When you think of life in a veterinarian’s office, you might think of a Doctor Doolittle-style situation, with amusing animal hijinks and lots of kitten-cuddling. In reality, it’s a busy medical office—and while there may indeed be cuddling, it’s like any other healthcare practice, working hard to treat patients and send everyone (and everydog) out the door healthier than they came in.
Veterinary technicians (also known as vet techs) are an essential part of a veterinary clinic. They work with doctors to provide care—but they do it across species lines.
Vet techs are often the core nursing staff in an animal clinic. Depending on what kinds of animals the clinic specializes in treating, this could entail working with patients from small rodents all the way up to horses and livestock. Vet techs typically work in standard private vet clinics, but they can also be found in emergency care pet clinics, in zoos, in medical laboratories, or visiting animal owners’ homes to provide care. Because the majority of vet techs work in a clinic/office setting, the most common work week is a standard 40-hour one, but techs who work in critical care or in unusual settings (zoos, farms) may work on an on-call basis.
Vet techs are usually responsible for the following tasks:
- Observing the behavior and condition of animals in order to diagnose illness or injury
- Providing nursing care
- Administering emergency first aid to animals
- Performing grooming services
- Restraining animals during exams or procedures
- Administering anesthesia to animals, and monitoring vital signs
- Collecting laboratory samples for testing, such as blood, urine, or tissue
- Performing diagnostic laboratory tests
- Taking and developing x-rays
- Preparing animals and instruments for surgery
- Vaccinating and administering medication prescribed by the veterinarian
- Maintaining patient charts and medical histories
- For more on what it’s like to be a veterinary technician, check out these videos:
Career Choices – Vet Technician
A Day in the Life – Veterinary Technician
Becoming a Veterinary Technician
Vet techs usually have at least an associate’s degree from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Many states also require certification in addition to the standard education and training, so be sure to research what your state’s requirements are for vet techs.
The median salary for veterinary technicians is $31,070, or $14.94 per hour. Experienced technicians can often make about $41,000 per year. Per a Salary.com survey, vet techs rate their career as “very satisfying.”
Opportunities for veterinary technicians are exploding: the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the field will have a major surge of at least 19% by 2024. This makes it one of the fastest-growing Allied Health careers out there. Also, the most kitten-intensive.
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