Pros and Cons of Becoming a Veterinary Technician
A veterinary technician performs laboratory and clinical duties, such as performing urinalysis tests and giving injections to animals. Consider the pros and cons below to help you decide if becoming a veterinary technician is right for you.
|Pros of Becoming a Veterinary Technician|
|Faster than average job growth (30% growth between 2012-2022)*|
|Satisfaction from helping animals*|
|Involves a variety of job duties*|
|Stable career in times of recession*|
|Cons of Becoming a Veterinary Technician|
|Higher than average rate of on-the-job injury and illness*|
|Can be emotionally taxing*|
|Jobs in aquariums and zoos are competitive*|
|School options for 4-year programs are limited (only a few accredited programs in the country)**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Veterinary Medical Association.
Job Description and Duties
Veterinary technicians typically work under the supervision of a veterinarian in a clinical environment. They perform laboratory tests on blood and urine, draw blood, develop X-rays and help with dental care. Veterinary technicians may also go over medical histories with pet owners, as well as talk with owners about the care and treatment of their pets. Often, these job duties are performed in a private practice or animal hospital setting and involve the care of dogs and cats. Veterinary technicians may also work with other small animals, such as birds, rodents, amphibians and reptiles.
Job Prospects and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinary technicians made a median salary of $31,070 in May of 2014. Although the salary may not be as high as other professions, the job prospects are expected to be excellent, with a 30% increase in employment between 2012 and 2022.
Due to a limited number of qualified technicians and the field's high turnover rate, the demand for technicians is expected to exceed the number of job candidates. Competition for jobs in private practices or clinical settings is expected to be relatively mild. Those looking for jobs at aquariums and zoos should expect more competition since these places are often more popular ones that experience lower employee turnover rates.
Although many work in private practice settings, some veterinary technicians may prefer to focus on research. Technicians choosing this career path often work in research facilities, administering injections and other medication, taking and preparing lab samples, sterilizing surgical tools and recording information on the physical and emotional state of the animals. Others trained to be veterinary technicians may choose to work with wildlife, livestock or large animals found in zoos or aquariums.
Education Requirements and Career Skills
Most people wishing to work as veterinary technicians obtain an associate's degree from a 2-year program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Others may wish to pursue a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology. Veterinary technicians and technologists typically perform similar duties, but because technologists typically receive a more thorough education, they may receive higher pay and take on more responsibility than a technician in a clinical setting. Students in both programs typically gain hands-on experience in laboratory and clinical work during their education.
Each state has different requirements for the credentialing of veterinary technicians. Many require that you take the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) after completing an AVMA-accredited program. Once you pass the exam, you will become licensed, certified or registered, depending on your state. If you're considering a job in research, look for certification options from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science to give you an edge in the job market.
According to the AVMA and the BLS, those interested in becoming veterinary technicians should have experience and show aptitude in math and science classes. Communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team are also important when working with your supervisor, other technicians and pet owners.
What Employers Look For
The main requirements for most veterinary technician jobs include graduating from an AVMA-approved program and having the appropriate state-specific credentials. Job postings often list specific clinical and laboratory skills, as well as desirable character traits. The following list contains examples of some real jobs that were available on a professional veterinary organization's website during March 2012:
- An animal hospital in Alaska was looking for a veterinary technician with communication and client relation skills, as well as experience taking X-rays, drawing blood, performing teeth cleaning, doing lab work and assisting during surgery.
- A veterinary clinic in Virginia was seeking a friendly and outgoing registered or certified veterinary technician with experience or training. The job requirements included skills in communication, teamwork and fine motor skills, as well as a willingness to learn and the ability to lift 40 pounds.
- A veterinary school in Texas was seeking faculty members. Candidates were required to be registered veterinary technicians that had graduated from an AVMA-accredited school and passed the NVT exam. The job also required 3 years of professional experience.
- A research facility in Florida advertised for a certified medical technician with a bachelor's degree. The posting asked for candidates with strong technical, computer, problem-solving and communication skills, as well as the ability to work flexible hours.
How Can I Stand Out?
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes several fields of specialization. If you choose to obtain a specialization through an academy recognized by the NAVTA, you must complete specific training, testing and certification requirements. If you're willing to put in the work, having a specialization can be a unique addition to a resume. Some specialties to consider include: dental care, anesthesia, emergency and critical care, internal medicine and clinical practice.
Due to rapid advancements in both medicine and technology, taking regular continuing education classes through the NAVTA can help you to stand out in the field. Not only is continuing education often required to renew state certifications, it can also prove to employers that you care enough about your career to expand your knowledge and keep your skills sharp. Courses on technology, new treatments and even communication and teamwork can help you get noticed by potential employers.
Other Careers to Consider
If the idea of being a veterinary technician is appealing to you, but you wish it paid more, you could consider becoming a veterinarian. Veterinarians have to attend many years of school, completing a bachelor's degree followed by a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from a 4-year program. Those seeking board certification must attend a residency program for an additional three to four years. However, if you're willing to go through the schooling process, the eventual salary is much higher than that of a veterinary technician. The median annual salary for veterinarians, according to the BLS, was $92,570 in May 2010.
If pay is not an issue, but you just don't know if you can handle the emotional demands of working with sick or injured animals, you might consider becoming an animal trainer. Dog trainers can often learn the trade by taking courses from local vocational schools or community colleges. Job growth in the animal care and service field is expected to be much faster than average between 2008 and 2018, with a 21% increase in jobs. The pay for animal trainers is similar to that of veterinary technicians, with a reported median annual salary of $31,110 in May 2010.