Veterinary Technician: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Veterinary technicians work alongside veterinarians and assist in the medical care of animals. Read on to learn more details about this career and to find out the education requirements Schools offering Veterinary Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Veterinary Technician?

Veterinary technicians typically work with veterinarians in private clinics. They help observe and provide care for injured or ill animals, and assist the veterinarian in treating the animals. This may include taking tissue or blood samples, helping restrain the animal during an exam or administering anesthesia prior to surgeries. Veterinary technicians often work with the laboratory side of veterinary medicine by performing and analyzing diagnostic tests. However, they may also help communicate with pet owners to explain things like a pet's medication. The table below provides some details about this career:

Degree Required Associate's
Education Field of Study Veterinary Technology
Key Responsibilities Perform diagnostic tests, take x-rays, keep track of patient history, communicate with pet owners, operate equipment, fill prescriptions
Licensure Requirements Certification varies by state
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 19% (for all veterinary technologists and technicians)
Median Salary (2015)* $31,800 (for all veterinary technologists and technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Can I Expect As a Veterinary Technician?

The job duties you'll perform as a veterinary technician are somewhat analogous to those performed by nurses. You'll most likely work in a private veterinary office, performing diagnostic tests, collecting samples, taking x-rays, recording patient histories and providing nursing care. Additional job duties can include providing dental care, communicating with pet owners, maintaining equipment, keeping drug inventories, filling prescriptions and administering medications. Usually, the veterinary office that you work for will specialize in a certain type of animal, such as large animals, small animals or horses. You may also work in a research facility, performing similar job duties.

What Is the Projected Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that veterinary technicians would experience excellent job opportunities over the 2014-2024 decade, due to the fact that the number of 2-year veterinary technology program graduates wouldn't be enough to meet demand (www.bls.gov). Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians was expected to grow 19% during this time. Factors expected to contribute to an increased demand for veterinary technicians include the growing affluence of pet owners and the increased number of companion cats. You can expect the most job competition if you apply to work at an aquarium or zoo.

What Kind of Education Will I Need?

The BLS states that most veterinary technicians have associate's degrees in veterinary technology. While enrolled in a veterinary technology program, you'll receive classroom, laboratory and clinical instruction. You'll take courses in microbiology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, animal nursing, pharmacology, pathology and diagnostic imaging. Some programs may require that you participate in an internship.

According to the BLS, while each state maintains its own requirements, most states require that you pass a credentialing examination after graduating from an approved veterinary technology program. Some states administer their own examinations, while others require the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), which is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). If you plan to work in a research laboratory, some employers may prefer that you earn certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A related career that requires an associate's degree is a radiologic and MRI technologist. These professionals conduct diagnostic imaging exams to help diagnose patients with various health concerns. Some other alternative careers involving animals include animal care and service workers, veterinary assistants, and laboratory animal caretakers. These positions only require a high school diploma or equivalent. Animal care and service workers can work at a variety of locations feeding, grooming and exercising animals. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers care for animals in labs or animal clinics.

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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