Veterinary technologists and technicians held about 84,800 jobs in 2012, of which 92 percent were in the veterinary services industry.
Veterinary technologists and technicians typically work in private clinics, laboratories, and animal hospitals. They may also work in boarding kennels, animal shelters, rescue leagues, and zoos.
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 have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. When working with scared or aggressive animals, they may be bitten, scratched, or kicked. Injuries may happen while the technologist or technician is holding, cleaning, or restraining an animal.
Many clinics and laboratories are staffed 24 hours a day, so veterinary technologists and technicians may have to work evenings, weekends, or holidays. Many technicians have variable schedules, and some must work 7 days a week.
There are primarily two levels of education and training for entry into this occupation: a 4-year program for veterinary technologists and a 2-year program for veterinary technicians. Typically, both technologists and technicians must pass a credentialing exam and must become registered, licensed, or certified, depending on the state in which they work.
Veterinary technologists and technicians must complete a postsecondary program in veterinary technology. In 2013, there were 217 veterinary technology programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Most of these programs offer a 2-year associate’s degree for veterinary technicians. Twenty-two colleges offer a 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Eight schools offer coursework through distance learning.
People interested in becoming a veterinary technologist or technician should take high school classes in biology and other sciences, as well as math.
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 assistants to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination.
For technologists seeking work in a research facility, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) offers three levels of certification: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG).
Although certification is not mandatory, workers at each level can show competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration and management to prospective employers. To become certified, candidates must have work experience in a laboratory animal facility and pass the AALAS examination.
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.
The median annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians was $30,290 in May 2012. 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 $21,030, and the top 10 percent earned more than $44,030.
In May 2012, the median annual wages for veterinary technologists and technicians in the top three industries employing these workers were as follows:
|Colleges, universities, and professional
|Research and development in the physical,
engineering, and life sciences
Veterinary technologists and technicians working in research positions often earn more than those in other fields.
Many clinics and laboratories must be staffed 24 hours a day, so veterinary technologists and technicians may have to work evenings, weekends, or holidays. Many technicians have variable schedules, and some must work 7 days a week.
Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is projected to grow 30 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Because veterinarians perform specialized tasks, clinics and animal hospitals are increasingly using veterinary technologists and technicians to provide more general care and perform more laboratory work. Furthermore, veterinarians will continue to prefer higher skilled veterinary technologists and technicians over veterinary assistants for more complex work.
There will also be demand for veterinary technicians in areas such as public health, food and animal safety, national disease control, and biomedical research on human health problems.
Overall job opportunities for veterinary technologists and technicians are expected to be good, particularly in rural areas.
However, the number of veterinary technology programs has been growing rapidly in recent years, so the number of new graduates vying for jobs over the coming decade should result in greater competition than in the past.
Workers who leave the occupation each year will also result in job openings.
For information on careers in veterinary medicine and a listing of AVMA-accredited veterinary technology programs, visit
For more information on becoming a veterinary technician or technologist, visit
For information on certification as a laboratory animal technician or technologist, visit
For information on the Veterinary Technician National Examination, visit