Schooling Requirements to Become a Vet Technician
If you have loved cats, dogs, lizards and frogs since you were a child, becoming a veterinarian technician may be a deeply rewarding job for you. Learning how to become a veterinarian technician is the first step toward launching an exciting career working with people and domestic or exotic animals. Vet tech high school requirements include courses in math, science and communication. Completing a veterinary technician program at an accredited two-year community college readies you for state exams and licensing requirements that you may need to fulfill so that you can work in your field.
Days are seldom predictable when working in a bustling veterinary clinic where anything can happen. Depending on the facility, duties of the vet tech may include scheduling routine and emergency appointments, recording animal health care history, taking x-rays, drawing and analyzing samples of bodily fluids and calming frightened animals during an examination by the veterinarian. Under supervision of a veterinarian, vet techs provide first aid to injured animals and they also administer prescribed medication. During surgery, the vet tech may help monitor responses to anesthesia and may provide requested surgical instruments to the veterinarian.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a two-year associate degree is now the minimum requirement to be a veterinary technician. Typically, students must also pass a state exam that’s required for licensing, certification or registration in that jurisdiction. High school classes in algebra, chemistry, biology and physics provide a solid foundation for this challenging science-based career. Advanced placement classes in high school biology can be especially helpful when taking college classes in animal anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, radiology and nutrition. You may also find it helpful to complete classes in communication and psychology because you will be working with callers and visitors who may be distraught over their animal’s injury or its deteriorating health.
As of 2016, 91 percent of veterinary technicians and technologists work in veterinary services such as local veterinary clinics that treat small animals or farm animals. Other opportunities include caring for animals in research laboratories or working for nonprofit organizations such as humane societies. Occupational hazards include being bitten, scratched or kicked by upset animals. The work can also be emotionally draining and difficult when an animal cannot be helped or placed. Hours can include evenings, weekends, holidays and rotating on-call shifts.
Years of Experience and Salary
Most veterinary technicians enter the field after two years of college coursework. In 2016, the vast majority of the 221 veterinary technician schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association offered a two-year associate degree. Students seeking in-depth training or specialization, may instead choose to pursue a four-year degree in veterinary technology, which are available at 21 of the 221 AVMA accredited schools. Examples of specializations include internal medicine, zoology, clinical pathology, dentistry and equine nursing. Veterinary technicians and technologists earn a median annual salary of $33,400 per year, or $16.06 an hour in 2017, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS does not differentiate salaries for veterinary technicians and technologists.
Job Growth Trend
Veterinary technicians can look forward to a very favorable job market, as evidenced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projected growth of 20 percent from 2016 to 2026. That compares to a projected increase of 7 percent for all occupations combined. Increasing numbers of individuals devoted to pets will drive the continued demand for animal health care, vaccinations, surgeries and diagnostic work.
Mary Dowd holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master’s in counseling and student affairs from Minnesota State Mankato. Helping students succeed has been her passion while serving in many areas of student affairs and adjunct teaching. Currently she is a dean of students at a large, public university. Dr. Dpwd’s writing experience includes published research, training materials and hundreds of practical online articles.