If you’ve ever wanted to work with animals in a clinical setting, becoming a veterinary technician might be the perfect job for you. It can become more than a job. It can become a career calling. When someone has a love of animals and is able to work with them constantly, that’s a person who loves their job.
What is a Veterinary Technician?
A veterinary technician helps the veterinary to care for the animals that are brought into the clinic or seen in the shelter or zoo. Veterinary technicians assist and work under the guidance of the veterinarian to treat animals that are sick, need to have procedures or are being checked and given shots. The veterinary technician is often the front line between the pet owner and the veterinarian. They might have a more in-depth relationship with the owner and the pet who comes into the clinic. The veterinary technician can be the right hand of the veterinary while he or she is performing surgery on an animal.
Duties and Responsibilities of a Veterinary Technician
The veterinary technician does the work of a nurse as well as a laboratory technician. The veterinary technician can be required to be a surgical nurse and an x-ray technician. In some cases, the veterinary technician might perform well visits for pets that come into a clinic. They can perform examinations on animals in a zoo or shelter, and provide daily reports on the animals to the veterinarian. If surgery is required for any animal, the vet tech will prepare the animal for surgery and assist during the procedure. The vet tech will monitor the animal after surgery too. They will perform diagnostic tests on animals and perform routine immunizations.
Where Can Vet Technicians Work?
Veterinary technicians can work in a variety of locations like private clinics, animal hospitals, kennels, zoos or animal shelters. In some cases, they might be the only staff in these locations with any advanced training. Many shelters have a veterinarian who will consult on severe cases of sick animals but for most routine tasks, the veterinary technician might be taking care of all the animals alone. Veterinary Technicians are able to work in laboratories diagnosing and screening for serious diseases in animals too. There are positions available in unorthodox facilities like wildlife control services, rescue leagues and the military.
Typical Work Day for a Veterinary Assistant
The typical work day for a vet tech can vary depending on the environment. A traditional clinic setting has set hours. These vet techs will have definite business hours that are mostly adhered to except for late nights once a week for the patient’s convenience. In a non-traditional environment, shifts can occur randomly depending on the schedule of the other vet techs. Most technicians will work nights, weekends and holidays. Aside from the hours, most vet techs have much the same work day. They are standing on their feet for most of the day. Vet techs might need to lift heavy animals or restrain them. They’ll have to be able to read x-rays, give shots or take blood. Vet techs working with surgical patients will monitor vital signs and induce or monitor anesthesia. Many techs will have to take x-rays and report the findings to the veterinarian. Along with the advanced roles, vet techs will have to take on responsibility for dental care, cleaning cages and instruments, dressing wounds and clerical work like updating files.
Qualities of a Successful Veterinary Aide
Veterinary technicians have a universal love of animals. They have the deep need to care for those that are unable to care for themselves, and veterinary technicians give selflessly to their patients. They need to have the ability to lift and restrain heavy animals in an effort to provide health care. Vet techs have a knack for science, biology and chemistry. They are able to deal with the animals as well as the owners because they will often have to provide care instructions and general information to pet owners.
Education Requirements and Training
The requirements and training vary based on the type of environment in which the student wishes to work. They can enroll in a certificate or degree program that normally takes two years to complete. The student will take classes in the sciences like biology and chemistry as well as classes in humanities. A two-year certificate or degree program will allow the vet tech to work in almost every location except a laboratory which requires a four-year degree program. In the last year before graduation, most potential vet techs will have the opportunity to complete a hands on component to their coursework, or they can participate in an internship.
Veterinary technicians have to be licensed by the state in which they’ll perform their work. Every state has a mandatory exam and the requirement that vet techs receive a license from an approve training program. Students can avoid having to retest in various states if they plan to move by passing the National Veterinary Technician exam. This exam is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Veterinary technicians that wish to work in laboratory settings for research purposes must have advanced certification through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.
Employment Outlook and Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 30% increase in job openings for veterinary technicians in the next ten years, which they report is “much faster than average” in terms other occupations. That’s the addition of 25,000 more jobs over the years 2012 to 2022. The median wage for vet techs was reported at $30,290 per year. Starting salary, and the salary for those in some areas of veterinary services, was $21,030. The top ten percent of earners were at more than $44,030.
Vet techs with experience and high-level training are able to advance to supervisory roles over incoming junior techs. This is especially true in areas like research, surgery and laboratory settings. This will be reflected in an increase in job responsibilities and salary.