Being a veterinary technician or technologist is a promising field now which can offer an interesting and rewarding career.
But actually, what is a vet tech?
The term vet tech can mean two things:
- Veterinary technologist
- Veterinary technician
There are several ways that you can become a veterinary tech.
Like other professions, it is best if you start as early as possible. This would enhance your chances of landing the best jobs and opportunities in the field. While there are other professions which offer better salaries, these fields are expected to grow.
If you are interested in becoming a veterinary technician or technologist, it is ideal if you are going to start early.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1 EDUCATION
- 2 CERTIFICATION
- 3 IMPORTANT QUALITIES
- 4 ROLES AND DUTIES
- 5 WORK ENVIRONMENT
- 6 GETTING A JOB
- 7 SALARY
- 8 JOB OUTLOOK
- 9 SPECIALTIES
- 10 PROS AND CONS OF BEING A VET TECH
Education to Become a Vet Tech
You might be wondering about the difference between a veterinary technologist and a veterinary technician. While the two term can sometimes be used interchangeably, the difference lies in the education needed to gain entry into the fields:
- Veterinary technologists must finish a 4-year bachelor’s degree.
- Veterinary technicians must finish a 2-year associate degree.
That should answer your question as to how long does it take to become a vet tech.
As of 2015, there were 231 veterinary technology programs which were accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Majority of these programs offer associate’s degree for veterinary technicians, while there were 23 colleges which offered a 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. There are also schools offering distance learning programs.
If you are interested in becoming a veterinary technician or technologist, it is ideal if you are going to start early. You can start while you’re still in high school by taking up biology and other related science courses. Taking up math courses can be an asset as well.
What are the Qualifications to Enroll in a Vet Tech Training Program?
Like other programs, a veterinary tech training program has certain qualifications which you need to meet before you can enroll. It helps to know what these vet tech requirements for education are as early as possible.
Some programs require college-level course experience for applicants. Most of these are in classes that are relevant such as biology, chemistry, math, and microbiology. Some may even require course experience in the humanities. If the program where you want to enroll has these requirements, you can choose to take these courses at a community college first.
Related science and math courses are crucial in the training program of vet technicians because they can be called upon to measure medical dosages, determine proper medication, and be aware of the effects of certain drugs on animals.
You can choose to do some volunteer work in a setting where you will be working with animals like an animal shelter.
It would also help to take science and math courses while you are still in high school. Doing so would improve your chances of getting into your target program. If you are aiming to work in research laboratories, then you should get a bachelor’s degree in vet technology. There are 15 programs which offering this degree in the country.
Are you still undecided if becoming a vet technician is the right career path for you? You can choose to do some volunteer work in a setting where you will be working with animals like an animal shelter. That’s a great way to expose yourself to the kind of work which is related to what vet techs do.
Whichever of these options you choose to become a vet tech:
- Short-term certification program
- Two-year associate degree
- Four-year bachelor’s degree
The important thing is for you to make sure that the program is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
There are some schools which offer distance learning programs for veterinary tech. These programs have met the same accreditation standards which are required from traditional ones. This can be an option for you if you cannot enroll as a full time student in a regular program. You should keep in mind that you would still be required to undergo hands-on training at veterinary facility in order to finish these programs.
AVMA has accredited eight schools offering distance learning options for vet tech.
Like other professionals, veterinary technicians and technologists are regulated by each state. While there are differences in the regulation of each state, there are several common things. For example, most states require candidates to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), which is offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards before being certified.
Working in a Research Facility
If it is your aim to work in an animal research facility, it would help if you can get the following vet tech certification:
- Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT)
- Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG).
Both of these are offered by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). It’s important to take note, that these certifications are not mandatory, but getting these would be a good way of showing how competent you are. Aside from passing the examination, which will be administered by the AALAS, you need to have experience in working in an animal laboratory in order to be certified.
Like any other field, certain qualities and skills are valued when you work as a veterinary technician. While it would be a huge advantage for you if already have these qualities, you can work on developing these.
Here are some of the important qualities which are necessary for being a vet tech:
1. Communication Skills
You need to have the ability to communicate effectively with your superiors, pet owners, and fellow staff members. Some animal owners can be upset and it would be up to you to communicate effectively so as not to make the situation worse for them.
