Animal Health Technician: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for animal health technicians. Get the facts about job duties, employment outlook, education requirements and certification to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Veterinary Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Animal Health Technician Do?

Animal health technicians, usually called veterinary technicians, assist veterinarians with the treatment of injuries and illnesses in animals. They usually work in private clinics and perform a variety of lab and diagnostic tests. This may include collecting and testing animals' fluid and tissue samples. Veterinarians may ask animal health technicians to help keep animals under control while they are being examined, monitor animals and record their medical histories or even groom animals. Animal health technicians may be required to interact with animal owners to update them about an animal's health. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Veterinary technology
Key Responsibilities Assist vet with exams, diagnostic tests, surgery, treatment procedures; perform lab tests; keep medical records
Licensure Required Requirements for licensing, certification or registration vary by state
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% (for all veterinary technicians and technologists)*
Average Salary (2015) $33,280 (for all veterinary technicians and technologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is an Animal Health Technician?

Animal health technicians are compared by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as a nurse to a physician (www.bls.gov). In other words, you perform many of the tasks with animals that a nurse would for a human patient, such as prepping animals for surgery, administering medications, carrying out lab tests and recording medical history. You may also assist with dental cleanings, surgeries, taking blood samples, inserting catheters, dressing wounds and monitoring vitals.

You can work in a number of veterinary facilities, including small animal hospitals, large animal hospitals, wild animal hospitals, zoos and livestock hospitals. You may also work in the research laboratories that care for animals. This career can be emotionally draining, and job responsibilities may include administering drugs, taking vitals and looking for signs of distress in the animal.

What Is the Career Outlook?

The BLS reports that employment opportunities for vet technicians and technologists are expected to grow by about 19% during the 2014-2024 decade. This could add an additional 17,900 job opportunities for vet techs. In May 2015, the average yearly salary for all veterinary technicians was $33,280. The vast majority of these workers (about 92%) were employed in the professional, scientific and technical services industry with an average wage of $32,760.

What Degrees Can I Study in College?

While the requirements for each state may differ, you are likely required to have an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology from a college accredited through the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Courses teach you about chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, animal nutrition, medical terminology, anesthesia and animal diseases. You also want to spend time studying animals, understanding the bond between animals and humans, and dealing with compassion exhaustion.

What Certification is Available?

Every state has individual licensing and certification requirements for working as a veterinary technician. The American Association of Veterinary State Boards offers the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) for certification as a vet tech. This exam verifies your veterinary technician knowledge when applying for entry-level positions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A similar career that requires an associate's degree is that of a radiologic or MRI technologist. Radiologic technologists typically work with x-rays, while MRI technologists work with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. Both positions create diagnostic images for patients. Medical laboratory technicians are also similar and require an associate's degree. These health professionals perform tests on samples they have collected from a patient.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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