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How Can I Become an Animal Care Technician?

Research what it takes to become an animal care technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What is an Animal Care Technician?

Animal care technicians, also known as veterinary technicians, assist veterinarians in providing for the health needs of animals. They generally work under the direction of a veterinarian in private practice or in a laboratory setting. Their duties usually include performing a variety of laboratory and diagnostic tests, speaking with pet owners and providing care, such as first aid or grooming, to the animals. Animal care technicians may also choose to specialize in a specific discipline such as dentistry, critical care or zoological medicine. See more about this career option in the table below:

Degree RequiredAssociate's (2-year) degree
Education Field of StudyVeterinary technology
Key ResponsibilitiesProvide routine medical care for animals
Draw blood and administer medications, including injected medications
Record care provided
Observe animal behavior for signs of illness or injury
LicensureMost states require that animal care technicians be licensed
Job Growth (2018-2028)19% for veterinary technicians and technologists*
Median Salary (2018) $34,420 for veterinary technicians and technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become an Animal Care Technician?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you need an associate's degree in veterinary technology to work in this field (www.bls.gov). Before entering a vet tech training program, you need to earn a high school diploma or GED; additional requirements may include taking a placement test and acquiring experience with a veterinarian.

You might want to choose a 2-year veterinary technician program that's accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). These programs are offered at community colleges and universities. You also can find accredited online programs. Veterinary technology programs can prepare you to care for a variety of animals, including both small and large animals and exotic species.

What Courses Might I Take?

You can expect to complete coursework that covers the care and examination of healthy and sick animals, as well as methods to handle animals safely. Through clinical experiences and lab work, you can learn to collect, process and evaluate laboratory samples, prepare and administer medications, take x-rays and place intravenous (IV) lines. Your training could also include courses in critical care, dentistry and animal diseases.

How Do I Get a License?

Most states require that you obtain a license to work as an animal care technician. According to the BLS, you need to complete an accredited program and take a national standardized test to become licensed. The BLS reports that most states require aspiring animal care technicians to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam, which is offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Depending on the state, you could be classified as a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT), a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) or a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT).

What Kind of Work Would I Do?

As an animal care technician, you could assist a veterinarian in almost all aspects of his or her work. You would be able to do a basic physical exam, take blood samples, run urine and blood tests in the lab, administer anesthesia, clean teeth, take x-rays, educate clients, assist during surgery and many other tasks. You may be put in charge of kennel staff or maintaining the surgical suite and equipment. Most veterinary technicians work in private clinical settings, but you would be eligible for jobs at zoos, research facilities, commercial laboratories, universities or livestock operations.

What are the Job Growth Prospects and Salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for veterinary technicians and technologists is supposed to grow at a rate of 19% between 2018 and 2028, a rate that is much faster than average, meaning that job prospects in this field are excellent. The median salary earned by veterinary technicians and technologists in 2018 was $34,420.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in a related career, veterinary assistants help veterinarians and technicians care for injured or sick animals in a private practice and require only a high school diploma. Also, groomers work to maintain a pet's appearance by cutting and styling a pet's fur and clipping nails. They also can alert owners to issues which may require a veterinarian. Groomers may own their own salon or mobile grooming service or work for another groomer. Working as a groomer also requires only a high school diploma.