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Veterinary Technician: Education and Career Information

If you take your pet to the veterinarian and have dealt with someone who has been able to assist in helping to diagnose your animal and perform other duties, you probably have dealt with the veterinary technician. This is a position that is supervised by the veterinarian, but has an innate love for animals. If you have considered working with animals in your career, this may be the path for you.

What does a veterinary technician do?

A veterinarian technician is an integral part of the veterinary clinic, hospital, shelter or zoo. They help keep things in order and the total operation running smooth. This position cares for all the animals that come to be seen. The technician performs general tasks, such as observing animals for changes, getting the animals prepped for surgery, administering first aid, collecting lab samples and evaluating test results, performing x-rays and developing them, administering medications, treatments or shots, and doing administrative work, such as completing and maintaining patient records.

How much does a veterinary technician earn?

According to, the average wage for a veterinary technician is about $13.60 per hour. This hourly wage is dependent on the state, locale and their level of education and experience. The annual salary for vet technician can go over $40,000 depending on the practice.

What types of skills must a veterinary technician have?

There are a number of skills needed to be successful as a veterinary technician. This is a specialty position that requires concentration and an adeptness at being versatile. Here are a few necessities:

Nursing background: It is necessary to have nursing skills and perform nursing tasks. There are a number of things that are required in this field even when dealing with animals, such as administering medicine, measuring dosages, pharmacology skills, prepping and other duties. In addition to nursing, veterinary technicians must have medical skills under their belt, with the certification to administer medicine. A good understanding of biology, medicine and dentistry is needed to succeed.

Laboratory proficiency: Having lab skills is a high priority. Being able to collect samples of tissue, urine and blood, taking x-rays and other lab work. There must be a huge background in math and science in order to be successful in this area.

Management and Organization: There must be a strong attention to detail, strong management and organizational skills needed for this position. There are a number of records involved that must stay accurate. Keeping track of the different medicines and recommended actions for treatment aren’t just small details, but crucial components of the job.

Communication: You must be able to fully communicate with the owners of the animals, coworkers and the veterinarians who are working on the patients. This is a highly communicative position that deals with a number of people. Being able to fully explain what is going on with an animal in a personable way is important, as well as being able to understand and perform functions from the vet.

Technical Skills: Knowing how to correctly operate the machinery is crucial, which includes taking and the development of X-rays, cleaning equipment, using computers and other spreadsheets. The technician should be able to maintain all of the equipment in the office.

Empathy: Being able to show empathy when an animal is in need is huge. Friends and family members consider animals to be part of the family, so having a compassionate demeanor and being able to speak to the family in their time of need makes a huge difference.

Physical Stamina: This is a position that moves around a lot, so having stamina to stand for a long time or move animals around is key. Being able to move equipment and boxes is also a factor.

Personality: A veterinary technician should be able to navigate in different areas and deal with a number of people to move forward in their career. A high level of compassion is needed, as well as a firm grasp of educational knowledge to provide effective assistance for the family, veterinarian and animals.

Internship Requirements

Every program has an internship period to offer clinical, hands-on experience to all students. The amount of time needed varies based on the program and differs per school. The objective is to reduce the amount of time needed for on-the-job training.

Education Requirements

There are two different tracks that apply to becoming a veterinary technician. The first is the associate’s degree program, which is a common track for students that is much shorter than the bachelor’s degree program. The associate’s degree program takes about 16 to 24 months and can usually be found at a community college.

The bachelor’s degree program is a more intensive route, but is in very high demand. With a bachelor’s degree, the individual is positioning themselves to grow in their career while earning a higher income. The duration is a four-year program, but overall is worth the time and effort involved.

Coursework for these programs include basic animal nursing care, biochemistry, anesthesia training, vet anatomy and physiology, animal diseases, vet pathology, surgical nursing for animals and pharmaceutical training. It is important to obtain an education through a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA).

Once the education components have been obtained, veterinary technicians must take an exam to become certified. This exam varies by state, but is needed to practice. The exam, the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) consists of 200 multiple choice questions and lasts for four hours. This exam is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB), and tests proficiency in surgical preparation and assisting, laboratory procedures, pharmacy and pharmacology, animal nursing, anesthesia, dentistry procedures, radiography and ultrasounds.

This is a very rewarding career path for someone who enjoys working with animals and has a quest to learn more about their makeup. This is a very interesting position, which will expose the individual to all sorts of issues and concerns that veterinarians face every day. If you are up for the challenge, this may be a good stepping point if becoming a veterinarian is in your career plan.

Veterinary/Zoology Scholarships

Bill Kane Undergraduate Scholarship CANfit Program Scholarships Gates Millenium Scholarship
The Hispanic Health Professional Student Scholarship The Leopold Schepp Foundation Scholarship The Marion B. Pollock Fellowship
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Tylenol Future Care Scholarship Gallagher Health Careers Scholarship
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