You should also be precise when communicating with superiors and other staff members when you are talking about medication, dosage, and treatment.
You have to be caring and compassionate if you want to work as a vet technician or technologist. You need to be conscious about the suffering that the animals could be feeling or their owners.
3. Attention to Detail
Attention to detail is necessary in this field because you must be precise when recording information, doing tests, or giving medications. A mistake in any of the things which you are doing can be dangerous for the animals that you are treating. Inattention to detail can also lead to hazards, not only to you, but to others too.
4. Manual Dexterity
As a veterinary tech, you will be handling animals, medicines, instruments, and lab equipment. You will be doing delicate tasks like administering anesthesia and even dental work. These tasks require steady hands which is something you will have to learn to develop.
5. Problem-solving Skills
You will be called upon as a veterinary technician or technologist to identify health problems of animals and to give the right sort of treatment. There are times when you have to think outside the box to resolve issues.
ROLES AND DUTIES
Vet technicians have many roles and duties. These are some of the most important ones which you sould be aware of:
1. Technical Skills
There are several technical and medical skills which you have to learn when you become a vet tech. These include:
- Collecting urine
- Doing skin scrapings
- Taking and processing radiography
- Performing routine lab procedures and tests in: hematology, blood chemistry, microbiology, urinalysis, and microscopy.
2. Patient Care
You may also be tasked with patient care which is basically caring for animals or pets that are sick. That would include but is not limited to:
- Recording temperature
- Pulse and respiration
- Dressing wounds
- Applying splints
- Applying protective devices
- Dental procedures.
- Ear flushes
- Intravenous feedings tube feedings
3. Equipment Use
As a vet tech, it is also important that you familiarize yourself with the latest technology and equipment being used in the field. Some devices which you may have to run and handle include radiographic, electrocardiographic, and ultrasonographic equipment.
If you work in a large hospital or a big referral practice, then you may have to learn how to operate more advanced pieces of equipment like magnetic resonance imagers, gamma cameras, and other medical devices.
You could also be called upon to assist veterinarians during surgery. It would be your task to provide the right kind of equipment, to monitor the instruments and make sure that everything is working properly.
Another task which you may have to handle would be the keeping of records of patients. You could also be tasked with keeping the inventory of supplies and equipment needed and other administrative duties.
You might have noticed that the roles and duties of vet technicians are varied and wide-ranging. That’s because a veterinary tech is usually the only paraprofessional in a veterinary practice. While there are fields of specilization which you go into, you can also expect to become a jack-of-all-trades and be called upon to handle various tasks.
You should be aware that vet technicians and technologists have a higher rate of illness and injury when compared to the national average.
Veterinary technicians and technologists usually work in animal hospitals, private clinics, research laboratories, universities and animal welfare groups. The job can be physically and emotionally demanding especially when dealing with sick and abused animals. There are even situations when sick animals need to be euthanized.
Illnesses and Injuries
You should be aware that vet technicians and technologists have a higher rate of illness and injury when compared to the national average. This is caused by the fact that they handle sick, injured, and scared animals.
There is always the risk of a scared animal biting or scratching the technician or technologist. That’s a hazard which you should be ready to face.
The work schedule which you will have as a vet tech would largely depend on the hospital or laboratory where you will be working. Some clinics and labs are staffed round the clock. This means you may have to work at night, during holidays,and during weekends. You could end up working with a changing schedule.
GETTING A JOB
Probably, one of the most important questions on your mind right now, is whether it is easy to find a job as vet technician or technologist.
Once you have acquired your degree or certification, you can start applying to veterinary clinics. Your school’s career placement office can help you to find work. They can tell you about veterinary hospitals who are hiring fresh graduates.
Veterinary technicians usually work in privarte vet clinics. Veterinary technologists on the other hand, work in laboratories, taking up research positions.
How much does a vet tech make? This is another important matter which you should be wondering about.
While working with animals may be your passion, knowing the usual veterinary technician salary will help you determine if this career is really for you and whether it is worth it getting a vet tech degree or not.
