If you have animals and have been to a veterinarian’s office, then you’ve seen veterinarian technicians at work.
If you want to work with animals, then you may have considered becoming a veterinarian or a veterinarian technician.
The first requires significantly more schooling, at least eight to 10 years, if not more.
The second requires some higher education, at least two years, and passing a state licensing exam. Some people start out as vet techs on their way to becoming veterinarians.
If you’d like to pursue a career in animal care, you may want to learn more about a vet tech salary.
What Do Vet Techs Do?
Veterinarian technicians act as assistants to the veterinarians. You can often find them in the exam room with the patient, obtaining vital information from the owner before the vet examines the animal.
They will often accompany the vet during an exam to help restrain the animal for routine procedures such as checking vital signs and taking blood.
They try to keep your pet calm and prevent the animal from inadvertently injuring the vet who may be trying to perform essential animal care.
Behind the scenes, veterinarian technicians perform other necessary functions to help the vet and the animals.
They take care of the needs of all animals that may be staying at the office for daily, emergency, or long-term visits.
Performing lab tests on tissue, blood, or fecal samples is a key priority, and one of the main reasons that qualified vet techs have a minimum of two years of higher education.
Vet techs perform many other functions necessary to daily operation of a veterinarian’s office:
- Chart medical data
- Administer medication
- Laboratory diagnostic testing
- Discuss pet care or medical treatment with owners
- Keep pet owners informed and updated
- Monitor surgical recovery
- Take x-rays
- Prepare animals for surgery
- Assist in surgery
- Insert IVs or collect blood samples
- Clean up after animals
Why Become a Vet Tech?
There are many reasons to recommend vet tech as a career.
First, the outlook for the field is positive and stable. The pet care industry continues to gain momentum every year.
People spend millions on their pets and want to keep them in the best health possible. This means that there will always be a need for techs and animal care workers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to see growth in the field for the coming years.
How Much Do Vet Techs Make?
A vet tech salary varies by region and even within the same state. People who work in urban areas typically see higher salaries than those who work in rural areas.
The cost of living is higher, so the wages are higher. The mean hourly wage for vet techs across the country is currently $16.69, and the mean yearly salary is $34,710.
The mean refers to the average someone can expect to make. Therefore, some people make more money and some make less.
The amount often depends on how much experience and education you have earned.
Those with the lowest hourly rate may make only about $11.00 an hour while those at the upper end can see over $23.00 an hour.
Those who make the highest salaries work in particular specialties, including emergency and trauma, dentistry, post-anesthesia care, and inventory control management.
Vet Tech Education and Training Guide
Most veterinarian technicians go to college for two years and earn an associate degree in either animal science or veterinarian technology.
To enroll in a program, check with your local community college to see what plans it has available.
Some programs require their applicants to have some observation time or experience working with animals in some capacity before they can enroll.
You can expect to take general education classes and those directly related to the position:
- General biology, chemistry, math, and English
- Medical terminology
- Animal anatomy and physiology
- Animal Pharmacology
- Clinical practice
- Veterinarian hospital management
- Diagnostic Imaging
- Veterinarian pathology
- Animal diseases
- Animal behavior
Toward the end of your classwork, you will also have to fulfill an internship at a veterinarian’s office or clinic. Full-time studies can take up to two years to complete.
Once you complete the program and the internship, you should be ready to take the Veterinarian Technician National Examination (VTNE) and any other certifications required by your state.
Since this varies state by state, you will need to check with your state government for the correct exam and licensure.
Most colleges that have vet tech programs can assist with the certification process as well.
Other Necessary Skills for Vet Techs
Besides working with animals, your education will prepare you to be an essential member of the office.
- Need critical thinking skills to help brainstorm solutions and solve problems.
- Must be comfortable talking to people and communicating in writing when working with the doctors and the public.
- Must always demonstrate ethical and professional attitude and demeanor as you are always representing your veterinarian when you communicate with anyone about the animals or the practice.
- Need to maintain your professional knowledge by reading professional journals and keeping up to date on the latest research and findings.
- You may even find yourself involved in research, so quantitative reasoning and scientific inquiry will be important aspects of your education.
Average Vet Tech Salary Information Across the Country
This information comes from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and represents some of the areas with the highest pay and highest concentration of veterinarian technicians.
- Connecticut – $20.85 per hour or $43,360 per year
- Maine – $16.79 per hour or $34,930 per year
- Massachusetts – $19.69 per hour or $40,950 per year
- New Hampshire – $16.50 per hour or $34,330 per year
- New York – $20.60 per hour or $42,840 per year
- Pennsylvania – $17.25 per hour or $38,880 per year
- Vermont – $16.55 per hour or $34,420 per year
- Florida – $15.35 per hour or $31,930 per year
- Maryland – $16.92 per hour or $35,200 per year
- Texas – $14.82 per hour or $30,820 per year
- Alaska – $19.79 per hour or $41,160 per year
- California – $19.08 per hour or $39,690 per year
- Colorado – $16.57 per hour or $34,460 per year
- Drawbacks To Being a Vet Tech
The three biggest downsides to becoming a veterinarian technician are the pay scale, the lifespan of animals, and the hours.
- The pay scale for vet techs is lower than that of healthcare fields with similar levels of education that deal with humans. However, not everyone wants to work with people and would much prefer to deal with animals.
- Most animals have short life spans. Consequently, vet techs must frequently deal with other people’s grief about losing their beloved pets. The vet techs may also become attached to the pets that they see frequently and share in the mourning. This can be difficult to handle regularly and would require ways for the worker to minimize the transference of this stress.
- Vet techs can work full or part-time hours, but their hours may not be strictly 9 am – 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Veterinarian offices often open early and close late to accommodate client appointments. If the practice keeps animal patients overnight after surgery or for emergencies, staff must stay and monitor them, and this includes weekends and holidays. Therefore, some vet techs work overnight shifts or can be on-call for emergencies. Some offices and clinics are even open on weekends.
Choosing a Career
The most important part about finding a career is making it work for your interest and personality. You would not be reading about vet techs if you were not interested or liked animals.
However, you have to remember that the animals may be sick, hurt, or dying. Some animals are even hurt intentionally by cruel people.
Will you be able to handle seeing such scenes at work, even with all of the strong and healthy animals that you will see on a daily basis?
You may also want to consider the working conditions. For the most part, you will be working in an office environment.
However, some clinics or animal rescues may work on smaller budgets and might not have some comforts like air conditioning or indoor caging for the animals.
Will you be able to work in these kinds of conditions? You may also be assigned to clean up the cages or after animals have accidents in the lobby of the building.
Are dog feces and vomit something that you can quickly clean or does it make you sick at the sight and smell of it? Be sure to assess your personality and the type of work environment that you will be in all day.
Veterinarian technicians can be found in all businesses where you find veterinarians including zoos, private practices, animal rescues, research labs, and hospitals.
They perform many tasks that the veterinarian can do except prescribe medicine, make diagnoses, and perform surgery.
You can start working after just two years of education and passing a certification exam. The outlook for the career is considered positive and will continue to grow, which means more vet techs will be needed.
Finally, some people use a general vet tech education combined with their experience in the office or clinic and decide to further their careers with additional specializations.
Most health specialties available to humans are becoming available to animals, and the veterinarians will need people trained in these specific fields.