Taking their love for animals to another level, veterinary technicians turn passion for caring for animals into a career. Similar to the way a nurse assists a doctor, a vet tech helps the veterinarian care for sick animals, perform wellness checks and take care of other veterinary duties. The number of women in the veterinary field has increased so dramatically in recent years that females now dominate the industry, making up 92 percent of vet techs, according to Job Stat.
Purpose of Rules
Numerous rules designate what veterinary technicians can and cannot do in a vet practice. These rules are typically put in place by each state, with industry associations like the National Association of Veterinary Technicians backing up the rules set by the states. Rules regarding duties a vet tech can perform help protect the animals under a vet tech’s care. While a vet tech plays an important role in the veterinary practice, she doesn’t have training, know-how or skills to perform every job. Rules assure that a vet tech stays within her realm of knowledge and skills to prevent further injury or sickness to animals under her care.
How to Become One
In addition to what tasks they may perform, there are also sets rules for what it takes to become a veterinarian technician. The exact requirements vary from state to state, but generally a vet tech must have a two-year associate degree from a school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Most states also require vet techs to take and pass a certification exam, usually the Veterinary Technician National Exam.
What You Can Do
As a veterinary technician, you’ll get lots of face-to-face time with the animals, taking vital signs, collecting specimen samples for testing and giving vaccines and other medications prescribed by the vet. You’ll also interact with animal owners, gathering patient histories from them and educating them on how to give a medication or treatment. Behind the scenes, you can do lab tests like urinalysis and blood counts, as well as take x-rays. Under direct supervision of a vet, vet techs can also administer anesthesia to animals before surgery, suture wounds and remove teeth.
What You Can’t Do
While the rules of what you can do as a vet tech seems pretty comprehensive, there are several major vet job duties you cannot do under any circumstances. Vet techs may not perform surgery, whether minor or major, diagnose diseases or write prescriptions for medicine or treatments; however, some states do allow vet techs to go beyond their scope of practice in times of emergency. In California, for example, vet techs may apply tourniquets, give drugs to prevent shock, use intubation to open airways and apply temporary splints or bandages, if the animal's life is in danger.
2016 Salary Information for Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
Veterinary technologists and technicians earned a median annual salary of $32,490 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, veterinary technologists and technicians earned a 25th percentile salary of $26,870, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $38,950, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 102,000 people were employed in the U.S. as veterinary technologists and technicians.
- Job Sta: Veterinary Technicians
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Veterinary Technicians and Technologists
- California Veterinary Board: Registered Veterinary Technician Job Task Regulations
- Ohio Veterinary Medical Licensing Board: Registered Veterinary Technicians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
- Career Trend: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.