In May 2016, the median annual wage for vet technicians and technologists was $32,490. . The lowest 10% of vet technicians and technologists earned less than $22,340, while the top10 % earned more than $48,330.
If you are aiming to work in a research position as a vet technician or technologist, then you’re on the right track, at least when it comes to earnings. Positions in those fields usually earn more than those in others.
Another crucial factor to check when considering a career or a profession is the job outlook that it offers. The good news is that the opportunities for jobs that are waiting for vet technologists and technicians are good and is expected to stay that way.
The only down side is that since there is an increase in the number of veterinary technician schools and programs, these could produce more graduate which will increase the competition for the available jobs. For now however, the situation seems ideal.
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes ten specialties. A vet technician will have to undergo additional training in order receive credentials in any one of the following specialties and become a veterinary technician specialist (VTS):
1. VTS (Anesthesia)
This is a specialist who uses anesthesia and analgesics to lessen or remove an animal’s discomfort during procedures. Tasks may include:
- Preparation and administering anesthesia under the supervision of a veterinarian.
- Adjusting dosages during surgery.
- Assisting animals recovering from anesthesia.
This kind of specialist can have a $48,000/year salary
2. VTS (Surgical)
Helps during surgical procedures such as orthopedic or soft tissue. The technicians maintain the operating and recovery areas. They also clean and prepare surgical instruments and equipment, administer anesthesia or other pre-surgery medications, and perform post-surgical care.
This kind of specialist can have a $39,000/year salary.
3. VTS (Equine)
This technician focuses on horse health and wellness.
4. VTS (Internal Medicine)
This technician will usually pursue a sub-specialty like cardiology or oncology.
5. VTS (Dental)
Provides dental services to animals under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian.
This kind of specialist can have a $44,000/year salary
6. VTS (Emergency & Critical Care)
This technician normally works in a hospital setting.
7. VTS (Behavior)
These technicians help in human-animal cooperation. They work with domestic pet training and even wildlife. They could also focus on animal therapy.
8. VTS (Zoo)
This technician handles zoological medicine.
9. VTS (Clinical Practice)
This kind of technician typically works in private practice they specialize dogs and cats, and other companion or production animals.
10. VTS (Nutrition)
This kind of tech specializes in basic animal nutrition. They provide special nutritional needs to certain animals when needed.
PROS AND CONS OF BEING A VET TECH
Pros of Being a Vet Tech
These are main the pros of being a vet tech:
1. Job Security
As mentioned earlier, there is a great deal of demand for vet technicians and technologists. Based on a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, the projected growth for the profession in the next decade is at 30%, which means you should not have difficulties when looking for a job.
2. Working with Animals
Do you love animals? By being a vet tech, you will have plenty of opportunities to work with all kinds of animals.
This is why it sometimes important to have compassion towards animals prior to getting started as it goes a long way for a career as a veterinarian.
Being a veterinary tech can be a rewarding and fulfilling career. If you are set on becoming one, you have to get started and prepare as early as possible.
You will have some additional perks by working in vet clinic. If you have a pet for example, you could get free care.
Working as a vet tech, you can be sure that now two days will be exactly alike. You would not end up getting bored if that is your worry.
5. Opportunities for Advancement
Because the profession is going to expand dramatically, you are sure to get some opportunities for advancement. You could get promoted soon after hiring, to a supervisor.
Cons of Being a Vet Tech
The salary of a vet tech isn’t too low, but it’s not high either. In other words, if you want to get rich fast, this is not the profession to go for. Even veterinary technician specialists do not earn that much.
2. Long Hours
Many vet technicians end up working more than 40 hours per week. Some clinics stay open during weekends or are staffed 24 hours a day. Even if your clinic has normal hours, there could be emergencies where you have to extend your time.
3. Risk of Injury
Then of course, there is always the risk of injury. You could be very careful while handling animals and still end up getting scratched or bitten.
Work as a vet tech can also be stressful. You may have to deal with aggressive animals and upset owners. You could also end up seeing mistreated animals and euthanasia.
Being a veterinary tech can be a rewarding and fulfilling career. If you are set on becoming one, you have to get started and prepare as early as possible.