How to Become a Veterinary Technician

As an animal lover, you might think about becoming a veterinary technician (vet tech).

But you may have no idea what the job entails.

Vet techs work in many different settings, such as:

  • Labs
  • Veterinary offices
  • Colleges

But all vet techs have one thing in common.

You all love animals, and you want to help them in any way possible.


What Does a Vet Tech Do?

vet tech taking care of a dog

A vet tech’s typical workday varies from day to day and workplace to workplace.

As a vet tech, you will be:

  • Helping the animals
  • Advising the animals’ owners
  • Assisting the veterinarian

Duties

Here are the duties you will perform:

  • Give the animals necessary medicines and vaccines
  • Bathe animals
  • Collect a variety of different samples
  • Observe the conditions and behaviors of animals
  • Perform lab examinations
  • Provide nursing care and first aid
  • Assist the veterinarians during procedures and exams
  • Do diagnostic tests like fecal exams, blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays, etc.
  • IV catheter and phlebotomy placement
  • Prepare the animals for surgery, helping during and after the surgery
  • Educate owners about the welfare and proper care of their pets
  • Make sure that animals in the lab are treated humanely
  • Provide injured or sick animals with emergency care when necessary

How Much Does A Vet Tech Earn

One question many people ask is how much this job pays.

The pay that you receive changes depending on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Specialization
  • Work environment
  • Amount of schooling
  • Experience

The national annual 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 2022

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. 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 Vet Tech

Step 1 Graduate From High School or Get Your GED

high school student graduating

Before anything else, you will need to get your high school diploma or GED equivalent.

It allows you to take science and health courses necessary to study a vet tech program.

For instance, biology and chemistry.

Pro Tip: Learning a foreign language is handy when interacting with foreign clients.

Step 2 Earn Your Associate’s Degree

One advantage of having an associate’s degree is that it lands you a job as soon as you graduate.

So when choosing a school, make sure it’s an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited one first.

You can go to community colleges as they often have excellent vet tech training programs.

And typically, training lasts up to two years.

This is enough to get you into the entry-level position.

Step 3 Consider Getting a Specialization

Having a vet tech specialization means better job prospects.

Here are some specializations you can consider taking:

  • Dentistry
  • Equine nursing
  • Clinical practice
  • Anesthesia and analgesia
  • Emergency and critical care

Step 4 Hone Your Soft Skills

Aside from the hard skills, you must also develop your soft skills.

As a vet tech, you must have:

  • Good communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Empathy

These ensure you can interact well with people, especially with your patient’s owners.

Step 5 Get Your Certifications and Licenses

Every vet tech needs to either be:

  • Certified
  • Licensed
  • Registered

The requirements vary per state, but most vet techs have to pass an exam, which has the following sections:

  • Written
  • Oral
  • Demonstrative

Passing this will prove to the state that you have the aptitude for animal care.

Step 6 Complete the On-The-Job Training

Most programs require you to intern with a licensed vet to get first-hand experience.

This usually means a shorter training period for you.

While in some cases, you will get the training after you’ve found employment.

Nonetheless, during that time, you must immerse yourself and complete the training satisfactorily.

Step 7 Think About Career Advancement Opportunities

The more experience you gain, the more opportunities you will encounter.

For instance, getting a promotion to oversee veterinary assistants and junior technicians.

Career opportunities also arise from:

  • Continuing education
  • Participating in conventions and events
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Education Needed to Become a Vet Tech

To get started on your vet tech journey, you first have to enroll in an AVMA-accredited school.

Doing so means that you will get the quality education and extensive training necessary to be a vet tech.

Here are some of those accredited schools in the U.S. you can check out:

  • Auburn University
  • University of Arizona
  • University of California
  • Colorado State University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • Purdue University
  • Cornell University
  • Texas Tech University
  • Washington State University

For a full list of accredited schools, visit AVMA’s website.

Once you’ve chosen a school, then you can proceed to your studies and hold an associate’s degree.

Pro Tip: Holding an associate’s degree creates a continuing education opportunity in veterinary studies.

