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Veterinary Technician Career: Job Duties, Degrees & Specialties

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

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Home » 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.

Day-to-Day Duties for Vet Techs

  • 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.

Types of Small Animals Vet Techs Work With

  • Large and small dogs
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Cats
  • Birds

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.

Vet Tech Specialties

Working in a pet clinic is a great way to begin your new career. But in a veterinary technician job, there are many more ways to put your skills to work, and you may find yourself drawn to a particular veterinary technician specialty area. Here are some of your options.

Veterinary Internal Medicine

Veterinary internal medicine is a specialty born of the need for further research into animal diseases. General wellness and preventative medicine are its primary focus. Particular attention is paid to chronic disease, anatomy, physiology, and non-surgical pathology issues of small to large animals. Cardiology and oncology are sub-specialties of veterinary internal medicine. If you like research and want to affect the quality of care directly, internal medicine is a great veterinary technician career.

Critical Care

Critical Care is a veterinary technician specialty worth considering. In the critical care environment, a veterinary technician is literally a vital member of the team. When every moment counts, a skilled vet tech needs to be a good decision maker and critical thinker.

During emergency procedures, a vet tech often performs the following functions:

  • Replaces lost fluids intravenously
  • Administers general anesthesia
  • Takes radiographs and specimens
  • Assists with diagnoses and treatments
  • Performs invasive procedures, such as drawing blood
  • Carefully monitors vital signs

Zookeeping

Zookeeping is a competitive field involving the care of animals in zoological parks or aquariums. In this environment, a vet tech helps with the maintenance of captive exotic animals for the purposes of conservation, research, public education, and recreation.

In addition to the daily care of the animals, you may have the opportunity to work in a zoo hospital, where a wide spectrum of medical emergencies is handled. Zoo hospitals are concerned with cross-species disease, quarantining animals, and year-round health care of animals from very different climates.

Duties performed by a vet tech in a zoo are numerous. Some may include:

  • Assisting veterinarians with clinical cases
  • Treatments for a variety of species
  • Immobilization of large and small animals
  • Surgical assistance
  • Medical record keeping
  • Lab work

More Vet Tech Programs and Specialties

There is no question that there are many options available to a veterinary technician. Indeed, the opportunities grow greater every year advancements in technology. In addition to the specialties detailed above, other specialties you could study in your vet tech program include:

Avian Medicine

Biomedical Research

Clinical Pathology

Dentistry and Surgery

Emergency Medicine

Exotics

Large Animals

Small Animals

Clinic Supervisor

Salary Information

The median annual salary for veterinarian technologists and technicians is $36,260, but there is room for growth says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics. The highest 10% earned over $52,410. Through 2029 says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

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.

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.

Education for Technicians vs. Technologists

Technicians

  • Veterinary technicians usually hold a 2-year associate’s degree.

Technologists

  • Technologists typically need a 4-year bachelor’s 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 Tech 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