How Can I Become a Large Animal Vet Tech?

Research what it takes to become a large animal veterinary technologist. Learn about degree requirements, job duties, licensure and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Large Animal Veterinary Technologist?

As a large animal veterinary technologist, you would be involved in administrative and clinical work within a veterinarian's office. Large animal veterinarians and veterinary technologists specialize in diagnose and treating bigger animals, such as horses and livestock. This may require them to occasionally travel to the animal. These technologists assist veterinarians by administering medications, prepping animals for surgery, collecting lab samples and helping examine hurt or sick animals. They also record medical histories, run laboratory tests and observe an animal's behavior. Details on what education is required, along with other general information, are outlined in the table.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Veterinary technology
Key Responsibilities Assist veterinarians in surgery of animals, prepare vaccines and samples, conduct medical tests, gather patients' medical history
Licensure/Certification Many states require technologists to be credentialed; certification is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% (for all veterinary technicians and technologists)*
Median Salary (2015) $31,800 (for all veterinary technicians and technologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Large Animal Vet Techs Do?

The majority of veterinary practices treat small animals such as dogs and cats. Large animal practices treat horses and livestock, including cattle, llamas, pigs and sheep. As a vet tech in a large animal practice, you will have duties unique to that type of practice.

Veterinary technicians and technologists assist veterinarians in every aspect of their work. You will prepare animals for examination and treatment, weigh them, draw blood, administer medications and anesthesia, and assist with dental care. In large animal practices, you will also need to be adept in special procedures to restrain and position large animals. Another unique challenge you will face is the need to maintain sterile conditions out of doors, as large animals are often treated in barns or other outdoor settings away from an office or animal hospital.

How Much Education Do I Need?

For an entry-level position such as a veterinary technician, you will need to enroll in an associate's degree program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). With a 4-year degree, you can become a veterinary technologist. Either program will include both theory and lab components, with training in surgical assistance, nutritional management, nursing care and other aspects of veterinary practice. Technologist programs will include courses beyond the concentration, in related areas such as microbiology, chemistry and computers.

Most states require that you be licensed or certified. The National Veterinary Technician exam is used by many states. You will also be trained on the job in the specific needs of the type of practice you join.

What Else Do I Need to Consider?

Large animal practices will primarily be located in rural areas, and you may need to travel between locations on a regular basis to treat animals. You will need to be able to restrain large animals in a variety of conditions, and will need to be able to lift up to 50 pounds and occasionally more as you move animals and equipment.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are very similar positions, but only require a high school diploma or equivalent. These workers may work under a veterinary technologist or veterinarian as they feed, bathe and provide additional care for animals in labs or clinics. Medical laboratory technologists are also related, but they usually require a bachelor's degree. These technologists also work in a lab and run multiple tests, but they work with human tissue and fluid samples.

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