How to Become a Veterinary Technician

Someone who loves animals might think about becoming a veterinary technician, but they may not know what the job entails.

Veterinary technicians work in many different settings, from labs to veterinary offices and even in colleges.

But all veterinary technicians have one thing in common – they love animals and they want to help them in any way that they can.


Job Description: What Does a Veterinary Technician Do

So what does a veterinary technician do during their work day?

A veterinary technician’s workday can vary from day to day and workplace to workplace.

But one thing that every veterinary technician has in common is that they  help to care for the animals.

As a veterinary technician, you will be helping the animals, the veterinarian and the animals’ owners.

Duties

A love for animals and a kind heart are two things that you must have.

Let’s look at the duties that veterinary technicians perform:

  • Give sick and healthy animals medicines and vaccines
  • Bathe animals
  • Collect a variety of different samples
  • Observe the conditions and behaviors of animals
  • Perform examinations in the lab
  • Providing nursing care and first aid
  • Assist the veterinarians during procedures and exams
  • Assisting with or performing diagnostic tests like fecal exams, blood tests, urinalysis, and others
  • IV catheter and phlebotomy placement
  • Preparing the animals for surgery, helping in surgery and after surgery
  • Educating owners about welfare and care of their animals, preventing diseases, treating diseases and concerns about behavior
  • Making sure that animals in the lab are treated humanely.
  • Providing injured or sick animals with emergency care when necessary
  • Take x-rays and develop them to help with diagnosing animals

Veterinary Technician Salary: How Much Does It Pay

One question that many people ask about being a veterinary technician is how much it pays.

The pay that you receive can fluctuate depending on a variety of factors.

These factors include:

  • Specialization
  • Work environment
  • Amount of schooling
  • Experience

The national average salary ranges from $21,890 to $47,410.

Average National Salary: $32,490

$22K
10%
$28K
25%
$32K
50%
$40K
75%
$47K
90%
*Salary information last updated 2018

Average Annual Salary by State

State Avg. Annual Salary
Alabama $34,239
Alaska $40,958
Arizona $36,062
Arkansas $33,825
California $41,161
Colorado $36,805
Connecticut $39,361
Delaware $38,876
Florida $35,474
Georgia $35,844
Hawaii $37,944
Idaho $34,530
Illinois $38,767
Indiana $35,386
Iowa $34,974
Kansas $35,773
Kentucky $34,319
Louisiana $36,129
Maine $36,357
Maryland $37,413
Massachusetts $41,398
Michigan $37,289
Minnesota $38,759
Mississippi $32,387
Missouri $35,773
Montana $34,854
Nebraska $34,408
Nevada $37,849
New Hampshire $38,432
New Jersey $41,562
New Mexico $33,992
New York $44,036
North Carolina $35,651
North Dakota $33,999
Ohio $36,212
Oklahoma $34,512
Oregon $38,039
Pennsylvania $39,160
Rhode Island $38,541
South Carolina $34,350
South Dakota $31,895
Tennessee $33,726
Texas $36,150
Utah $34,518
Vermont $35,921
Virginia $36,485
Washington $39,937
West Virginia $32,143
Wisconsin $36,081
Wyoming $33,016

Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Veterinary Tech

Step 1 Graduate from high school or get your GED

Before you can go on to become a veterinary tech, you will need to get your high school diploma.

It can help you to take science and health courses such as biology, chemistry and English to help you in your path to becoming a veterinary tech.

It also might be helpful to learn a foreign language, such as Spanish, since you may have clients who can’t speak English very well.

Step 2 Earn Your Associate’s Degree

Community colleges often have wonderful programs for veterinary technician training.

When you are choosing your school for your associate’s degree, make sure it’s been accredited by the AVMA.

This training typically lasts two years.

Earning your associate’s degree will let you get into the workforce much sooner and learn the job duties at the entry level.

Step 3 Think About Getting a Specialization

When you consider a specialization, you might have better job prospects.

Some of the programs will let you take specialization courses.

