What Is A Veterinary Technician?

Anyone who has a pet knows all too well how it is just as much part of the family as the others. Pets are popular and most households have them. This is why technicians in the veterinary field are in such high demand. Advances in veterinary medicine and vaccinations make the difference in longer pet life spans as well. The jobs available exceed the candidates for this career.

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At a Glance

Vet Technician TrainingOther Job Titles: Veterinary technologist (requires 4-year degree)
Salary Range:
$20,000-$44,000; Median $30,000
Education/Training Required:
Associate’s or bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology
Desired Skills/Aptitude:
Manual dexterity; communication skills, attention to detail, compassion
Certification/Licensing:
Most states require a credentialing examination
Locations with Best Opportunities:
Arizona, Florida, Texas
Employment Outlook:
Expected 52% growth through 2020 (faster than average)
Opportunities for Advancement:
Some go on to be veterinarians with continued education; veterinary technicians can advance to veterinary technologists with further education

What a Veterinary Technician Does

A veterinary technician should not be confused with a veterinary assistant even though some of their duties overlap such as receiving pets from customers. A veterinary technician must receive formal training plus get certified and licensed whereas an assistant does not. Likewise, a veterinary technologist needs more education than a technician because the former is expected to perform more complex tasks.

The primary job of a veterinary technician is to give technical assistance to a veterinarian. Duties involved with this include:

  • Receiving pets from customers
  • Taking blood samples
  • Running x-rays
  • Doing physical exams
  • Running lab work
  • Administering anesthesia (under supervision of a veterinarian)
  • Preparing surgical equipment
  • Doing pet recovery tasks after surgery

Prior to surgery, a technician is responsible for preparing equipment that will be used plus doing a physical exam of the pet. Any lab work that will be required is run as well. After the surgery, the technician monitors the pet coming out of the effects of anesthesia and administers any required pet medication.

The Workplace

Veterinary technicians find positions in commercial clinics, animal hospitals, and even laboratories. They can also work in rural communities where they look after livestock and other farm animals. Basically, anywhere that you find animal care, you will probably find a veterinary technician. Places such as animal hospitals run 24 by 7 therefore veterinary technicians may have to work odd hours and on weekends.

Since veterinary technicians do their jobs because of an internal love for animals, the job can be emotionally challenging at times. This is because while most love their pets, there are many others who do not take care of them. Thus, oftentimes a veterinary technician will have to look after abused and abandoned pets. Then, there are times when a pet has to be put down (euthanized) because of either age or an incurable illness. This can be emotionally trying as family members grieve at the loss of their pet.

Veterinary technicians are at a higher risk of injury because they are looking after animals that typically react aggressively out of fear. It is not uncommon for veterinary technicians to be bitten and clawed by a terrified pet.

Education and Certification

A veterinary technologist must get an education in a 4-year bachelor’s degree program whereas a veterinary technician only needs a two-year associate’s degree program in veterinary technology. The program taken should be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

After completing post-secondary education, technicians and technologists usually have to take the Veterinary Technician National Examination which credentials them for further licensing by the state where they will work. Different states have different requirements so it is best to check with the appropriate agency.

Those who want to work in research facilities will typically need certification through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS).