If you’re thinking about a career as a veterinary technician, you should know it’s one of the most popular professions working with animals.
Veterinary practices need qualified technicians in almost every state in the U.S. as this profession has expanded greatly in recent years.
Factors driving employment growth in this profession include a growing pet population, an aging pet population, and advances in veterinary treatments and diagnostics.
With advances in veterinary science and medicine, the life expectancy of dogs and cats has increased.
This requires a focus on preventive care, wellness, veterinary medicine, and nutrition.
Expanded treatment and diagnostic options, especially for previously untreatable ailments like cancers and kidney problems, have created more demand for vet services.
These factors are behind the increase in spending on pets, which is ultimately behind the job growth in this career.
Here are some of the positives and negatives of this very rewarding but demanding profession.
Table of Contents
- 1 Popular Programs
- 2 Pros of Being a Veterinary Technician
- 3 Cons of Being a Veterinary Technician
- 4 Resources
- 5 Pro and Cons of Being a Veterinary Technician – Summary Table
Pros of Being a Veterinary Technician
Being a veterinary technician is a very rewarding career for animal lovers who have a sincere desire to care for animals and help pet owners.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there is a lot of opportunity for veterinary technicians.
The profession is projected to grow 15 percent between 2020 and 2030.
There are expected to be more than 10,000 openings for vet technologists and technicians during this time, because of workers leaving the workforce or transferring to different work.
Veterinary work is busy and includes many different responsibilities, tasks, and procedures, so vet techs are never bored.
Technicians will perform varied wellness, medical, and administrative services with and for animals.
They observe and record the condition and behavior of animals, restrain animals during procedures, administer medications, vaccines, treatments, and many other clinical and laboratory tasks.
Veterinary technicians also interact with animal owners and veterinarians, explaining an animal’s condition and treatment options, and reporting on intake information.
Opportunities for Advancement
As a vet tech, opportunities for advancement may include being promoted to a supervisory role such as directing other technicians.
Career advancement can also be achieved with specialty certifications such as equine vet tech, veterinary surgical tech, or vet dental tech.
These specialty areas, and others, are veterinary technician specialties recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).
Fulfilling a Passion
If you have a genuine love of animals and a sincere desire to help animals heal and end suffering, working as a veterinary technician can be a fulfilling profession.
Easing animals’ (and pet owners’) fears and anxieties when ill or injured and during recovery is a very satisfying professional mission.
Excellent Starting Salaries
A career as a veterinary technician has excellent starting salaries.
The BLS reports that the 2020 median salary was $17.43 per hour or $36,260 per year.
The highest 10 percent earned over $50,000 per year.
Salaries do vary by state, with four states paying above the national average: Washington, New York, New Hampshire, and California.
If you love animals but have been working in other roles such as marketing, accounting, client relations, administrative work, data entry, and reception, those roles apply to vet clinics and can be an entry into the veterinary technician space.
Working in a vet clinic in any of these types of roles gives you an opportunity to work around and near animals and contribute while deciding if you want to get more training and education to be a vet tech.
Opportunities for On-the-Job Training
Many veterinary offices offer on-the-job training for support roles that can be an entry into training for a vet tech position.
High schools with veterinary assisting certification programs provide the entry-level training needed to get students started on vet tech careers.
18-month programs to full four-year college programs provide differing levels of education and certification.
Cons of Being a Veterinary Technician
Being a veterinary technician isn’t all baskets of kittens and boxes of puppies.
There are some downsides to this profession that will test even the most dedicated technicians.
It can be a Tough Job
Those who work in the veterinary field know that as fulfilling as it is to work helping animals, a veterinary technician job can be tough.
Long hours, physically demanding work lifting and moving scared and squirming animals, and evening and weekend hours can be challenging.
Round-the-clock staffing at emergency clinics can be even more stressful.
Working with animals under stress from illness and injury comes with some risk as well, for bites and scratches.
Seeing Animals in Fear and Pain
The joy and feelings of accomplishment from helping animals have another side of the coin – emotional pain.
It’s not easy to see animals suffering and scared and stressed.
And some injuries can be gruesome, especially in emergency clinics.
You Need to Have Patience
As a veterinary technician, you will need to practice patience every day with animals and their owners.
In the stressful situations for which many animals come into the vet, it’s not always easy to balance calming frightened animals, talking to pet owners, and keeping records of it all.
Layer emotion on top of it all, and vet techs have to have a lot of consistent patience to do their jobs well.
Tendency to Neglect Self-Care
Veterinary professionals know that people who care about animals have a unique focus on caring for and helping others.
Often, that focus is so strong that techs forget or neglect self-care basics, like stress management, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep and exercise.
Burn-out can prevent techs from continuing education that they need or that would help them advance, which is another strong reason to pay attention to health and wellness.
Exposure to Euthanasia
Studies show that exposure to euthanasia as well as other job stressors in veterinary practice can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue.
Ever heard of compassion fatigue? It’s exhaustion from being empathetic to those who are suffering, as staff at vet clinics experience daily.
It can lead to cynicism and a sense of inefficacy, or feeling like what you do doesn’t matter.
Working with Unpredictable Animals
The veterinary technician role requires working with unpredictable animals every day.
There will be plenty of wellness work but even for animals who are just getting an annual checkup, there is stress from being in an environment away from home and being around strangers.
Frightened and defensive animal behaviors are not the cute puppy and kitty antics we see on social media.
The BLS reports that vet techs experience a higher rate of injuries at work than in other occupations.
Frightened, stressed animals can bite, scratch, and kick, and heavy animals may fight treatment and be moved.
Some animals may come in with infectious diseases that are transmissible to humans.
There’s also the risk of exposure to x-rays, chemicals, and drugs.
Should You Become a Veterinary Technician?
Do you have a love and passion for helping animals? Do you have a lot of patience, stamina, and work ethic? Are you willing to get the education, training, and certification in veterinary science that it takes to become a professional vet tech?
If you are considering a career as a veterinary technician, you can research the occupation and industry.
One interesting read from the BLS is “Ahead of the pack: why are veterinary occupations growing much faster than average?“.
Five qualities you need to be a vet tech are:
- Love of animals
- Good people skills
- Excellent communication skills
- Enjoying learning
- Love to work with animals
That work involves long hours in stressful situations, administering sometimes painful treatments to frightened animals, and witnessing (or possibly administering) animal euthanasia.
Fortunately, the work also involves calming and caring for beautiful animals and educating their owners on animal care, treatment, and wellness.
You get to be a part of making animals’ lives better every day.
That is the double-edged sword of being a vet tech, doing a job every day that is very rewarding and very emotionally challenging.
It can be very emotional and stressful and requires techs to pay attention not only to their animal clients and their owners but also to themselves and their own health and wellness.
To do the best job and stay healthy, vet techs must balance the demands of their careers with their well-being.
Here are some other sources of information on a veterinary technician career recommended by the BLS:
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America
- American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
- American Association of Veterinary State Boards
- Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
Pro and Cons of Being a Veterinary Technician – Summary Table
|Pros of Being a Vet Tech||Cons of Being a Vet Tech|
|Strong Growth||It can be a Tough Job|
|Never Bored||Seeing Animals in Fear and Pain|
|Opportunities for Advancement||You Need to Have Patience|
|Fulfilling a Passion||Tendency to Neglect Self-Care|
|Excellent Starting Salaries||Exposure to Euthanasia|
|Transferable Skills||Working with Unpredictable Animals|
|Opportunities for On-the-Job Training||Occupational Hazards|