Veterinary Technician Career Overview: Job Duties, Degrees & Specialties

Learn the tasks, trials—and benefits—of a career as a veterinary technician.


Veterinary Technician Overview


Choosing a career as a veterinary technician means caring for all kinds of creatures, from poodles to platypuses.

By combining your love of animals with what you do for a living, you not only have a positive impact on the lives of animals, you enrich the quality of your own life as well. Use our veterinary technician guide to make intelligent choices about your education, and ultimately career, options in the fast-growing veterinary medicine field.


Job Description

Depending upon the work environment you choose, the daily routine as a veterinary technician can vary a great deal. Vet techs who work in research laboratories may be responsible for the care and feeding of animals, as well as documenting their behavior.

Here’s a list of common veterinary technician job duties:

  • Observe animals’ conditions
  • Collect laboratory samples
  • Perform laboratory exams
  • Administer vaccines and medications
  • Bathe animals
  • Take and develop X-rays
  • Provide emergency care to sick or injured animals

Veterinary technicians work under the supervision of a veterinarian and may also provide more extensive treatment such as dental care and specialized nursing care.

Veterinary technicians work under the supervision of a veterinarian and may also provide more extensive treatment such as dental care and specialized nursing care.

Most vet techs work with small animals including:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Mice
  • Birds
  • Rats

In some cases, veterinary technicians tend to larger animals, such as cattle, pigs and sheep.

For veterinary technicians in supervisory roles, taking care of animals isn’t the only task. They are responsible for maintaining staff schedules and helping other vet technicians do their job well.

Like other allied health careers, clinics and laboratories need to be staffed around the clock. This means veterinary technicians often have a variable schedule and work nights, weekends and holidays.

Continue reading the veterinary technician job description.

Salary Information

Keep in mind that the compensation you get from your vet tech job might be more than just your base pay. As you consider which job to take, you should also look at the benefits package that could be offered, depending upon the clinic. Veterinarian technicians who work in research positions often earn a higher salary than vet techs in other areas.

The average annual salary for veterinarian technologists and technicians is $35,560, but there is room for growth says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest 10% earned over $50,010.

Learn about factors that may increase your earning potential, so that you’ll know what kinds of things you can do to boost your vet tech salary.

Job Outlook


Clinics and animal hospitals have increased their use of vet techs to provide general care and lab work. This demand has led to a much faster than average projected job growth through 2029.

16% job growth

through 2029 says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that veterinarians are employing veterinary technologists and technicians instead of veterinary assistants because of their higher skill level.

The BLS expects job growth to be particularly strong in rural areas of the country.


Education Requirements

How should you go about choosing a vet tech school? Find out what kinds of things you should consider when it comes to your education, how to make the most of your school experience, and how to make sure you’ll qualify for vet tech certification.

The first step is understanding how the education requirements differ for veterinary technologists versus technicians.


Technologists typically need a four-year bachelor’s degree whereas veterinary technicians usually have a 2-year degree. Earning an associate’s degree can be a good first step into the field. It allows you to enter the workforce sooner and quickly learn entry-level job duties. If you decide to pursue more education, you’ll find your responsibilities as a veterinary technologist will be more advanced.

As more schools begin to offer veterinary technician programs, aspiring students will have more choices. Before you apply to any school, ensure it’s accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nine schools that offer veterinary technology courses through distance learning

Take the first step toward your career by learning what vet tech schooling is all about.

Veterinary Technician Certification

Most states require that veterinary technicians pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.

The exam measures entry-level competency and covers topics such as pharmacology, dentistry procedures, animal nursing and lab procedures, among others. The test is four hours in length and 200 multiple choice questions. You can access practice exams from the AAVSB site.

Read more about veterinary technician certification.


Veterinary Technician Specialties


Whether you want to work with animals who need emergency procedures, work in a zoo, or work specifically with a certain type or size of animal, there are opportunities to specialize your veterinary technician career.

Here’s a look at some of your options:

  • Dentistry
  • Exotic animals
  • Avian
  • Biomedical research

Learn more about the various career specialties available, so you can assess the veterinary technician specialty that’s right for you.


Veterinary Technician Personality Traits and Skills

Veterinary technicians are nurses of the veterinary world—they provide the same sort of care for animal patients and assistance to doctors that nurses do for people. Veterinary technicians are also needed to communicate with animal owners.

A career as a vet tech offers many rewards, such as the satisfaction of helping heal a sick animal, but it can often be stressful since animals don’t always cooperate. A love for math and science also makes the role easier.

If you’re interested in a vet tech career, check out some important qualities to have:

You are…

  • Able to stay calm
  • Detail-oriented
  • Results-driven
  • Patient
  • Communicative
  • Able to handle stress

You should have…

  • A love for animals
  • Excellent communication skills
  • A level head under duress
  • High ethical standards
  • Strong organizational skills
  • An ability to find creative solutions
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