Veterinary technologists and technicians, supervised by licensed veterinarians, do medical tests that help diagnose animals’ injuries and illnesses.

Duties

Veterinary technologists and technicians typically do the following:

  • Observe the behavior and condition of animals
  • Provide nursing care or emergency first aid to recovering or injured animals
  • Bathe animals, clip nails or claws, and brush or cut animals’ hair
  • Restrain animals during exams or procedures
  • Administer anesthesia to animals and monitor their responses
  • Take x rays and collect and perform laboratory tests, such as urinalyses and blood counts
  • Prepare animals and instruments for surgery
  • Administer medications, vaccines, and treatments prescribed by a veterinarian
  • Collect and record animals’ case histories

In addition to helping veterinarians during animal exams, veterinary technologists and technicians do a variety of clinical, care, and laboratory tasks.

Veterinary technologists and technicians who work in research-related jobs ensure that animals are handled carefully and are treated humanely. They may help veterinarians or scientists on research projects in areas such as biomedical research, disaster preparedness, and food safety.

Typically working with small-animal practitioners who care for cats and dogs, veterinary technologists and technicians also may have tasks that involve mice, cattle, or other animals.

Veterinary technologists and technicians may specialize in a particular discipline, such as dentistry, anesthesia, emergency and critical care, and zoological medicine.

Veterinary technologists typically work in more advanced research-related jobs, usually under the guidance of a scientist or veterinarian. Some technologists work in private clinical practices. Working primarily in a laboratory setting, they may administer medications; prepare tissue samples for examination; or record an animal’s genealogy, weight, diet, and signs of pain.

Veterinary technicians generally work in private clinical practices under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian. Technicians may do laboratory tests, such as a urinalysis, and help veterinarians conduct a variety of other diagnostic tests. Although they do some of their work in a laboratory, technicians also talk with animal owners. For example, they explain a pet’s condition or how to administer medication prescribed by a veterinarian.

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Work Environment

Veterinary technologists and technicians held about 109,400 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of veterinary technologists and technicians were as follows:

Veterinary services 90%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                        4
Social advocacy organizations 2

Veterinary technologists and technicians typically work in private clinics and animal hospitals. They also may work in laboratories, colleges and universities, and humane societies.

Their jobs may be physically or emotionally demanding. For example, they may witness abused animals or may need to help euthanize sick, injured, or unwanted animals.

Injuries and Illnesses

Veterinary technologists and technicians risk injury on the job. They may be bitten, scratched, or kicked while working with scared or aggressive animals. Injuries may happen while the technologist or technician is holding, cleaning, or restraining an animal.

Work Schedules

Veterinary technologists and technicians may have to work evenings, weekends, or holidays.

Education and Training

Veterinary technologists and technicians must complete a postsecondary program in veterinary technology. Technologists usually need a 4-year bachelor’s degree, and technicians need a 2-year associate’s degree. Typically, both technologists and technicians must pass a credentialing exam to become registered, licensed, or certified, depending on the requirements of the state in which they work.

Education

Veterinary technologists usually have a 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Veterinary technicians usually have a 2-year associate’s degree in a veterinary technology program. the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredits veterinary technology programs. Most of these programs offer a 2-year associate’s degree for veterinary technicians; others offer a 4-year bachelor’s degree for veterinary technologists

People interested in becoming a veterinary technologist or technician can prepare by taking biology and other science courses in high school.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although each state regulates veterinary technologists and technicians differently, most candidates must pass a credentialing exam. Most states require technologists and technicians to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

Personality and Interests

Veterinary technologists and technicians typically have an interest in the Building and Thinking interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking interest which might fit with a career as a veterinary technologist and technician, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Veterinary technologists and technicians should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Veterinary technologists and technicians spend a substantial amount of their time communicating with supervisors, animal owners, and other staff. In addition, a growing number of technicians counsel pet owners on animal behavior and nutrition.

Compassion. Veterinary technologists and technicians must treat animals with kindness and must be sensitive when dealing with the owners of sick pets.

Detail oriented. Veterinary technologists and technicians must pay attention to details and be precise when recording information, performing diagnostic tests, and administering medication.

Manual dexterity. Veterinary technologists and technicians must handle animals, medical instruments, and laboratory equipment with care. They also do intricate tasks, such as dental work, giving anesthesia, and taking x rays, which require a steady hand.

Problem-solving skills. Veterinary technologists and technicians need strong problem-solving skills in order to identify injuries and illnesses and offer the appropriate treatment.

Pay

The median annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians was $35,320 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,530, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $51,230.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for veterinary technologists and technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                       $40,990
Veterinary services 34,990
Social advocacy organizations 34,980

Veterinary technologists and technicians working in research positions often earn more than those in other fields.

Veterinary technologists and technicians may have to work evenings, weekends, or holidays.

Job Outlook

Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is projected to grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the number of households with pets and spending on pets continue to rise, demand is expected to increase for veterinary technologists and technicians to do laboratory work and imaging services on household pets.

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities for veterinary technologists and technicians are expected to be good due to the projected growth in the number of jobs, as well as the commitment required to enter the occupation (obtaining a degree and passing a credentialing exam).

For More Information

For information about careers in veterinary medicine and a listing of AVMA-accredited veterinary technology programs, visit

American Veterinary Medical Association

For more information about becoming a veterinary technician or technologist, visit

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

For information about certification as a laboratory animal technician or technologist, visit  

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science

For information about the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), visit

American Association of Veterinary State Boards

 

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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