Some of these are:

  • Dentistry
  • Emergency
  • Exotic animal
  • Lab animal
  • Public health

Step 4 Hone Your Related Skills

Communication and teamwork are both essential parts of the job, as is the ability to interact with people.

It’s important that you are able to communicate with the people you work with and your patients’ owners.

Being organized and detail oriented is also very important.

Honing these skills will help you in your career.

Step 5 Get Your Credentials

Veterinary technician credentials are required in most states. Based on the state where you live, a credentialed veterinary tech might be:

  • An LVT, or a Licensed Veterinary Technician – This credential is given by the veterinary medical board of the state.
  • A CVT, or a Certified Veterinary Technician – This is obtained by a professional or private program
  • An RVT, or a Registered Veterinary Technician – This is given by government agencies.

If you live anywhere but Alaska, California or Wisconsin, you’ll need to complete a training program approved by the state and pass your exam.

If you’ve passed your Veterinary Technician National Exam, the state test’s often waived.

If you’re planning to work in research, you’ll also need AALAS certification.

Step 6 Complete Training on the Job

After you’ve found employment, you’re going to get training on the job when you are working with a licensed vet.

Some of the training programs use a lot of related equipment during their training.

If you graduated from one of these programs, you may have a shorter training period.

Step 7 Think About Career Advancement Opportunities

As an experienced vet tech, you may get promoted eventually. This will have you overseeing veterinary assistants and junior technicians.

There are a lot of opportunities to continue your education through attending conventions and events or taking online courses..

You can gain new skills and maybe even choose your specialty, meaning that you are going to have even more opportunities.

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Education Needed to Become a Veterinary Technician

If you want to become a veterinary technician, what education do you need?

The first thing that you need to do is graduate from high school, and taking science and health courses, along with English is a good plan.

Once you have graduated from high school, the next step would be to get your associate’s degree at an AVMA licensed school.

This two-year program will make it much easier to enter the workforce sooner and get experience on the job.

Most states require that you pass the test known as the VTNE.

This four-hour test has 200 questions and will measure competency at the entry level and cover things like dentistry procedures, animal nursing, lab procedures and other topics.

If you plan to advance your education and choose a specialty, there’s many options for further education opportunities.

Video About The Career


Certification & Licensing

Every veterinary technician is required to become certified, licensed or registered.

The requirements change based on the state, but most technicians have to pass an exam.

This exam has the following sections:

  • Written
  • Oral
  • Demonstrative

The test used by most states is the VTNE test to assess someone’s eligibility for their license.

Certification for Veterinary Technicians

A veterinary technician also may demonstrate an aptitude for animal care by earning voluntary professional certification.

There are three certification levels offered by the AALAS for veterinary techs.

These levels are:

  • Assistant Laboratory Technician
  • Laboratory Animal Technician
  • Laboratory Animal Technologist

A candidate has to have experience and education along with passing an exam that’s for the certification level in order to get the certification.

Average Training Program Duration: 2-3 Years


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Job Outlook and Growth for Veterinary Technicians

The job outlook for veterinary technicians is said to grow 20% between now and 2026.

This growth rate is much faster than average with compared to other occupations.

Since a lot of households are including pets and spending money on their care, it’s expected that the demand for veterinary technicians is going to keep going up.

The overall opportunities for jobs for veterinary technicians are expected to increase with the amount of jobs increasing.

For those looking for a career with positive growth potential, a veterinary technician is the ideal choice.

Employment Growth Projection: 20%

102,000
2016
122,400
2026

That's a higher than average projected growth of 20,400: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Veterinary Technician?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

If you love animals, this career is one that you should consider since you’ll be working with a lot of animals.

It’s important to consider the different types of veterinary technicians and the animals that they work with so that you can choose the one that is best for you.

There are also some important  qualities that you need to have in order to do well as a veterinary technician.

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

On average, a veterinary technician will make $31,800.

For most people who work as veterinary technicians, their annual salary goes anywhere from $21,890 to $47,410.

On average, veterinary technicians earn $17.40 per hour, though this amount can go up or down depending on where a veterinary technician works.

