How to become veterinary technician
10 August 2020

How do You Become a Veterinary Technician?


So you've decided to become a vet tech.

But do you know what it means to be one? What are the vet technician salary and growth opportunities? And exactly how long does it take to become one?

Find out the answers to all these questions, and more.

Let's get started.

How to Become a Veterinary Technician?

First, you have to get your high school diploma. After that, comes the 2-year associate's degree. The American Veterinary Medical Association accredits the Associates of Arts programs, and there are over 150 colleges and universities all across the US offering this degree.

Associate level coursework in vet tech focuses on animal science and behavior, lab work, imaging processes, and specialty areas like critical care. Some other common courses available at this level are:

  1. Veterinary Physiology and Anatomy
  2. Diagnosing Parasitic Diseases and Process Samples in the Lab
  3. Promoting Patient Welfare via Proper Animal Handling
  4. Animal Nutrition, studying how major nutrients are metabolized and digested in different animals

On average, it takes 2-4 years to become a vet technician.

How to Become a Veterinary Technologist?

If you are not content with an associates degree, you can also go for a bachelor's degree. People who hold a BS or BAS in veterinary technology are called veterinary technologists.

Most of the duties of a veterinary technician and technologist are the same, and they even have the same license in most states.

But a veterinary technologist can also work in behavior counselling, research labs, pharma and vet equipment sales, zoo and shelter medicine, wildlife rehabilitation.

Because they have additional skills in project management and leadership, they can also work in clinical management, clinical leadership, speciality hospitals and practices, etc. They can also specialize in their specific areas of interest, like small and large animals, zoo animals, management, etc.

Basic courses available at the bachelor level are:

  • Clinical Pathology, where you learn to analyze blood, urine, and tissue samples.
  • Parasitology, for studying life cycles of parasites in animals
  • Clinical and Hospital Management
  • Applied Animal Behavior

How to Become a Registered Vet Tech?

After getting your associate or bachelor degree, the next step is to get the necessary credentials. Here, you have three options:

  1. Licensed Vet Tech - authority granted by the state vet medical board
  2. Certified Vet Tech - awarded by a private or professional program
  3. Registered Vet Tech - awarded by a government agency

In all US states except Alaska, California, and Wisconsin, a vet tech with credentials also has to complete a state-approved training program and pass an exam. You can skip this step if you have passed the Vet Tech National Exam.

What exactly does a vet tech do?

Your responsibilities are entirely dependent on where you are working.

But here is what you can expect:

  • Bathing, caring for and feeding the animals.
  • Documenting the behavior and conditions of the animals.
  • Helping out the vets with routine procedures.
  • Administering vaccines to the animals.
  • Working in the research lab.
  • Collecting lab samples from the animals.
  • In cases of emergencies, assisting the doctors.
  • Taking x-rays and developing them.
  • Caring for animals that are injured or sick.

Career Options for Veterinary Techs

Besides working in a clinic with a vet, or going for a specialty vet tech certification, you can also try these alternative career options:

1. Working with professional veterinary associations

Veterinary associations such as state vet tech association, NAVTA, and AAHA often hire vet techs for helping with setting up the goals of the organization, executing the said goals, and participating in outreach programs for veterinary students and professionals.

2. Referral hospitals and vet schools

Assisting veterinarians in hospitals and vet schools with complex medical and surgical cases.

3. Practice Management

Managing the veterinary practice while handling financial responsibilities, employee management, client communication, etc.

Vet Technician Salary

The median base annual salary for a vet tech is $36k, and the top ten percent make around $48k. The lower ten percent make about $35k. Average hourly pay is $17, and the top 10 percent make about $24 per hour, whereas the bottom 10 percent make $11 per hour.

Note that a vet tech's salary is largely dependent on their education, work experience, specialities, certifications, and the organization.

What factors can help increase a vet tech's salary?

Here are a Few ways in Which Vet Techs can Increase Their Salary:

1. Getting certified

Board certifications fetch higher salaries at private clinics. Moreover, suppose you want to work with a large clinic. In that case, research lab, university or hospital where the pay will be significantly higher, a certification will increase your chances of getting hired.

2. Specialty certification

If you already have a vet tech certification, speciality certifications can help you take things a step further. You can get a specialty certification in one of the following recognized specialities:

i). Clinical Pathology Vet Tech

Conducting lab analysis of the bodily fluids of animals, such as blood, urine, to identify any health concerns, if present.

ii). Clinical Practice Vet Tech

Providing animal care in one of the three specialty areas - canine/feline, production animal, or exotic companion animal.

iii). Emergency and critical care

Providing intensive emergency care for severely traumatized animals.

iv). Equine Vet Tech

Assisting equine veterinarians with providing routine as well as emergency care for horses. Equine vet techs may also work in the large animal hospitals, or they may also travel from one far to another with the veterinarian that they assist.

v). Internal Medicine Vet Tech

Assisting internal medicine vet techs in a wide range of subspecialties, such as oncology, neurology, and cardiology.

vi). Veterinary Behavior Tech

Managing and modifying animal behavior.

vii). Veterinary Surgical Tech

Assisting veterinarians with surgery procedures, as well as overseeing post-operative and pre-operative care.

viii). Vet Tech Anesthetist

Assisting veterinary anesthesiologists as well as surgeons with certain procedures, such as ventilation, sedation, and monitoring of the patient during surgery.

ix). Veterinary Dental Tech

Assisting the veterinarian in dental procedures, as well as providing dental cleaning and care animals while under the supervision of the veterinarian.

x). Veterinary Nutrition Tech

Assisting the nutritional management of the animals.

xi). Zoo Vet Tech

Assisting veterinarians who work with exotic species of animals.

3. Working in a Research Lab

Well experienced and highly educated technicians are hired by research labs, where they get paid more than clinics. In these jobs, you will be responsible for the everyday care of the animals in the lab, while also preparing them for the tests to be conducted.

4. Writing

Plenty of certified vet techs write for veterinary magazines and websites for good pay. With the boom of the internet, a lot of people turn to the web for answers to common questions. As a vet tech, you can write for these industry publications regarding your specific specialities.

5. Teaching

If you have a good resume and years of experiences, you can also apply for teaching jobs in institutes that train vet techs. You are likely to get a more flexible schedule, as well make more money than you would in a clinical setting.

Closing Thoughts

Veterinary tech is a great career option if you love animals and want a stress-free job. You won't be making $100k a year, but you can certainly live a comfortable living doing what you love.

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