How to Become a Veterinary Technician
Veterinary Technician Careers & Degrees

If you’re passionate about animals and their well being, then you might like to become a veterinary technician.

These animal health specialists help veterinarians to perform an array of tasks, much like a nurse assists a doctor when it comes to human health.

Helping an animal return to health is very rewarding, particularly when you see the happiness a pet brings to a family.

It’s important to keep in mind that the work of a veterinarian is often also distressing, and even dangerous.

It’s vital to be able to keep distance and stay professional while at work.

Veterinary technicians work across a wide range of environments.

Some work with domestic animals, other with farm animals, while some work within zoos and aquariums.

Job opportunities in this field are excellent.

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Education Requirements to Become a Veterinary Technician

If you are interested in working as a veterinary technician, you should take math and science subjects at school.

To become a veterinary technician, you will need to complete a two year associates degree.

It’s important to make sure your school is accredited by the American Veterinary Medicine Association.

Accredited programs combine a variety of theoretical classroom work with clinical work with animals.

There are also four year programs available which allow a graduate to work as a veterinary technologist.

Despite the extra training involved, there is little discernible difference between the duties of a veterinary technician and a veterinary technologist.

While the requirements differ slightly, in all states veterinary technicians must be licensed.

Licensing usually consists of sitting the National Veterinary Technician Exam or VTNE.

A veterinary technician will also complete a traineeship under the supervision of a qualified veterinarian.

A veterinary technician must also develop skills in other areas.

Communication skills are essential since they are often called upon to deliver difficult news to animal owners.

They must also keep in close contact with veterinarians and co-workers.

In some instances, veterinary technicians will complete administrative or accounts based duties, such as invoicing customer and collecting payment.

Veterinary Technician Job Description

When you become a veterinary technician you will work in a clinic or animal hospital.

Here you will perform a range of clinical and laboratory tasks under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Technicians will often complete tasks like taking an animal’s history when they are brought to a clinic.

They will weigh an animal, and check for any outwards signs of injury, disease, or apply first aid.

Other tasks a veterinary technician might complete include cleaning an animal’s teeth, taking samples, or changing dressings.

They may administer medication prescribed by a veterinarian.

Veterinary technicians also perform other types of duties.

They may take and develop x-rays, analyze blood and urine samples, and in some instances form a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan for an animal.

Veterinary Technician Salary and Career Path

When you first become a veterinary technician, you will start working as a trainee under supervision.

With experience, you’ll be given more responsibilities.

Many go on to work with very little supervision later in their career.

Most veterinary technicians work a forty hour week.

Some weekend and evening work is required in particular clinics.

Most work in a veterinary clinic or hospital, while others may work on farms, or in zoos and aquariums.

Some veterinary technicians will undertake further training to become veterinary technologists, or full veterinarians.

Other will go on to work in other fields, for instance research into animal health.

Some may go to work in animal shelters, or for animal welfare agencies.

Job prospects and employment opportunities are good in this field, and should continue to stay this way.

The exception to the rule are at zoos, where competition for jobs is much higher.

The median salary for a veterinary technician in $28,000 a year.

The top 10% of earners made more than $41,000 a year.

Some similar careers that you might be interested in include:

  • Veterinarian
  • Registered nurse
  • Marine biologist
  • Animal control workers
  • Animal trainer

If you love animals, and want to spend your career working with them, then you might like to become a veterinary technician.

This can be a very rewarding career path for those who are passionate about what they do.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$36,670
$24K
$29K
$36K
$42K
$51K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$31,780
Alaska$39,200
Arizona$35,530
Arkansas$31,630
California$43,470
Colorado$37,200
Connecticut$49,900
Delaware$34,370
District of Columbia$60,290
Florida$33,360
Georgia$32,610
Hawaii$38,070
Idaho$32,030
Illinois$37,130
Indiana$32,740
Iowa$33,900
Kansas$34,200
Kentucky$31,630
Louisiana$26,980
Maine$36,530
Maryland$37,770
Massachusetts$42,360
Michigan$37,810
Minnesota$38,980
Mississippi$35,890
Missouri$32,670
Montana$33,460
Nebraska$35,010
Nevada$49,320
New Hampshire$36,840
New Jersey$38,520
New Mexico$35,750
New York$43,700
North Carolina$34,520
North Dakota$34,090
Ohio$34,660
Oklahoma$32,250
Oregon$36,620
Pennsylvania$37,050
Rhode Island$37,150
South Carolina$33,410
South Dakota$35,170
Tennessee$31,920
Texas$32,700
Utah$30,610
Vermont$34,020
Virginia$43,820
Washington$39,950
West Virginia$30,580
Wisconsin$34,730
Wyoming$31,200
Puerto Rico$28,810

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $60,290.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $60,290
Connecticut - $49,900
Nevada - $49,320
Virginia - $43,820
New York - $43,700
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, OCC Code 29-2056, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a veterinary technician do?

A veterinary technician (or a veterinary technologist) is a specialist who helps the veterinarian diagnose the illnesses and injuries of various animals and treat them.

Veterinary technicians work in animal hospitals, zoos, laboratories, and private clinics.

The typical duties of the specialist usually include observing the condition and behavior of animals; administering anesthesia and monitoring the responses; providing nursing care or emergency first aid; collecting laboratory samples (urine, blood, tissue…); performing laboratory tests; taking and developing x-rays; preparing instruments and animals for surgery, and so on.

Veterinary technician can specialize in a certain discipline – anesthesia, dental technology, zoological medicine, emergency and critical care, etc.

In most cases, veterinary technicians work with small-animal practitioners who care for dogs and cats.

QuestionHow much do veterinary technicians make?

On average, a veterinary technician can make a little more than $32.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $22.000 and $47.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

The veterinary technicians that work in Nevada, Massachusetts, and New York, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level veterinary technician can earn $10 per hour, while a specialist with plenty of experience will make $23 and more.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a veterinary technician?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology, in order to become a veterinary technician.

You can also go for an associate’s degree in animal sciences, biology, zoology, or a related field.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

Depending on the state, you must also acquire a license, get certified or registered.

To become certified, you would need to pass the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science examination ($160-$335).

QuestionWhat is the demand for veterinary technicians?

Between 2016 and 2026, the veterinary technician job market is expected to grow by 20%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a lot faster than the national average for all occupations in the United States.

Specialists in pathology, laboratory medicine, and toxicology will be in high demand in metropolitan areas.

The competition in the industry is high; bear in mind that candidates with specializations will have better job prospects.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Florida, Texas, and California.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a veterinary technician?

It will take you 2 years to acquire an associate’s degree and 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Volunteering at various organizations and seeking internship opportunities will be extremely helpful for your future career.

You will be required to have work experience in an animal facility or a laboratory and pass the AALAS examination, in order to become certified.

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