If you yearn for a career helping sick and injured animals, consider becoming a veterinary technician or technologist. You'll perform lab tests, prep animals for surgery, and administer treatments under supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Technicians usually need an associate degree and work in animal clinics, while technologists need a bachelor's and typically work in research settings. Most states require licensing and passing the Veterinary Technician National Exam, and optional certifications are available. A vet tech's earnings vary with the industry, job location and her qualifications.
Examine the Pay Range
A total of 87,870 vet technicians and technologists filled jobs nationwide in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned $10.23 per hour or less, the equivalent of $21,270 annually for a full-time job. The top 10 percent received $21.39 per hour, or $44,490 annually. The overall average hourly wage was $15.27, while the average annual pay came to $31,760.
Find a Major Industry
As of 2013, more than 92 percent of vet technicians and technologists worked in the veterinary services industry, where full-time annual wages averaged $31,240, according to the BLS. Colleges, universities and professional schools paid an average of $38,460 annually, the highest among the top three employers. Social advocacy organizations, such as animal rights groups, paid $30,780 annually.
Find Top-Paying Industries
Various levels of government had most of the top-paying vet tech jobs in 2013. The federal government led with average annual wages of $49,000. Veterinary hospitals reported the second-highest pay of $39,730. Local government paid $39,570 per year on average, while state government paid an annual average of $39,380.
Locate High-Wage Areas
As the home of the top-paying federal government, the District of Columbia led all the states for vet tech pay in 2013, reporting annual wages averaging $39,710, according to the BLS. Alaska had the second-highest average of $38,620 annually, while New York came third with average annual pay of $37,870. Average wages for vet techs in Massachusetts and Virginia also exceeded $37,000 per year.
Learn about Outlook and Certification
The BLS predicts a 30 percent increase in openings for vet technicians and technologists between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the 11 percent average for all jobs. A growing number of new grads will increase job competition, but prospects remain favorable overall. You can improve your chances for top-paying jobs, such as research positions, by obtaining optional certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. Each of three levels requires passing exams on topics such as animal health, animal husbandry and facility administration, and the top level is laboratory animal technologist.
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