Veterinary Technician (For Large Animals): Career Profile, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become a veterinary technician for large animals. Learn about job duties, employment outlook, education requirements 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 Technician?

Large animal veterinary technicians assist veterinarians with the treatment of large domestic animals, such as cows and horses, or exotic animals in zoos, such as giraffes or camels. They may monitor the animal's behavior; assist in taking the animal's temperature, take stool, urine or blood samples; help the veterinarian administer tests; and assist with the treatment of illness or injury by administering medications or cleaning wounds. Large animal veterinary technicians may also be involved in preparing animals for surgery.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Veterinary technology with specialty in large animals
Key Skills Compassion for animals & owners; manual dexterity for handling animals, equipment, instruments; problem-solving; communication
Credentials Required State requirements vary & may include licensing, registration or certification; most states require national exam; optional certifications for laboratory research workers available
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 19% (all veterinary technicians/technologists)*
Average Salary (2015) $33,280 (all veterinary technicians/technologists)*

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

What Will I Do as a Large Animal Veterinary Technician?

You'll work alongside a licensed veterinarian and assist in caring for horses or livestock animals. Some typical job duties include taking blood counts, performing urinalysis, administering medications and vaccinations, preparing tissue samples, maintaining patient records, taking x-rays and providing nursing care. You will most likely travel to farms or ranches in rural areas to perform your job duties.

What Is the Predicted Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that veterinary technicians and technologists in general will experience excellent job opportunities and enjoy employment growth of about 19%, which is much faster than average, over the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov). Job prospects could be particularly good in rural areas - which bodes well for large animal veterinary technicians - with additional demand in industries such as public health, national disease control and food safety. The BLS also reports that in May 2015, veterinary technicians, including those specializing in large animals, earned an average yearly salary of about $33,280.

What Education Prerequisites Do I Need to Meet?

For most veterinary technician positions, you'll need an associate's degree in veterinary technology. The program you attend should be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), allowing you to sit for any state's credentialing exam. You may be required to take courses in veterinary medical terminology, animal anatomy and physiology, veterinary pharmacology, animal microbiology and large animal nursing. Your curriculum could also involve completing clinical rotations at off-campus locations.

During your course of study, you'll learn how to care for different types of animals, such as small, large, laboratory and exotic animals. Some programs offer you the option of choosing a specialty, like large animal care. Instead of completing a 2-year program, you could pursue a bachelor's degree program in veterinary technology. The AVMA also accredits such 4-year programs.

After you've earned your degree, you must become credentialed in order to work as a veterinary technician in the United States. Each state has its own credentialing requirements, but most require that you pass an exam which includes written, oral and practical components. The National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam is the preferred credentialing exam in many states.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Small animal veterinary technicians perform the same tasks as large animal veterinary technicians, but they work with domestic animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets. Animal care and service workers typically work with non-farm animals and help provide them with food and exercise, and may also bathe them. Veterinarians oversee veterinary technicians and are able to perform the tasks technicians perform; however, they are also trained to diagnose and order treatment and prescribe medications. Becoming a licensed veterinarian requires significantly more education at an advanced level.

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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