Growth Trends for Related Jobs
A Variety of Opportunities for Animal Lovers
Animal lovers with an aptitude for science can complete certification requirements to become a vet tech in as little as two years. Although salaries are not as high as in other health care professions, techs find the job rewarding.
Veterinary technologists and technicians work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Vet techs perform medical tests, administer vaccinations and assist in the diagnosis and treatment of illness and injuries in animals. In the same ways nurses assist physicians in the care of human patients, vet techs support veterinarians in meeting the health care needs of animals.
Veterinary technologists typically have a bachelor's degree, while technicians have a two-year associate's degree. The work performed by technologists and technicians is essentially the same. Due to their additional education, however, technologists may have more employment opportunities and find greater room for advancement.
Coursework in an accredited vet tech program typically includes math, communications, foundational biology and chemistry, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic imaging, pharmacology and dentistry techniques. There are also courses that provide training in working with specific types of animals including laboratory animals, farm animals and small animals typically kept as pets.
While it is possible to earn some credits online toward a two-year or four-year degree, most states require that students complete a clinical practicum for licensure. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AMVA) accredits several distance learning programs that allow for completion of a practicum through the sponsorship of a local licensed veterinarian. You'll need to keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date with continuing education classes once you're licensed. Some states issue certificates instead of licenses, but the process is essentially the same.
About the Industry
Vet techs work in a variety or settings, including clinics, laboratories, zoos, rescue leagues and animal hospitals. Most vet techs work in private veterinary practices, but increasingly there are opportunities in human and animal health-related areas including military service, animal control, food safety inspection, wildlife care and drug and feed companies.
The work can be both physically and emotionally demanding. Animals that are hurt or frightened can possibly become aggressive. It can be difficult to see an animal in pain or try to calm an anxious owner of a beloved pet. There is some risk of injury when working with animals, whether they are large or small. Vet techs usually work in full-time positions, but part-time positions may be available. Vet techs may have to work nights, weekends and holidays.
Years of Experience
Median pay for veterinary technicians and technologists is $32,256 annually, or $15.51 per hour. Techs with experience in post-anesthesia care and emergency/trauma can expect to earn more. Salaries for technicians and technologists are essentially the same for those working in private veterinary practices. Pay depends more on location and setting than on experience. Technologists, because of the four-year degree, may have more opportunities with pharmaceutical companies, pet and feed manufacturers and research laboratories. Here are the average annual salaries, depending on years of experience:
- 0-1 years: $25,567
- 1-3 years: $26,659
- 4-6 years: $30,193
- 7-9 years: $32,365
- 10-14 years: $34,071
- 15+ years: $37,709
Job opportunities for vet techs are predicted to grow 20 percent by 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth in the field is expected to continue because of advances in veterinary medicine, increased specialization by veterinary physicians and the rising status of pets as important family members.
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
- HealthCareCareers.org: Veterinary Technologist or Technician
- AVMA: Veterinary Technicians and Veterinary Assistants
- Pima Medical Institute: Veterinary Technician Program Details
- GlassDoor.com: Veterinary Technician Salaries
- Veterinary Practice News: What to Expect in Your Vet Tech Career
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.