Veterinarians use veterinary technicians and technologists to care for people’s pets. Most work in the private practice of a licensed veterinarian, although some work in research facilities, animal shelters, boarding kennels and zoos.
Veterinary technicians and technologists perform medical tests and treat and diagnose diseases in animals. They perform blood tests, perform dental care, take blood, fecal and tissue samples and assist veterinarians with laboratory and diagnostic tests.
Most veterinary technician jobs require the completion of a training program. Check out the schools below which offer free information:
Some veterinary technicians also maintain patients’ health histories, develop X-rays and provide specialized nursing care. More experienced veterinary technicians may consult with pet owners about their pet’s condition and train new staff. Veterinary technicians and technologists most often work with small pets, such as dogs and cats, but, depending upon the environment, may also care for birds, fish, mice, rats, pigs, cattle, sheep and monkeys.
Veterinary Technician and Technologist Job Responsibilities
Some veterinary technicians and technologists may work in research facilities as assistants for physicians or veterinarians. They may give medications and perform laboratory examinations. They may also analyze animals, most commonly mice, and record information about their diet, food intake, weight, medications and signs of pain. They may sterilize laboratory equipment. At times, veterinary technologists may vaccinate new animals or euthanize ill, injured or unwanted animals.
Veterinary technologists may work on special projects as well. They may assist veterinarians with implementing research projects such as cloning or gene therapy. Some may also assist with biomedical research, pharmaceutical sales, livestock management, wildlife medicine and disaster preparedness.
Veterinary Technician and Technologist Training and Education Requirements
Entry-level positions in the veterinary field typically require a two-year or four-year degree. Most veterinary technicians have an associate degree from a college program in veterinary technology. These programs and courses are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and teach students in laboratory and clinical settings using live animals. College accreditation allows students to take the credentialing exam in any state. There are about 20 colleges that offer bachelor’s degree programs in veterinary technology. Some students can complete the program online; however, there are a limited number of schools that offer this option.
Those interested in veterinary technology field are advised to start preparing in high school by taking as many math, biology and science courses as possible. College-level science courses should focus on caring for animals in a clinical or laboratory setting. Entry-level workers usually enter the field as trainees assisting veterinarians, then work their way up to technicians as they gain more on-the-job experience.
Besides education, employers also require certain personality traits. The ability to communicate well is very important, as veterinarian technicians and technologists are required to deal with pet owners and staff. They should be able to work well in a team environment and be detail-oriented and organized.
Veterinary Technician and Technologist Salary and Wages
Salaries for veterinary technicians and technologists vary according to education, experience and type of job. Earnings range from $23,580 to $34,960, with the average annual salary at $28,900. Those in the research field tend to earn higher wages. Jobs in the veterinary field are expected to grow much faster than average. Job outlook is very good due to the lack of veterinary school graduates and trained professionals. The limited number of qualified professionals is not enough to meet the demand. However, veterinary positions in zoos and aquariums are very competitive, as they attract many qualified candidates interested in working with these types of animals.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Veterinary Technician and Technologist Certifications
All states require veterinary professionals to pass a credentialing exam after completing their degree. Passing the exam assures employers and pet owners that the technician or technologist is qualified to work in a veterinary clinic. The test includes oral, written and practical portions and is regulated by the State Board of Veterinary Examiners. Canididates may become registered, licensed, or certified, depending on the state. Many states may use the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam.
Those looking to work in research facilities are recommended to seek American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) certification. AALAS offers three levels of certification – animal health and welfare, animal husbandry and facility management. A combination of work experience and education are prerequisites for taking the AALAS examination. Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT) is the lowest level of certification, the second level is Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG) is the highest certification level.
Veterinary Technician and Technologist Professional Associations
The most popular and industry-recognized professional association is The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). NAVTA is a national non-profit association dedicated to enhancing the veterinary technology profession through education, advocacy and promotion. Individual states offer associations for their veterinary professionals. There are associations based on animal specialty, such as birds, cats, dogs, horses or pigs. There are also associations for those who specialize in a specific veterinary field, such as pharmacy or surgery.