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How to become a Veterinary Technician

Veterinary technicians and technologists are instrumental in providing care to animals that are sick and injured. These professionals assist the work of veterinarians through tasks such as observing the condition and behavior of patients, preparing medical instruments that are used during surgeries, administering medications and anesthesia, and collecting laboratory samples. In order to perform these tasks, veterinary technologists and technicians must receive specialized training, which can be obtained by completing the following steps.

Vet tech program requirements and prerequisites

In order to enroll in a veterinary technician or technologist program, students are required to complete a high school diploma or its equivalent. During this time, students are encouraged to take science courses, such as biology, and math classes. In addition, students who have the opportunity to volunteer at an animal shelter, zoo or veterinarian's office can also get a head start on their postsecondary coursework through this valuable hands-on experience.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), veterinary technicians are expected to obtain a two-year associate degree, while veterinary technologists must typically earn a four-year bachelor's degree in order to work in the field. In both cases, students enrolled in these programs should get the opportunity to learn the clinical information needed to understand how to treat animals, as well as the hands-on experience that comes from working closely with a veterinarian.

Veterinary tech necessary skills and qualifications

In addition to a love for animals, veterinary technicians and technologists are required to have compassion and patience, as they are at times at risk of being scratched, kicked or bitten by animals in distress. In addition, these professionals should have good communication skills in order to work as part of a medical team and to also communicate effectively with pet owners worried about the well-being of their animals. Veterinary technologists and technicians should also be detail oriented in order to perform duties like administering medication to animals. In addition, these professionals must have strong problem solving skills, which allows them to identify what's wrong with an animal and assist with the appropriate treatment.

Veterinary technicians and technologists are generally required to pass a credentialing examination after they have completed their degree programs. Although these requirements vary from state to state, in many states, these professionals must pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), which is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, in order to enter the field. Also, professionals who want to advance in their careers and demonstrate their expertise in the field may also want to earn a vet tech certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). These professional certifications include the Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), the Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG), and the Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT).

Working environment for veterinary technicians

According to the BLS, veterinary technicians and technologists can work in a variety of settings, such as animal hospitals and clinics, kennels, laboratories, animal shelters, zoos, and rescue leagues. These professionals can have extremely vigorous work schedules. Since the facilities where they are employed may be staffed 24 hours a day, veterinary technologists and technicians may be required to work evenings, weekends or holidays. The work environment can also be stressful, especially when animals need to be euthanized, and it's not uncommon for veterinary technicians and technologists to get injured on the job.

The BLS reports as of May 2013, workers in this field earned around $30,500 per year nationally on average, with the salary range for the profession being between $21,000 (lowest 10 percent) and $44,000 (highest 10 percent). Between 2012 and 2022, available jobs for veterinary technicians and technologists are expected to increase by 30 percent. This is in part because of the expected increase in jobs for veterinary technicians and technologists in the areas of food and animal safety, public health and disease control.

Sources:

Become a Technician!, The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), Accessed July 23, 2014, https://www.navta.net/careers/become-a-technician

Career: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, The College Board, Accessed August 23, 2014, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/health-technology-veterinary-technologists-technicians

How to Become a Vet Technician, Foothill College, Accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.foothill.edu/career/documents/VetTech.pdf

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed August 23, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292056.htm

Veterinary technicians: Nursing animals to health, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed August 23, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/2003/fall/art03.pdf

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, August 23, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm

VTNE, American Association of Veterinary State Boards, Accessed July 23, 2014, http://www.aavsb.org/VTNE/

Veterinary Technician Schools