Definition of a Veterinary Technician


Many times, a veterinary technician works alongside a registered veterinarian. Most vets consider their technicians to have the same role as nurses would to general doctors or surgeons. The position is much different than a veterinary assistant, who often cleans up and feeds the animals. However, the same love and passion for animals is required whether you're working as a veterinarian, a veterinary technician or a veterinary assistant.

Job Description

  • The job description of a veterinary technician relies heavily on what the head veterinarian needs. Most veterinary assistants work at private offices, sometimes alongside more than one veterinarian. veterinary assistants are trained in a wide variety of skills, so they are able to help where they are needed. Veterinary assistants are able to assess symptoms and diagnose and treat illnesses. All of this is done under the direct supervision of a vet, but for many common cases, little to no assessment by the primary veterinarian is needed. Technicians are present during most surgical procedures, working as an extra set of hands and providing any sort of medical assistance throughout the surgery. Veterinary technicians deal directly with the pet owners and are often in charge of explaining treatments, medications and procedures.

Education and Qualifications

  • Special circumstances, including extensive on-the-job training, may alter the amount of formal training needed. However, for the most part, veterinary technicians require at least two years of training from an American Veterinary Medical Association--accredited school. Some veterinary technicians complete a four-year program, while some opt to complete a vocational program. Certification laws vary from state to state, but it is recommended that all veterinary technicians complete the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science Certification program before working at a private office or animal hospital. Hands-on experience is often the best way to learn in these situations, and as a veterinary technician becomes more comfortable at his job, veterinarians will often place more responsibility on their technicians.

Average Salary

  • In 2006, the average hourly wage for a veterinary technician was $12.88. However, the bottom 10 percent was reported to make less than $8.79 per hour, while the top 10 percent made over $18.68 per hour. The salary depends on the budget of the veterinarian's office or animal hospital and the amount of education, work history and training received. Veterinary technicians often receive raises as they become more educated in their field and more comfortable performing the general tasks of a veterinarian's office.

Number of Technicians

  • In 2006, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were approximately 71,000 employed veterinary technicians in the United States. For the year 2016, 100,000 veterinary technicians were projected. Even with decreasing numbers of employment in other fields, veterinary technicians often have an easy time finding a job. Every year, very few people graduate with degrees to become veterinary technicians, even though the demand for these positions are always increasing.


  • Some veterinary technicians move on to finish vet school and become full-time veterinarians, while others are content with their current positions. However, veterinary technicians do have the opportunity to advance in their career without changing fields or returning to school. Veterinary technicians at zoos or aquariums often require a developed work history but make much more money than most technicians in the average veterinarian office. These jobs are very difficult to obtain, since there is a low turnover among employees and there are so many interested candidates.

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