Veterinary Technician (For Small Animals): Career Profile, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become a veterinary technician. Learn about job duties, outlook, and education requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Veterinary Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Small Animal Veterinary Technician?

Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians with the care and treatment of animals. They may collect samples of blood, feces or urine, assist the veterinarian with conducting tests or administering medication, and may also prepare animals for surgery and assist the veterinarian during surgery. Small animal veterinary technicians focus on working with domestic and exotic small animals. They also monitor the animal's behavior and may report any concerns to the veterinarian.

Education Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Veterinary technology
Certification Required State-mandated, must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE)
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19%* (for veterinary technologists and technicians)
Mean Salary (May 2015) $33,280* (for veterinary technologists and technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the Career Profile for a Veterinarian Technician?

A small animal veterinary technician usually works in a clinical setting, but you can also choose to work in a laboratory or research facility. As a veterinary technician, you'll assist a licensed veterinarian in caring for small animals. Patients include all small companion animals, such as rabbits, cats, dogs and guinea pigs. Specialty animal hospitals may care for animals such as hamsters, rats and snakes, or exotic animals such as monkeys, fish, frogs, turtles or exotic birds.

Tasks may include preparing instruments for surgery, collecting and analyzing blood samples, applying oral medication and distributing prescribed medication. You'll act as a nurse by observing animal behavior and progress, providing anesthesia, taking X-rays and bandaging wounds. You may also have to euthanize animals that cannot be saved due to serious illness or injury.

What Is the Employment Outlook for a Veterinarian Technician?

Based on projection studies conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 17,900 additional veterinary technicians and technologists will be needed between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This number represents an employment growth rate faster than that of most other occupations, roughly a 19% increase.

The BLS also reported that the average annual salary for both veterinary technicians and technologists was $33,280 as of May 2015. However, this includes technologists who have completed a 4-year degree, as well as technicians and technologists who work with livestock and large animals.

What Should I Study?

As you learn how to care for small animals, your college curriculum should include veterinary hematology, radiology, anesthesia and laboratory animal science. Typically, in order to attain a state license or credential as a veterinary technician, you'll be required to have a 2-year associate's degree or a 4-year bachelor's degree in veterinary technology from a college accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

To become a veterinary technician or technologist, you must also pass a state-mandated credentialing exam, typically the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Professional certifications that might improve your career outlook include laboratory animal technician and technologist certifications offered by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Large animal veterinary technicians and small animal veterinary technicians perform all of the same duties; however, large animal veterinary technicians work with cows, horses and other farm or zoo animals. A veterinarian is qualified to diagnose and prescribe treatment or perform surgery on an animal, and is also capable of performing all of the tasks veterinary technicians perform. Animal care and service workers may bathe, feed and exercise animals in their care, which is similar to the role of a veterinary technician because vet techs may also be responsible for feeding and grooming animals.

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