How to Become a Veterinary Technician in 5 Steps
Research what it takes to become a veterinary technician. Learn about job duties, education requirements, licensing and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.
What Does a Veterinary Technician Do?
Veterinary technicians work with veterinarians or researchers to provide care to animals. As a veterinary technician, you are responsible for observing animal behavior, providing general care like bathing and grooming, and administering medications. You will also take x-rays of animals and prepare them for surgery. In a clinical research environment, you make sure that all test animals are treated humanely and properly cared for, which includes feeding them and making sure their living environment is kept sanitary. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this profession.
|Degree Required||Associate's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Veterinary technology|
|Key Skills||Assist veterinarian with exams, tests, labs, & medication; maintain patient records; educate owners on pet care|
|Licensure Required||All states require credentialing; specifics vary by state|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)||19%*|
|Average Salary (2018)||$35,560*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What iIs a Veterinary Technician?
Veterinary technicians work under the direction of a licensed veterinarian, performing similar duties to that of a nurse working under the direction of a physician. When working as a veterinary technician, some of the duties you may perform include collecting tissue and blood samples, administering vaccines and medications and performing urinalysis. You may also take blood counts, fill prescriptions, take x-rays and provide first aid. In addition, you might keep patient records, talk to owners about their pets' conditions, manage drug inventory, provide postoperative nursing care and observe any changes in patients. Though you may work in either a clinical setting or research setting, the duties you perform in both environments should be similar.
Step 1: Consider a Specialization
Choosing a specialization may help improve your job prospects following graduation from a veterinary technology program. Some programs give you the option to take courses in an area of specialization, such as dentistry, exotic animal medicine, laboratory animal medicine, public health or emergency medicine.
Step 2: Earn an Associate's Degree
Training programs for veterinary technicians typically are found at community colleges. Your training will likely last for two years and result in an associate's degree. Some courses you may take include veterinary medical terminology, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, pathology, nutrition, animal nursing, anesthesia and diagnostic imaging. Internships build your job skills while you work in an animal hospital, laboratory or zoo, and completing an internship may be required as part of your training.
Step 3: Hone Related Skills
As a veterinary technician, you'll communicate with pet owners and work with others in a team. Finding opportunities to develop your communication and teamwork skills will aid you in performing your essential job functions. You may also develop personal qualities like good organization skills and strong attention to detail, which may give you an advantage on-the-job.
Step 4: Become Credentialed
Before you may work as a veterinary technician in the United States, you must earn a credential, such as a license, certification or registration. Each state has its own credentialing exam, which may include written, oral and practical components. However, most require the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam. If you plan to work in a research facility, you may also need to earn certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS).
Step 5: Complete On-the-Job Training
Once you find employment, you will likely begin your career with a period of on-the-job training under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian. If you graduate from a veterinary technology program that includes extensive training in the use of veterinary equipment, your time as a trainee may be reduced.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
If you have an interest in working with animals, you could also pursue a job as a veterinary assistant, which often only requires a high school diploma. These professionals provide many of the same general care-taking services to animals in a veterinary clinic, like grooming, feeding and observing. Animal care and service workers also only need to earn a high school diploma in order to work closely with animals in training, grooming and pet-sitting capacities.