Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Summary

Veterinary technologists and technicians
Veterinary technicians work under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Quick Facts: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
2012 Median Pay $30,290 per year
$14.56 per hour
Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 84,800
Job Outlook, 2012-22 30% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 25,000

What Veterinary Technologists and Technicians Do

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to help diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals.

Work Environment

Veterinary technologists and technicians work in private clinics, laboratories, and animal hospitals. Their jobs may be physically or emotionally demanding. Many work evenings, weekends, or holidays.

How to Become a Veterinary Technologist or Technician

Veterinary technologists and technicians must complete a postsecondary program in veterinary technology. Technologists need a 4-year bachelor’s degree, and technicians need a 2-year associate’s degree. Typically, both technologists and technicians must take a credentialing exam and must become registered, licensed, or certified, depending on the requirements of the state in which they work.

Pay

The median annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians was $30,290 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is projected to grow 30 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment will grow as more veterinarians utilize technicians and technologists to do general care and lab work, and as they continue to replace lower skilled veterinary assistants.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of veterinary technologists and technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about veterinary technologists and technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Veterinary Technologists and Technicians Do

veterinary technologists and technicians image
Veterinary technologists and technicians are responsible for the careful and humane handling of laboratory animals.

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to help diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals.

Duties

Veterinary technologists and technicians typically do the following:

  • Observe the behavior and condition of animals
  • Provide nursing care or emergency first aid to recovering or injured animals
  • Administer anesthesia to animals and monitor their responses
  • Collect laboratory samples, such as blood, urine, or tissue, for testing
  • Perform laboratory tests, such as urinalyses and blood counts
  • Take and develop x rays
  • Prepare animals and instruments for surgery
  • Administer medications, vaccines, and treatments prescribed by a veterinarian
  • Collect and record patients’ case histories

In order to provide superior animal care, veterinarians rely on the skills of veterinary technologists and technicians. As such, many veterinary technologists and technicians work in private clinics, animal hospitals, and veterinary testing laboratories. They conduct a variety of clinical and laboratory procedures, including postoperative care, dental care, and specialized nursing care.

Veterinary technologists and technicians who work in research-related jobs do similar work. For example, they are responsible for making sure that animals are handled carefully and humanely. They commonly help veterinarians or scientists on research projects in areas such as biomedical research, disaster preparedness, and food safety.

Veterinary technologists and technicians most often work with small-animal practitioners who care for cats and dogs, but they also may do a variety of tasks involving mice, rats, sheep, pigs, cattle, and birds.

Veterinary technologists and technicians can specialize in a particular discipline. Specialties include dental technology, anesthesia, emergency and critical care, and zoological medicine.

The differences between technologists and technicians are the following:

Veterinary technologists usually have a 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Although some technologists work in private clinical practices, many work in more advanced research-related jobs, usually under the guidance of a scientist and sometimes a veterinarian. Working primarily in a laboratory setting, they may administer medications; prepare tissue samples for examination; or record information on an animal’s genealogy, weight, diet, and signs of pain.

Veterinary technicians usually have a 2-year associate’s degree in a veterinary technology program. They generally work in private clinical practices under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian. Technicians may perform laboratory tests, such as a urinalysis, and help veterinarians conduct a variety of other diagnostic tests. Although some of their work is done in a laboratory setting, many technicians also talk with animal owners. For example, they explain a pet’s condition or how to administer medication prescribed by a veterinarian.

Work Environment

Veterinary technologists and technicians
Veterinary technicians often advise owners how to care for their pets.

Veterinary technologists and technicians held about 84,800 jobs in 2012, of which 92 percent were in the veterinary services industry.

Veterinary technologists and technicians typically work in private clinics, laboratories, and animal hospitals. They may also work in boarding kennels, animal shelters, rescue leagues, and zoos.

Their jobs may be physically or emotionally demanding. For example, they may witness abused animals or may need to help euthanize sick, injured, or unwanted animals.

Injuries and Illnesses

Veterinary technologists and technicians have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. When working with scared or aggressive animals, they may be bitten, scratched, or kicked. Injuries may happen while the technologist or technician is holding, cleaning, or restraining an animal.

Work Schedules

Many clinics and laboratories are staffed 24 hours a day, so veterinary technologists and technicians may have to work evenings, weekends, or holidays. Many technicians have variable schedules, and some must work 7 days a week.

How to Become a Veterinary Technologist or Technician

Veterinary technologists and technicians
Veterinary technicians may assist veterinarians with surgeries.

