Become a Veterinary Technician

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If you’re an animal lover, and you work well with other people in sometimes-stressful situations, you might have a future as a veterinary technician.

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With the explosive growth in pet ownership over the past 20 years, there is an ever-increasing demand for state-of-the-art veterinary care.

Many pet owners expect the same level of health care for their pets as they do for themselves and their family members, and they’re willing to pay for this care even without the aid of insurance.

To provide this service, most veterinarians and animal clinics use the skills of veterinary technicians. Veterinary technicians perform many of the same duties for a veterinarian that a nurse would for a physician, including routine lab and clinical procedures.

Job Description

Typically, veterinary technicians conduct clinical work in a private practice under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. They perform a variety of duties, including medical testing, and the diagnoses and treatment of various medical conditions and diseases in animals.

Some of the lab tests they perform include blood counts and urinalysis, tissue samples, and blood analysis. They also assist veterinarians in a variety of tests and analyses in which they often use various items of medical equipment, such as test tubes, centrifuges and other diagnostic equipment.

Other duties may include exposing and developing x-rays, obtaining and recording patients’ case histories, and providing specialized nursing care. Veterinary technicians with more experience may also council pet owners on their pet’s disease or condition, and offer advice on the proper care and feeding of their pets and other animals.

There are two types of veterinary technicians. The first work with small-animal veterinarians in the care of pets and other companion animals such as dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, and other small animals.

The other type of vet tech works primarily with larger and non-domestic animals in rural settings. They provide care for farm and other large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, etc. Very few veterinary technicians work in mixed-animal practices where they work on both types of animals.


Work Environment

While it’s true that veterinary technicians generally love animals and gain considerable satisfaction from working with and helping them. It’s also true that some of the work involved with the occupations can be stressful, unpleasant, and even sometimes dangerous.

This can be especially true of vet techs working with wild animals in zoos and other settings. The work can also be noisy and physically demanding.

Another hazard of the profession is the fact that some veterinary technicians are called on to euthanize sick or unwanted animals. This can be especially true for employees of animal shelters and humane societies, where space is limited and there is often more animals coming into the facility than can placed for adoption.

Training Requirements

If you wish to find an entry-level position as a veterinary technician, you should first obtain a 2-year associate degree in veterinary technology from an accredited community college.

Persons interested in careers as veterinary technologists and technicians should take as many high school science, biology, and math courses as possible. Science courses taken beyond high school, in an associate or bachelor’s degree program, should emphasize practical skills in a clinical or laboratory setting.

Technologists and technicians usually begin work as trainees in routine positions under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. Entry-level workers whose training or educational background encompasses extensive hands-on experience with a variety of laboratory equipment, including diagnostic and medical equipment, usually require a shorter period of on-the-job training.

Other qualifications. As veterinary technologists and technicians often deal with pet owners, communication skills are very important. In addition, technologists and technicians should be able to work well with others, because teamwork with Veterinarians is common. Organizational ability and the ability to pay attention to detail also are important.

Job Outlook

The job outlook is very bright for future veterinary technicians. There is a large need to replace veterinary technologists and technicians who leave the occupation and from the limited output of qualified veterinary technicians from 2-year programs, which are not expected to meet the demand over the 2006-16 period. Employment is expected to grow much faster than average.

Employment change. Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to grow 41 percent over the 2006-16 projection period, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Pet owners are becoming more affluent and more willing to pay for advanced veterinary care because many of them consider their pet to be part of the family. This growing affluence and view of pets will continue to increase the demand for veterinary care.


The vast majority of veterinary technicians work at private clinical practice under Veterinarians. As the number of Veterinarians grows to meet the demand for veterinary care, so will the number of veterinary technicians needed to assist them.

So if this sounds like a career field that would fit your talents and temperament, consider becoming a veterinary technician and join the growing ranks of animal care specialists.

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