What Does a Veterinary Technician Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
A veterinary technician (or vet tech) is a licensed professional trained to assist veterinarians with medical procedures. As part of the rapidly growing veterinary industry, the job outlook is promising for this profession.
Veterinary Technician Duties & Responsibilities
Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians in the clinic. General duties may include the following:
- Observing animals' behavior and condition
- Helping with physical exams of patients
- Restraining animals during exams or procedures
- Assisting with surgeries, running lab tests, taking and processing x-rays, performing dental cleanings, updating patient records, cleaning and sterilizing equipment, and filling prescriptions.
- More specific duties based on the type of patients (small animal, large animal, or exotics) or the tech's individual specialty area.
- Administering medications, vaccines, and treatments prescribed by the veterinarian
Veterinary Technician Salary
A veterinary technician salary varies based on the level of experience, geographical location, and other factors.
- Median Annual Salary: More than $50,010 ($24.04/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $34,420 ($16.55/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: More than $23,490 ($11.29/hour)
Benefits packages for veterinary technicians may include (in addition to salary) medical and dental insurance, a uniform allowance, paid vacation days, and discounts on veterinary care or boarding for the tech's own pets. As with any position in the veterinary industry, salary is commensurate with the level of experience and education.
Education, Training & Certification
Individuals seeking a career as a veterinary technician should have a strong background in mathematics and the biological sciences.
- Education: There are approximately 190 veterinary technology programs in the U.S. that are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. These programs offer a two-year associate degree. Upon completion of an accredited program, vet techs must also pass an exam, usually the National Veterinary Technician Exam (NVTE), to become eligible for licensing in their state or province.
- Certification: There are 11 veterinary technician specialty areas recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). Certification as a veterinary technician specialist usually requires a degree in the field, significant work experience, completion of case logs and case reports, and documented continuing education before a candidate is eligible to sit for the certification exam. Currently recognized specialty areas include clinical practice, clinical pathology, emergency and critical care, equine, internal medicine, behavior, surgery, anesthesiology, dentistry, nutrition, and zoo.
Veterinary Technician Skills & Competencies
Veterinarian technicians must have additional "soft skills" in addition to education and experience requirements. These include:
- Communication skills: Vet techs must communicate with doctors, customers, and other staff clearly. They must also communicate kindly with owners of ill or injured pets.
- Physical strength: They must be able to lift and handle animals easily.
- Problem-solving skills: Vet techs need to be able to consider all of the available information and draw valid conclusions about an animal's condition.
- Compassion: Vet techs must treat animal patients kindly and also give kindness to the pets' owners.
The BLS predicts that the profession will expand at a much faster rate than average—nearly 20% from 2016 to 2026. The limited number of graduates from vet tech programs will translate to excellent job prospects in the field. Demand is strong due to a continued increase in pet ownership and demand for pet services.
Most veterinary technicians work with veterinarians in private practice, though some work for corporations and laboratories. The majority work with small animals, but other areas of practice include large animal, equine, and exotics. Other career options for vet techs include pharmaceutical sales, medical research, and livestock management positions.
Vet techs may have to work some evening, weekend, or holiday hours, depending on the needs of their veterinary clinic. Techs must also be constantly aware of the inherent risks involved with working with animals and take proper safety precautions to minimize the potential for injury.
How to Get the Job
Look at job-search resources like Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available positions. You can also visit the websites of individual veterinary practices or visit them in person to apply to existing job openings.
FIND A VETERINARY TECHNICIAN VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY
Look for an opportunity to do volunteer work through online sites such as VolunteerMatch. You can also contact various veterinarians or non-profit organizations directly and volunteer your services.
FIND AN INTERNSHIP
Get guidance by working with an experienced veterinarian. You can find internships through online job search sites, and also check with your school's career center.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in becoming a veterinary technician also consider the following career paths, listed with their median annual salaries:
- Animal Care and Service Workers: $23,950
- Phlebotomists: $34,480
- Veterinarians: $93,830