinary technicians and technologists, in general, is:
- Median Annual Salary: $34,420 ($16.55/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $50,010 ($24.04/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $23,490 ($11.29/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education, Training, & Certification
To work as an equine vet tech, candidates need a high school diploma with solid grades in biology and other science courses, a degree from an accredited post-secondary institution, and a passing score on a credentialing exam.
- Education: A two-year associate degree from a veterinary technology program that's accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is usually required. Specialization in Equine Practice from the Academy of Equine Veterinary Nursing Technicians is recognized by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties of the AVMA, along with 39 additional specialties.
- Experience: Previous experience as an equine veterinary assistant or caretaker may boost the chances of landing a particular job but isn't required in most cases.
- Certification or licensing requirements: Requirements differ in each state, but most require a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Examination, administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.
Equine Veterinary Technician Skills & Competencies
To be successful as an equine vet tech, you need certain skills and qualities, including:
- Communication skills: To effectively communicate with supervisors, coworkers, and horse owners, you need good listening and comprehension skills in addition to the ability to write and speak clearly and concisely.
- Detail orientation: You must be precise when taking notes, speaking with owners, administering medications, and performing testing.
- Physical strength and stamina: Horses are big and powerful, and you'll sometimes help restrain them so the vet can complete exams and treatment.
- Hand-eye coordination: You'll need manual dexterity and a steady hand to administer injections and anesthesia and use diagnostic and surgical tools and equipment.
- Compassion and kindness: You must always treat horses and their owners with kindness and be especially sensitive when a horse is having a rough time or an owner is distraught, anxious, or grieving.
- Computer and software skills: You may have to use practice management or medical software, in addition to word processing, email, and spreadsheet apps.
- Equestrian skills: You may be asked to jump in the saddle at any time, so you need to be a proficient rider and feel comfortable and confident on and around horses at various stages of training.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for veterinary technologists and technicians, in general, is expected to increase by 20% between 2016 and 2026. In addition, competition for these jobs is projected to be somewhat suppressed by the educational and licensing requirements for entering the field.
Depending on the employer, equine veterinary technicians may work inside in a research lab or outside at the racetrack or breeding operation. At a large-animal hospital or clinic, vet techs walk, graze, or ride horses at the facility, in addition to doing typical barn chores, such as feeding horses and mucking stalls. Vet techs who are employed by equine vets in private practice work out of a mobile unit and are on the road most of the day traveling between appointments and working in barns.
The schedule of an equine vet tech who works in private practice for a vet who has a mobile unit depends on the schedule of the vet. The vet tech may be required to work nights, weekends, holidays, or extended hours at certain times, such as during foaling season or when there's an emergency call late in the afternoon.
How to Get the Job
GO WHERE THE JOBS ARE
Most equine vets are clustered in states with high horse populations. According to the American Horse Council, as of 2017, Texas comes in first with 767,100, then California with 535,500, and Florida with 387,100. If you don't live in one of these states, consider including one or more in your job search.
SEARCH THE JOB PORTALS
Look for equine veterinary technician jobs at the American Association of Equine Practitioners Career Center and other vet-related job search sites.
COVER THE ESSENTIALS IN YOUR COVER LETTER
Put your best self forward with an effective vet tech cover letter to go with your resume and other application materials. Before sending your application, proofread and proofread again to make sure it's perfect.
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