For people who consider their cats, dogs and other pets far more than just “animals,” those furry, scaly or feathery family members require health care to ensure long, happy lives. Animal owners put their charges’ well-being in the care of veterinary technicians, who perform many of the procedures, exams and treatments at the veterinary office.
To secure a career as a veterinary technician, prospective vet techs follow a two-year associate degree program at one of the hundreds of American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited schools. The AVMA holds separate lists of accreditation for schools for veterinary medicine (which is what veterinarians pursue) and veterinary technology (the path for veterinary technicians). Higher-learning institutions across the country offer veterinary technician programs.
Coursework and Experience
Veterinary technology programs follow a similar course pathway to ensure prospective vet techs build the skills and knowledge they need for their careers. Students take courses such as animal breeds and husbandry, introduction to veterinary medical technology, veterinary diseases, veterinary parasitology, veterinary office procedures, veterinary pharmacology, animal nutrition, and large-animal clinical practice. Along with classroom training, prospective vet techs also gain skills through hands-on clinical practicums, working alongside experienced veterinarians or observing surgeries, exams and procedures.
Organization and Empathy
Veterinary technicians need a slate of skills to help keep the veterinary practice afloat, such as the ability to multitask: checking in a barking dog, immunizing a frightened cat and scheduling a jumpy rabbit's next checkup. Vet techs may also require clerical skills, depending on their job duties, such as good writing, the ability to process payments, computer knowledge and supply ordering. While not necessarily a “teachable” skill, veterinary technicians must also have a soothing manner to approach both their animal patients and the pets’ owners, who may be scared, nervous or panicked.
After studying and working on the skills necessary to become a veterinary technician, candidates may expect a salary of approximately $30,580 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2009 Occupational Employment and Wages study. In 2009, vet techs on the East Coast earned the highest salaries, with Connecticut leading the country at $36,360 per year, closely followed by New York, at $36,250 and the District of Columbia, at $36,160 per year.