There are primarily two levels of education and training for entry into this occupation: a 4-year program for veterinary technologists and a 2-year program for veterinary technicians. Typically, both technologists and technicians must pass a credentialing exam and must become registered, licensed, or certified, depending on the state in which they work.

Education

Veterinary technologists and technicians must complete a postsecondary program in veterinary technology. In 2013, there were 217 veterinary technology programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Most of these programs offer a 2-year associate’s degree for veterinary technicians. Twenty-two colleges offer a 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Eight schools offer coursework through distance learning. 

People interested in becoming a veterinary technologist or technician should take high school classes in biology and other sciences, as well as math.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although each state regulates veterinary technologists and technicians differently, most candidates must pass a credentialing exam. Most states require technologists and assistants to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination.

For technologists seeking work in a research facility, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) offers three levels of certification: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG).

Although certification is not mandatory, workers at each level can show competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration and management to prospective employers. To become certified, candidates must have work experience in a laboratory animal facility and pass the AALAS examination.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Veterinary technologists and technicians spend a substantial amount of their time communicating with supervisors, animal owners, and other staff. In addition, a growing number of technicians counsel pet owners on animal behavior and nutrition.

Compassion. Veterinary technologists and technicians must treat animals with kindness and must be sensitive when dealing with the owners of sick pets.

Detail oriented. Veterinary technologists and technicians must pay attention to details and be precise when recording information, performing diagnostic tests, and administering medication.

Manual dexterity. Veterinary technologists and technicians must handle animals, medical instruments, and laboratory equipment with care. They also do intricate tasks, such as dental work, giving anesthesia, and taking x rays, which require a steady hand.

Problem-solving skills. Veterinary technologists and technicians need strong problem-solving skills in order to identify injuries and illnesses and offer the appropriate treatment.

Pay

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Health technologists and technicians

$40,380

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Veterinary technologists and technicians

$30,290

 

The median annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians was $30,290 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,030, and the top 10 percent earned more than $44,030.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for veterinary technologists and technicians in the top three industries employing these workers were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional
schools; state
$37,190
Research and development in the physical,
engineering, and life sciences
35,810
Veterinary services29,920

Veterinary technologists and technicians working in research positions often earn more than those in other fields.

Many clinics and laboratories must be staffed 24 hours a day, so veterinary technologists and technicians may have to work evenings, weekends, or holidays. Many technicians have variable schedules, and some must work 7 days a week.

Job Outlook

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Veterinary technologists and technicians

30%

Health technologists and technicians

24%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is projected to grow 30 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. 

Because veterinarians perform specialized tasks, clinics and animal hospitals are increasingly using veterinary technologists and technicians to provide more general care and perform more laboratory work. Furthermore, veterinarians will continue to prefer higher skilled veterinary technologists and technicians over veterinary assistants for more complex work.

There will also be demand for veterinary technicians in areas such as public health, food and animal safety, national disease control, and biomedical research on human health problems.

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities for veterinary technologists and technicians are expected to be good, particularly in rural areas.

However, the number of veterinary technology programs has been growing rapidly in recent years, so the number of new graduates vying for jobs over the coming decade should result in greater competition than in the past. 

Workers who leave the occupation each year will also result in job openings.

Employment projections data for Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Veterinary technologists and technicians

29-2056 84,800 109,800 30 25,000 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of veterinary technologists and technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Animal care and service workers

Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers provide care for animals. They feed, water, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals. Job tasks vary by position and place of work.

See How to Become One $19,970
Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Medical laboratory technologists (commonly known as medical laboratory scientists) and medical laboratory technicians collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances.

See How to Become One $47,820
Radiologic technologists

Radiologic and MRI Technologists

Radiologic technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations, such as x rays, on patients. MRI technologists operate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to create diagnostic images.

Associate’s degree $55,910
Surgical technologists

Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries.

Postsecondary non-degree award $41,790
Veterinarians

Veterinarians

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.

Doctoral or professional degree $84,460
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers look after animals in laboratories, animal hospitals, and clinics. They care for the well-being of animals by performing routine tasks under the supervision of veterinarians, scientists, and veterinary technologists and technicians.

High school diploma or equivalent $23,130

Contacts for More Information

For information on careers in veterinary medicine and a listing of AVMA-accredited veterinary technology programs, visit

American Veterinary Medical Association

For more information on becoming a veterinary technician or technologist, visit

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

For information on certification as a laboratory animal technician or technologist, visit  

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science

For information on the Veterinary Technician National Examination, visit

American Association of Veterinary State Boards

O*NET

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm (visited September 17, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014