What Is an Animal Care Technician? - Job Description, Salary & Skills

If you've always wanted to work with animals, a career as an animal care technician could be for you. Here's the job description, key skills and salary stats to help you decide. Schools offering Veterinary Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Animal care technicians, also called veterinary technicians, help veterinarians diagnose and treat animals. Animal care technicians usually need at least an associate's degree in veterinary technology, plus a great deal of dexterity, compassion and problem-solving skills. You can find out more about the profession in the chart below.

Degree Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Veterinary technology
Key Skills Dexterity, compassion, communication
Credential Required Veterinary Technician National Examination, in most states
Job Growth (2016-2026) 20% (for all veterinary technologists and technicians)*
Median Salary (2017) $33,400 per year (for all veterinary technologists and technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Animal Care Technicians Do?

Animal care technicians work with licensed veterinarians to diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses in animals. A veterinary technician, as they're also called, may be responsible for taking blood or stool samples and running laboratory tests to determine the cause of an ailment. They're also in charge of speaking with the pet's owners to help them understand the diagnosis and administer medication, if necessary. Technicians are sometimes in charge of bathing and grooming animals, administering anesthesia before procedures and giving emergency first aid if the situation calls for it.

What Education Do You Need?

Veterinary technicians typically take a defined path to the career. Most get an associate's degree in veterinary technology from a 2-year college with accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association. Many start even earlier, taking classes in science and biology. After graduation, they can look for employment at an established clinic. As with many professions that involve animals, volunteering at an animal shelter or working with animals on any level (dog walking, grooming) is helpful. After college, technicians can take the next step -- the credentialing exam.

What Credential is Required?

Most aspiring animal care technicians have to pass a test that demonstrates their mastery of the standards of the industry. The test, called the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Board (AAVSB). The AAVSB doesn't hand out the credentials but a passing grade on the exam is typically necessary to get the credential from the state board.

What Salary Do Vet Techs Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinary technicians took home a median salary of $33,400 per year in 2017. Vet techs working in research generally enjoyed the highest salaries in the field. Animals need care 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, so animal care technicians may have to work late into the night, on weekends and on holidays.

Will Employment in the Field Grow?

As more and more households bring home furry friends, the demand for animal care technicians will continue to grow. In fact, the BLS sees employment in the field growing by 20% between 2016 and 2026. This is significantly higher than the average for all occupations, which is expected to be 7% during the same time period.

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