If you love animals, a career in a veterinary field may be perfect for you. You don’t have to work as a vet to be in this industry, however. One often-overlooked career option is to work as a veterinary technician. This field is growing while job outlook in so many other industries is declining, and it only requires two years of higher education.
A veterinary technician is to a vet what a nurse is to a doctor. While doctors may see dozens of animals every day, a vet tech will only work with a few, completing routine lab work and clinical procedures to make the vet’s day go more smoothly. Exact duties depend on the place of employment, but can include collecting blood or urine samples, asking owners for the animal’s medical history, recording vital stats, dressing wounds, administering medicine, operating x-rays, and more. Vet techs may also help with maintaining records, performing research, or compiling statistics.
Most vet techs work at animal hospitals and veterinary clinics, though these are not the only places where you can find work. Vet techs are also in demand at colleges, with social advocacy organizations, at research facilities, at museums and other tourist locations, and even with the federal government. You can also extend your training to work in the military, with wildlife, or at a zoo.
To work in a veterinary technician position, you need at least an associate’s degree from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. As of 2006, there were over 120 vet tech programs, as well as 4-year programs at over 15 colleges for students who want to learn even more.
The work environment you can expect as a vet tech is unique. Since most vet techs work at hospitals, clinics, and other health offices for animals who are sick or injured, the work you do can be stressful and even dangerous. This career field can also take a toll emotionally, as vet techs may have to help care for animals who were abused or need to be euthanized. Even working in the research field, vet techs may also regularly have to treat scared, sick or injured animals. It is also often the vet tech’s responsibility to relay information to the animal’s owners, answering questions and giving treatment instructions to people who are often very upset.
As a vet tech, your salary will depend on your specific job, your location, and how long you stay in the position. There’s a fairly high rate of turnover for vet techs, as most leave positions to pursue higher education in animal sciences after less than a decade. In 2008, the average salary for vet techs was $29,850, with the highest average annual salaries found in New York, Illinois, and California.
No matter where you live or plan to live in the future, however, you should be able to find a job as a vet tech. From 2006 to 2016, this career field is expected to grow by 41%, which is much faster than average. In today’s competitive job market, that’s important! If you love pets, take a moment to consider this field. With minimal educational requirements, you could be well on your way to a career in just a few short years.