Vet Tech Career Guide

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What is a Vet Tech?

A veterinary technician is a trained professional with fundamental medical knowledge and clinical skills applicable to animal care. Typically, they work alongside veterinarians in animal hospitals and veterinary clinics. Their responsibilities may encompass conducting laboratory tests, evaluating animal health, providing assistance during procedures, and performing routine wellness examinations on animals.

Pursuing a career as a vet tech can provide an opportunity to engage in the daily care of animals. If you possess a passion for animals and aspire to contribute to their well-being and happiness without pursuing a veterinary degree, veterinary technician education might be the perfect path for you. Let’s delve deeper into this field of veterinary medicine and explore the requirements for becoming a qualified vet tech.

Vet Tech Duties and Responsibilities

A veterinary technician’s primary job generally is helping a vet care for animals. This includes helping animals live healthy lives and protecting the happiness of an animal. Vet techs could be thought of as nurses in a veterinary setting. The duties and responsibilities a vet tech has may depend on the type of practice where the tech works. Their education allows them to do many jobs in a vet’s office, outside of prescribing medicine, diagnosing a condition, and doing surgeries.

Some of the specific jobs that may fall on the vet tech’s shoulders at a vet’s office include:

  • Administering animal’s medications or vaccines
  • Administering treatments in the vet clinic
  • Prepping animals for surgical procedures the vet performs
  • Evaluating the health of an animal through wellness checks
  • Holding animals down during exams or treatments
  • Educating owners on what to do at home to care for an animal
  • Performing routine, non medical care tasks, like trimming toenails or cleaning ears
  • Observing animals for signs of health needs
  • Performing x rays and other diagnostic tests
  • Helping vets and vet scientists with research in the field
  • Charting health histories for animals
  • Providing assistance during surgery or procedures
  • Giving animals anesthesia
  • Offering emergency first aid in urgent care situations
  • Surgical nursing care for vets

Veterinary technicians also generally work with a wide range of animals. In a standard vet’s office, they may typically see cats and dogs and similar small animal pets. However, in an exotic vet’s office, they may see birds, reptiles, and rodents. And, in a farm vet’s office, they may work on the farm with horses, cows, goats, and other farm animals. The work of a vet tech could be quite varied.

Veterinary technicians may also work in lab settings. When animals are used to test medications and products, they require humane handling and care. They may also need careful observation. Vet techs might do both. Their knowledge of animal health and physiology combined with their passion for animals may make them a good fit for this role.

Vet Tech Skills and Competencies

Veterinary technicians need to have a caring demeanor and enjoy working with animals. They must be able to handle animals carefully and treat them in a humane manner. They may also need to have a good bedside manner to help animal owners, especially during times when animals are in distress or facing serious medical issues. Some specific skills that help vet techs succeed may include

Good Communication Skills

Vet techs may need to be able to share their knowledge with animal owners and their coworkers. This requires good communication skills, especially when taking medical knowledge and sharing it with non medical people like owners. Vet techs also need to be able to communicate with vets, being able to respond quickly when the doctor needs something during a procedure.

Empathetic Nature

Pet owners are quite connected to their pets. They often think of them as family. Vet techs must understand this and be able to offer empathy to owners who are in distress because their pet is sick or in pain.

Physical Stamina

The job of a vet tech can be physically demanding. This job requires you to stay on your feet most of the day. You may need to lift and move heavy animals. You must be able to give the animals in your care your undivided attention throughout the day. Vet techs also risk injury on the job. Animals are unpredictable. Techs may get bitten or scratched. Those working with large animals and in equine vets can get kicked. Physical stamina can help you recover from these injuries more quickly.


As a vet tech, you will be asked to handle animals and medical equipment, often at the same time. This can be tricky. Having good dexterity is helpful.

Attention to Details

In any medical setting, including veterinary work, missing details can be a life or death situation. Techs generally working in laboratory animal settings must carefully evaluate the animals in their care. Maintaining accurate records and reporting issues or illness are critical to caring for animals. Vet techs must be detail oriented to do their jobs well.

Technical and Medical Skills

A veterinary technician’s job is a medical job, and this means they will need to be comfortable working with medical equipment, delivering medications, measuring samples, and using diagnostic equipment. They have to be comfortable administering injections or drawing blood. Learning how to use medical equipment quickly in the field is also important.

Emotional Resiliency

Some of the work of a vet tech can be emotionally difficult. Vet techs may need to administer euthanasia for a sick pet. They may witness and document animal abuse. These emotionally draining tasks require resiliency.

Vet Tech Salary and Job Outlook

Many individuals embark on their veterinary career journey by obtaining a veterinary technician certificate, which can serve as a stepping stone towards various paths in animal care. Depending on their aspirations, it may either lay the foundation for a future as a veterinary scientist or doctor, or it could be the sole profession one chooses to pursue. As stated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for veterinary technicians in 2023 amounted to $43,740, corresponding to an hourly rate of $21.03. 

