A veterinarian technician works in animal care establishments to help animals in need. Acting under the guidance and supervision of veterinarians, they are able to perform a handful of relatively advanced duties such as analyzing animal behavior and administering treatments among others.
Anyone who aims to become a veterinary technician must first understand the scope of the profession, and that is exactly the information that this article provides. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about who veterinary technicians are, what they do, their work environment, potential salary, and of course the steps involved in becoming one.
Who Are Veterinary Technicians?
Veterinary technicians are sometimes referred to as trained nurses for animals, just to show how comprehensive their duties are. Apart from being able to take care of animals and provide treatment for them when authorized to, they are also able to utilize advanced equipment to perform diagnostic tests while maintaining clinic inventory.
To be able to do their jobs at a high level, veterinary technicians often spend a significant amount of time obtaining appropriate education from an accredited institution. After graduating, you’ll find veterinary technicians working in a number of environments including private clinics, animal hospitals, and laboratories.
What Do Veterinary Technicians Do?
A veterinary technician’s roles and responsibilities are wide-ranging, to say the least. Below is a list of some of the most common duties you’ll find a vet tech performing along the course of a day’s work:
- Updating and recording medical history data
- Carrying out x-rays and other diagnostic tests
- Observing, analyzing and recording reports based on animal behavior
- Communicating and liaising with pet owners
- Carrying out illness research with veterinarians
- Preparing animals for surgeries and important procedures
- Preparing and maintaining equipment
- Carrying out first aid and other emergency services.
- Administering vaccines and other simple treatment
- Drawing blood and administering anesthesia
How To Become a Veterinary Technician
Requirements for becoming a veterinary technician tend to vary from state to state. But even though a few states such as New Jersey do not require their veterinary technicians to be professionally credentialed at all, more than 90% of states do.
Below is the most common path for anyone looking to start practicing as a veterinary technician in most states of the US.
To become a veterinary technician, candidates must fulfill about four major requirements: complete an educational program from an accredited institution, complete real-world training sessions, become certified, and obtain a license.
But before any of that, most programs require their candidates to already possess a high school diploma or GED before they can be admitted.
Having a strong background in certain subjects such as physiology, biology and chemistry usually come in handy during the actual program coursework. These subjects, particularly their laboratory aspects, also help students become familiar with handling scientific instruments and conducting tests.
Completing an accredited program is usually a key part of becoming a veterinary assistant. Even in states where professional credentials aren’t required, the knowledge and experience gained during this part of the process usually proves invaluable to carrying out important duties at a high level.
The premier body for the accreditation of veterinary technician programs is the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). The body itself is a branch of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Having enrolled in an accredited program, students should be prepared to dive deep into courses such as anatomy, animal behavior, physiology, microbiology, parasitology, pathology, clinical toxicology, animal dentistry and nursing, veterinary clinic management, veterinary medical calculations, and veterinary medical ethics among others.
Most programs make life easier for students by providing on-campus and online alternatives.
Having graduated from an accredited institution, it is usually advisable for students to acquire hands-on experience of how real-world veterinary technicians function. This helps move them from the strictly theoretical part of the job to the more functional aspect.
Usually, programs make available some form of specialized training to ensure that their students fulfill this requirement. This usually involves working in a clinical or hospital environment under a form of internship or externship program.
Vet Tech Certification & Licensing
As mentioned earlier, not all states require certification and professional credentials for veterinary Technicians. However, most states do indeed require their vet technicians to become certified and licensed before they can practice.
Usually the first step to fulfilling this requirement is to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
Veterinary Technician National Examination
The VTNE takes approximately three hours to complete. It consists of about 170 multiple choice questions aimed at testing potential veterinary technicians in every major aspect of the field.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of resources and sample questions online to help candidates prepare. Once the examination has been completed, candidates may proceed to check their results almost immediately.
The testing center is then responsible for sending the test scores to the state veterinary board in charge of licensing. This typically takes between two to three weeks.
The VTNE includes questions on various topics and subject areas, but some of the most common include animal care, pharmacology, dentistry, anesthesia, diagnostic testing, laboratory procedures, emergency medicine and pain management practices.
Salary and Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, vet techs earned a median annual wage of $36,850 in 2021. For those who found themselves among the top ten percent of earners, their annual wage was around $48,100.
Those who fell in the bottom ten percent still manage to earn $28,370 for the year. The top earners by industry were vet techs working in colleges and other professional schools. These took home around $46,780 in annual median wage.
Technicians in veterinary services and social advocacy organizations earned an annual median wage of $36,770 and $35,480 respectively.
Demand for veterinary technicians is projected by the BLS to increase by a whopping 20% between 2021 to 2031. This is several points above the national average for all occupations.
Along with the need to replace retiring workers and those moving to other occupations, this jump in demand is set to be spurred by increase in pet ownership and pet spending.