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Veterinary Technician


How to Become a Veterinary Technician
Veterinary Technician Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of a Veterinary Technician
Veterinary Technician Salary
Influential Professionals Veterinary Technicians
Leading Organizations for Veterinary Technicians
Top Cities for Veterinary Technician Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Veterinary Technician

Veterinary technicians work with licensed veterinarians to provide health care and medical treatment to animals. If you are thinking about becoming a veterinary technician be prepared to attend a minimum of 2 years of college, pass a 4 hour exam, and work in a clinic before you are eligible to apply for license and/or certification.

To become a veterinary technician, you must graduate from an accredited college with at least an associate degree in veterinary technology. Some colleges offer a 4 year Bachelor's degree program in veterinary technology. But an associate degree is the minimum requirement. Admission requirements into a degree program vary depending on the school. Most degree programs include courses in ethics and jurisprudence in veterinary medicine, anesthetic nursing and monitoring, medical terminology, veterinary office management, animal nutrition and feeding, animal care and management, animal husbandry, necropsy techniques, surgical assisting, pharmacology, hematology, parasitology, and radiography.

Veterinary technicians are required to pass a 4 hour exam, which covers surgical preparation, animal nursing, pharmacology, laboratory procedures and other topics, depending on state requirements. Most states use the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam, sponsored by the Association of Veterinary State Boards.

To meet the clinical experience requirement, candidates may take a job in a major hospital to gain experience in surgery, dental procedures and physical examinations.

Obtaining a specialization generally improves opportunity for the best jobs. Veterinary technicians can obtain specialties in critical care, anesthesia, internal medicine, behavior, dentistry and equine medicine. Veterinary technicians are eligible for specialty licenses after gaining 5 years of experience in the area of specialty and after passing a separate licensing exam.

Certification is offered for 3 levels of technician competence: Animal Laboratory Assistant Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG).

Organizations such as the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America offer opportunities for continuing education programs, employment services, and networking.

What does a Veterinary Technician do?

Veterinary technicians perform routine laboratory and clinical procedures under the supervision of a veterinarian. The duties of a veterinary technician depend on the employer and work setting. The majority of veterinary technicians perform clinical work in private practice. Some work in breeding kennels, animal shelters, farms, racetracks, riding stables, grooming shops, and zoos. Some veterinary technicians also work in research laboratories, or for medical, dental, and veterinary schools, for federal, state, and local government agencies, pharmaceuticals, animal products, and animal feed companies.

Veterinary technicians often perform various medical tests and treat and diagnose medical conditions and diseases in animals. Some of their duties may also include obtaining and recording patient's case histories, exposing and developing x-rays and radiographs, and providing specialized nursing care. They may also discuss a pet's condition with its owner and train new clinical personnel. Veterinary technicians may assist small animal practitioners, care for companion animals such as cats and dogs, provide general postoperative care, sterilize laboratory and surgical equipment, vaccinate newly admitted animals, and euthanize seriously ill, badly injured, or unwanted animals. Veterinary technicians may also assist veterinarians in implementing research projects.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Veterinary Technician?

Veterinary technicians should have a sensitivity and concern for animals. They should be prepared for the possibilities of working night shifts, weekends, overtime and holidays. They are sometimes assigned to work on duty 24 hours a day or be on call. Veterinary technicians must be firm as well as gentle. They should have sympathy, patience, and tact when dealing with animal owners. They need to have good judgment and a willingness to work with teams. They must be willing and able to follow veterinarian instructions. They must have an aptitude for record keeping and report writing, ability to pay attention to detail, and good communication skills.

If you are interested in becoming a veterinary technician, it helps to have a strong background in science, biology, and math. Science courses taken beyond high school should emphasize practical skills in a clinical or laboratory setting. Hands on experience should include training with a variety of laboratory equipment, diagnostic and medical equipment.

How much does a Veterinary Technician make?

Salaries for veterinary technicians usually range from $18,840 to $40,550 annually. The average salary for a veterinary technician is $28,920 a year. Top paying industries for veterinary technicians are Federal Executive Branch ($43,380), Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing ($42,240), Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions ($38,920), General Medical and Surgical Hospitals ($38,660), and Scientific Research and Development Services ($37,620). States with the highest published employment concentration and wages are Vermont ($28,360), New Hampshire ($29,650), Rhode Island ($31,040), Maine ($29,250), and Colorado ($29,070).

Earnings vary with the experience and skills of the technician, the employer, the location of the facility or practice, and size of the staff. Veterinary technicians who work for animal hospitals, government agencies, and research facilities tend to have more benefits such as paid vacations, retirement plans, and insurance.


Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Dr. R. L. Collinson of Mountain View, California, received the AVMA Award for distinguished contributions to the advancement of veterinary medical organizations. He is one of the founding directors of the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and has served as its chair since 1998 (www.avma.org).

Dr. James K. Payne of Tarpon Springs, Florida, received the AVMA Public Service Award for outstanding contributions to public health and regulatory veterinary medicine. He has assisted U.S. Congress with developing vital language used in the Wholesome Meat Act of 1967 and the Wholesome Poultry Act of 1968. He was a founding member of the American Association of Food Hygiene Veterinarians. He is also a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (www.avma.org).

What are some leading organizations in this field?

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) is a non-profit association and promotes the profession of veterinary technology. NAVTA provides direction, education, support and coordination for its members.

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) provides 3 levels of certification for veterinary technicians seeking employment in a research facility, which is highly recommended by most employers (www.aalas.org).

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has more than 76,000 members. AVMA is designated by the U.S. Department of Education as the accrediting body for the 28 schools of veterinary medicine in the United States. The AVMA educational standards of excellence are recognized worldwide as the "gold standard" in veterinarian education. Many foreign veterinarian schools use the AVMA as the model for their school curricula (www.avm.org).

What are the top cities for Veterinary Technician jobs?

Job prospects for veterinary technicians are better in Ocala Florida, Gainesville Florida, Fort Collins and Loveland, Colorado, Sebastian and Vero Beach, Florida, and Sherman and Denison, Texas. The top paying metropolitan areas are Lansing and East Lansing, Missouri ($40,860), Fresno, California ($40,690), San Diego, Carlsbad, and San Marcos, California ($39,790), Oakland, Fremont and Hayward, California ($39,690), and Kalamazoo and Portage, Missouri ($39,250). According to Occupational Information Network (October, 2008), 51,000 additional veterinary technicians will be needed between 2006 and 2016, and projected growth for this occupation is 21% or higher.

Veterinary technicians are in demand in biomedical research, diagnostic laboratories, teaching facilities, zoos, humane societies, and animal shelters. Other opportunities also exist in wildlife medicine, as well as pharmaceutical and veterinary supplies sales.

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