Veterinary technicians specializing as health technicians garnered a median annual wage of $43,740, while those employed in the field of education, such as in colleges and professional schools, earned a median annual wage of $48,850. The employment prospects for vet techs are projected to witness a remarkable 21% growth from 2022 to 2032, surpassing the average rate of growth in comparison to other occupations, according to the BLS

Education and Certification

If a career as a veterinary technician seems like a good fit for your skills, education is the starting point. This career requires post secondary education. In many states, it also requires certification and credentialing examination.

What Groups Oversee a Veterinary Technology Program?

Vet techs need to be properly certified for their jobs. Several groups assist in this certification. The Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities, which is part of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is one of these. Vet techs must be certified. The certification exam comes from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB).

Education for Vet Techs

To embark on a career as a vet tech, the initial step is to acquire the necessary education. The CVTEA/AVMA, an organization responsible for accrediting vet tech programs, should be consulted when searching for an appropriate program. 

The foundational degree for a vet tech is a two-year associate’s degree. To prepare for this, it is advisable to take biology and related science courses during high school. Strong mathematical skills can also prove beneficial. If your aspirations lean towards becoming a vet technologist rather than a vet tech, a four-year bachelor’s degree may be required. Regardless of whether you opt for a two-year or four-year program, you will delve into various aspects of animal care during your studies. Expect to learn:

  • How to administer anesthesia
  • Biochemistry for animals
  • Nursing care for animals
  • Pathology for vets
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Anatomy and physiology for animals
  • Surgical care and nursing for animals
  • Common animal diseases

In addition to the in classroom, vet techs may receive clinical or on the job training. Some of the work these pros perform can’t be taught in a classroom setting, but requires hands on instruction. The AVMA requires internship or hands on clinical experience as part of their certified program. Depending on the school and the state, this may be called:

  • Internship
  • Externship
  • Preceptorship
  • Practicum

Regardless of the title, the goal is generally the same. These programs aim to give students the chance to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom under the supervision  of a trained tech or licensed veterinarian.

Vet Tech Certification

After completing a degree program and internship, you may need to be certified or credentialed as a vet tech. The rules for certs vary by state. Many states require their vet techs to take a credentialing exam. A common credentialing exam is the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). This exam takes four hours to complete. It covers 200 multiple choice questions. These questions cover the following areas of knowledge:

  • Anesthesia
  • Radiography and ultrasound
  • Pharmacy
  • Dentistry
  • Laboratory
  • Animal nursing
  • Surgical prep and assisting

To prepare, students could purchase a practice exam from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Before taking the exam, always consult your state’s vet tech credentialing rules. Upon passing the vet tech exam, you may receive your credentials as a vet tech. This makes it possible to start applying for work in the field and pursuing your career.

Similar Roles

A vet tech is similar to a few other roles. They vary based on income and job responsibilities. Comparing the differences could help you make a career choice for your needs.

Vet Assistant Vs. Vet Tech

A veterinary assistant is an individual who collaborates with a veterinarian but typically possesses less formal education in the field. They may acquire a certification in veterinary assisting or acquire their skills through on-the-job training. Due to their lack of formal training, these individuals usually do not engage in direct animal care. Their main responsibilities revolve around clerical and maintenance tasks, although they may assist in restraining animals during procedures. 

Vet assistants are often responsible for managing schedules and collecting payments. They may also handle tasks such as feeding and exercising animals, preparing and maintaining equipment, as well as ensuring the cleanliness of the veterinary office. Both vet assistants and vet techs are subject to state regulations, and the American Veterinary Medical Association provides a state-by-state comparison chart illustrating the specific duties each role can perform. 

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for vet assistants amounts to $36,440. Similarly, to vet techs, those working in educational institutions, including college campuses, tend to earn the highest median annual wages. Furthermore, the field of vet assisting is expected to experience growth, with a projected 20% increase by 2032. 

Veterinary Technologist Vs. Vet Technician

“Vet tech” typically refers to the role of a vet technician. A vet technologist is a different role, but with a similar name so they are sometimes confused. Vet techs typically have a two-year associate degree. Vet technologists typically have a four-year bachelor’s degree. The credentials are similar, and technologists may not have a specific credential depending on the state. It is the additional education that sets them apart. 

Vet techs and vet technologists may perform similar duties. The additional education of the technologist may open the door to pursuing roles with a higher potential salary or leadership positions. It may also provide the perfect foundation for a career in a lab setting instead of a vet’s office. The BLS indicates that technologists earn $43,740 as the median annual wage in 2023.

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