The course program lasts for about two years.

And after successful completion, you will be officially recognized as a vet tech.

You’re now able to apply for a job and do entry-level duties.

Here’s a video from a seasoned vet tech to give you some insights on areas you should know about.

Video About The Career


Certification & Licensing

Depending on the state where you currently live, you may be a:

  • Licensed Veterinary Technician, which is awarded by the state’s veterinary medical board
  • Certified Veterinary Technician, which you obtain through a professional or private program
  • Registered Veterinary Technician, which is given by government agencies

If you live anywhere but Alaska, California, or Wisconsin, you’ll need to:

  • Complete a state-approved program
  • Pass the exam

State tests are usually waived if you’ve passed the Veterinary Technician National Exam.

It’s a 200-question exam that will measure your competency at the entry level.

This exam covers topics such as:

  • Animal care and nursing
  • Dentistry procedures
  • Lab procedures

And if you’re planning to engage in research, you’ll also need certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.

They have three certification levels.

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

Average Training Program Duration: 2-3 Years


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Job Outlook and Growth for Vet Techs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for vet techs is expected to grow up to 15% from 2020 to 2030.

This rate is much higher compared to other occupations on average.

Moreover, this number means that there’s going to be high demand for vet techs for years to come.

This stems from how people consider animal care as part of their expenses.

This positive growth potential has made vet tech an ideal career choice.

Employment Growth Projection: 15%

114,400
2020
131,500
2030

That's a higher than average projected growth of 17,100: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Vet Tech?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

If you love animals, then this is a career you should very much consider.

To start, you must think of the following, especially when choosing a suitable specialization:

  • Different types of vet tech jobs
  • Types of animals you will work with

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

On average, a vet tech will make $31,800 a year.

Your salary will range from $21,890 to $47,410.

This is roughly $17.40 per hour, though this amount can vary depending on where you work.

The following factors will also affect your salary:

  • Where you live
  • The amount of experience you have
  • Your certifications and licenses
  • Vet tech specializations, if any

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

With the projected growth rate of 15% by 2030, vet techs won’t have to worry about not getting jobs.

They’re now in demand, leading animal care facilities to recruit them actively.

Think of it this way:

The more vet techs there are, the more animals get taken care of.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 2-3 Years

Schooling for vet tech programs is relatively shorter than others.

It lasts for two to three years wherein you have to secure an associate’s degree by then.

And if you would like to earn a specialization or go further in your education, it will take longer.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

The number one criteria for being a vet tech is love and care for the animals’ health and welfare.

Other important personal skills are:

  • Detail-oriented, where you need to check if everything is done correctly
  • Can work under pressure, where you can keep a cool head in this demanding and stressful job
  • Results-driven, where you strive to get the results you need
  • Good communication skills, where you can get along with the people you work with, especially pet owners
  • Strong resilience, where you can work and think fast in the face of emergencies
  • Team-oriented, where you can work cohesively with your colleagues to achieve a goal


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How many years will it take to become a vet tech?

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

Q. How much do vet techs make?

On average, a vet tech will make $31,800 annually.

Eighty percent of them can earn anywhere from $21,890 to $47,410.

This is roughly $17.40 per hour.

However, this can still vary depending on:

  • Where they live and work
  • Years of experience

Q. What can you do with a vet tech degree?

Having a degree opens up a lot of opportunities for you, most especially when you pass the licensure exam.

You are able to work in a lot of environments.

For instance:

  • Veterinary office, a common vet tech workplace
  • Emergency animal hospital, where you can help animals in need of critical medical attention
  • Research laboratory, where you can use animals for research
  • Animal shelter, where you mostly help sick or injured animals
  • Zoo, where you help veterinarians with emergency and routine care

Many technicians also use their degree as a starting point to another career, like:

  • Veterinarian
  • Veterinary technologist
  • Veterinary specialist
  • College professor

Q. What does a vet tech do every day?

A vet tech usually performs the following duties:

  • Watch patients for behavior changes
  • Prepare patients for surgery or exams
  • Give 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 patient records

USA How to Become a Vet Tech by State


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