Vet techs, also known as veterinary technicians and veterinary technologists, perform a variety of jobs and functions within their work environment. They usually work under the supervision of a veterinarian and can be thought of as having a similar role as a nurse has in a human hospital. However, vet techs not only perform the duties of a nurse, but that of a lab technician, surgical tech, anesthesiologist, and many other specialized roles that they are called upon to play. Duties can range from primary emergency care to running tests in a lab.
National Average Vet Tech Salary
Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Upper: $22.80 $47,410
Median: $15.29 $31,800
Lower: $10.52 $21,890
States With Highest Vet Tech Salary
State Avg. Hourly Wage Avg. Annual Wage
- Alaska $20.24 $42,090
- Massachusetts $20.20 $42,020
- New York $19.62 $40,810
- California $18.56 $38,600
- Connecticut $18.20 $37,850
*All statistical data is from the U.S. Department of Labor and is updated quarterly
Veterinary Technician Job Description:
Some of the responsibilities of a vet tech include treating animals in emergency situations providing similar care that an ER nurse would. Veterinary technicians also will monitor patients and take notes on their overall condition and behavior, put together patient histories, as well as administer any treatments prescribed a veterinarian.
During surgeries they may perform the role of anesthesiologist, administering the anesthetic as well as observing the animals vitals. They also perform the tasks of a surgical tech, making sure all instruments and equipment are sterilized and in working order. Prepping the patients for surgical procedures is also a responsibility.
Another common job for vet techs is performing diagnostic lab work. They will often take X-rays, urine and stool samples and draw blood. They are the ones who do the actual lab work of analyzing the samples and developing x-rays.
Vet techs can be found working in a variety of places including, private offices, animal hospitals, research labs, zoos and numerous other venues where animal care is necessary.
Some of the situations that one may encounter while working this job may be unsettling for some. Treating animals that have been badly injured or abused can be not only physically, but emotionally draining. You may encounter scenarios where you must help with euthanizing an animal that is sick or unwanted.
Vet techs have a much higher rate of injury and sickness then the rest of the population. This is due to the fact they often work with scared and injured animals and the risk of a bite or scratch are much higher. When working with larger animals such as horses, one can be severely injured from a kick. Any animal who is scared and sick can be dangerous, therefore precautions should be taken to minimize risk of injury or disease.
Since facilities with animals require around the clock staffing, a vet tech can expect to have a similar schedule as a regular nurse. Shifts can include working mornings, evenings and overnight, weekdays and weekends.
Difference Between A Vet Technician And Vet Technologist:
Both of these positions are referred to as vet techs and they have pretty much the exact same job duties but there are difference between the two.
Veterinary technicians posses a 2 year associates degree and can be found working mostly in vet clinics and animal hospitals under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Veterinary technologist posses a 4 year bachelors degree, and can be found working in the same types of facilities as technicians, but are also found working in research labs to a much higher degree. In a research lab setting, work is usually performed under the guidance of a research scientist.
How To become a Vet Tech – Education and Licensing:
To become a vet tech one must not only graduate from an accredited program, but also depending on the state you are working in, become licensed. There are two educational paths that one can follow to become a vet tech. There is a two year associates program that would give you the title of veterinary technician and a four year bachelors program for the title of veterinary technologist. Having a background in science and math would be beneficial for excelling in either of these programs.
Vet techs are regulated at the state level and each state has their own requirements for certification. In the majority of states you will have to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam. This is an entry level exam that will certify you at the most basic level.
Who Should Become A Vet Tech?
There are several personality traits that you should have if you want to excel at being a vet tech. Being empathic towards the animals that are being treated as well as their owners is very important. When you have an understanding as to the stress that they are going through you will be more inclined to treat all involved with a degree of consideration, doing what you can to minimize suffering is essential.
Having a strong analytical mind is also something you should possess. Being able to observe and take note of small details in an animals behavior as well as keeping accurate clear notes of your observations is a big part of this job. This also applies to any treatments that you administer or any lab work you must carry out.
As with most jobs, you will not be working alone, although your patients are animals, your co-workers are humans. Having strong communication skills will improve the quality of care that patients receive, as well as create a good work atmosphere.
How Much Does a Vet Tech Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual vet technician salary is $31,800. The lowest 10 percent of reported incomes was averaged at $21,890 while the top 10 percent of earners took home an estimated $47,410. The state with the highest average salary is Alaska with an annual mean salary of $42,090.
Factors That Can Influence Salary:
There are numerous variables that come into play when determining a vet tech salary. As with any job, location and experience will play a major role. Vet techs have the option of studying in a specialized field when they are in school such as emergency care, anesthesiology, dental as well as other disciplines. Not only will specialization help you find a job in a particular area, it can also lead to a higher pay rate as you have skill not everyone possesses.
A logical step for a vet tech to take if hey wanted to advance their career, would be to become a veterinarian. They would have much experience as well as practical knowledge of the profession before even entering a study program.
Because of the great variety of skills that are needed for this profession, many can be translated into other careers such as a lab technician, surgical tech, or anesthesiologist. Schooling and certification would still be required of course but your background as a vet tech will give you a huge advantage.
The job market for vet techs is expected to be exceptional. A growth rate of 19% is expected between 2014 and 2024. This is compared to a national average of 7% for the rest of the economy. Due to the ever increasing population of pets in this country it is needless to say that with that comes a necessary expansion of medical facilities and a need for highly skilled certified workers. Due to these factors, employment in this field is pretty much guaranteed.
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