A veterinary technician’s salary will be based on several factors:

  • Where they live
  • What kind of experience they have
  • What types of credentials they have
  • If they have any specialties
  • Where they work as a veterinary technician

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

The veterinary technician field is expected to grow by 20% between this year and 2026.

The growth rate for veterinary technicians is much faster than average when compared with other careers.

Many households now have pets and those pets need care, which increases the need for veterinary technicians.

Those who have become specialists in their field will also find many job opportunities.

For a job with good growth potential in the coming years, veterinary technicians are the way to go.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 2-3 Years

The education for a veterinary technician is relatively short when compared with other programs..

You only need an associate’s degree, which only takes two years to get.

If you would like to specialize or go further in your education, it will take longer. But two years is all it takes to become a veterinary technician.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

It’s important to love animals as a veterinary technician, but it’s also important to have other skills as well.

Important personal skills for veterinary technicians:

  • Detail oriented: You need to be thorough and check that everything is done the right way.
  • Can stay calm and handle stress: The job can be very stressful, so being able to stay calm is essential
  • Good health: Many times you may be lifting heavy animals, so having good health is a must.
  • Passion for animals and their well being: Since you will be working with animals, you have to care about them.
  • Results-driven: It’s important to keep going until you get the results that you need.
  • Strong communication skills: When you are working with others, you have to communicate with them and let them know updates about patients.
  • Strong stomach: Since animals can come in sick and dirty, chances are that you will be pooped on, peed on, bled on, and many other things so a strong stomach is a must.
  • Teamwork oriented: You have to be able to work with others, even when you may not get along with the other people in your office.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How long does it take to become a veterinary technician?

Even though the requirements will vary based on the state in which you live, usually a veterinary tech will need to become certified, licensed or registered.

You will need an associate’s degree to become a veterinary tech, and this takes around two years to complete.

Q. How much do veterinary technicians make?

On average, a veterinary technician will make $31,800.

The 80% in the middle earn anywhere from $21,890 to $47,410.

The average hourly amount that credentialed vet technicians earn is $17.40

The amount that a technician will make will depend on where they live, what their experience is and what type of setting they are working in.

Q. What can you do with a veterinary technician degree?

When you have a veterinary technician degree, there is a wide world open to you.

Veterinary technicians work in a lot of environments to help the animals.

Places where vet techs work:

  • Veterinary office: This is the common place where vet techs work. Veterinarians count on vet techs, so you can almost always find a place to work.
  • Emergency animal hospital: Hospitals are another great place to find a job as a vet tech, even though here is where you’ll be working hours that are more irregular and seeing the cases that are more extreme.
  • Research laboratory: In the labs that use animals for research, the vet techs ensure the animals get proper and humane treatment.
  • Animal shelter: If there’s a place that has a lot of animal traffic, it’s an animal shelter. Veterinary technicians are needed to help the animals who are sick or injured.
  • Zoos: Jobs at zoos are very competitive since there aren’t a lot of positions open. The vet technicians in the zoos help the veterinarians with emergency and routine care at the zoo.

Many technicians also use their veterinary technician degree to as a jumping off point to another career.

Some careers that veterinary technicians go on to do are:

  • Vetrinarian
  • Veterinary technologist
  • Specialist
  • Professor at a college

Q. What does a veterinary technician do on a daily basis?

There are many duties that veterinary technicians have and perform each day.

The duties of a veterinary technician might change slightly based on where they are working, but they’re generally the same anywhere.

Some common veterinary technician duties are:

  • Watch patients for behavior changes
  • Prepare patients for surgery or exams
  • Giving patients first aid or nursing care
  • Collect lab samples and test them
  • Take x-rays and develop them
  • Give treatments, shots and medicine
  • Collect and maintain records of patients

Q. What degree do you need to become a veterinary technician?

To become a basic veterinary technician, all is needed is an associate’s degree.

Based on what you plan to do and how far you want to go after becoming a veterinary technician, you may want to get your bachelor’s degree and become a veterinary technologist.

This can give you more opportunities for career growth and change.


USA How to Become a Veterinary Technician by State


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