Imagine yourself in an emergency room working hard to save a patient injured in a hit-and-run accident, only this patient is a Labrador puppy. Or, maybe, you'd rather imagine yourself helping a Guernsey cow birth her calf on a Montana ranch. Whatever the setting, today's veterinary technicians work right alongside veterinary doctors to provide top-notch care for the four-legged (and occasionally feathered or amphibious) members of our families. Most veterinary technicians work in the kind of animal clinics or hospitals you have likely visited with your own pets, though some may work in laboratories or zoos or even for the FDA. The wide scope of veterinary technology practice offers plenty of opportunities to specialize your own practice.
Veterinary technician specializations
Your clinical experience or personal interest may lead you to pursue a veterinary technician career specialization. Some schools may offer the opportunity for specialized study or continuing education. Training, certification and credentialing in veterinary technology specializations is offered through veterinary academies and societies. Veterinary technicians can specialize in:
- Dentistry (avdt.us)
- Anesthesiology (avta-vts.org)
- Emergency and critical care (avecct.org)
- Surgery (avst-vts.org)
- Animal behavior (avbt.net)
- Internal medicine (aimvt.com)
- Zoological medicine (avzmt.org)
- Equine nursing (aaevt.org)
- Clinical practice (avtcp.org) for canines & felines, avian & exotic animals, and production animals
- Nutrition (nutritiontechs.org)
- Pathology (avcpt.net)
- Management (vhma.org)
Veterinary technician certifications and degrees
Veterinary technician schools offer a two-year associate degree for veterinary technicians. While this is the most common path to becoming a veterinary technician, some states do allow a combination of a high school diploma or GED and on-the-job training.
Most states require veterinary technicians to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam. Additionally, veterinary technicians who want to work in a laboratory setting will need certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (aalas.org). A number of veterinary academies and societies offer you the opportunity to become trained and certified in veterinary specializations.
Veterinary technician salary and career outlook
While some students follow their hearts into this field, salary and job potential are important pieces of information to have before committing to a career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), the national median salary for veterinary technicians and technologists in May 2013 was $30,500. The lowest 10 percent earned up to $21,270, and the top 10 percent made over $44,490.
With more and more animal clinics and hospitals relying on vet techs, BLS predicts strong very job growth of 30 percent from 2012-2022. Despite the strong prospects, you may still face some competition for jobs as the number of veterinary technician schools has increased, in part to accommodate the strong demand.
Here are a few of the top states for vet techs in 2013 according to the BLS and Projections Central (2012 through 2022):
- Top-paying states: District of Columbia, Alaska, and New York.
- Highest level of employment: Texas, California, and Florida.
- Fastest job growth by percentage: Virginia (56.6), Utah (44.2), and Colorado (43.2).
- Greatest number of average annual job openings: Florida (400), Texas (340), and California (270).
Come and stay
Increasingly, veterinary practices are coming to rely on the veterinary technicians to provide quality animal care. For those who love working with animals, veterinary technology schools can be the first step to a long-term career with solid job potential and a two-year pathway to an associate degree.
American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, https://www.aalas.org
American Association of Veterinary State Boards, http://www.aavsb.org/VTNE/
National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, http://www.navta.net/
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292056.htm
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Projections Central: Long-Term Projections, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm