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Veterinary Technician Job Description, Career as a Veterinary Technician, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$11.99 per hour

Employment Outlook: Excellent

Definition and Nature of the Work

Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians in providing care to animals. They perform routine laboratory procedures and clinical procedures, such as taking blood, dispensing and giving medication, and performing medical tests, all under the supervision of a veterinarian. They are familiar with a range of high-tech diagnostic equipment and can provide specialized nursing care for injured or ill animals. They are also responsible for recording an animal's history, as well as information on its weight, food intake, diet, behavior, and other symptoms, which is a necessary tool in diagnosing an animal's illness and developing a treatment plan. This must then be communicated to the animal's owner.

Veterinary technicians work in private practice, animal hospitals, research facilities, and zoos. Some may teach or train other veterinary technicians. Others may assist in medical-related fields such as gene therapy or other research. In some cases veterinary technicians may be required to euthanize seriously ill, injured, or unwanted animals.

Education and Training Requirements

Those interested in a career as a veterinary technician can complete a two-year program from an accredited community college, which is the minimum educational requirement, or a four-year program. Clinical and laboratory experience is an essential aspect of any education program for a veterinary technician.

The American Veterinary Medical Association accredits 116 veterinary technology programs in forty-three states. Graduating from one of these programs allows students to take the veterinary technician credentialing exam. Each state has different regulations regarding veterinary technicians, but they all require a credentialing exam once a degree is earned. The test includes oral, written, and practical sections. If a candidate passes, he or she may become registered, licensed, or certified, depending on the state regulations.

For those interested in working in a research facility, they must obtain certification by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, which requires education achievements and experience in a laboratory animal facility.

There is also quite a bit of on-the-job training involved. Veterinary technicians have to become familiar with a variety of laboratory equipment as well as office or facility procedures.

Getting the Job

The job placement offices at schools can provide help in finding work. Apply directly to large animal research facilities, private practices, and animal hospitals. Also, check job listings in newspapers and Internet sources.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced veterinary technicians can eventually become supervisors. Others become instructors in the field, or assist veterinarians on research projects in medical fields such as gene therapy or biomedical research.

The job outlook for veterinary technicians is excellent, with employment for the field expected to grow much faster than the average through the year 2014. As veterinary technicians leave the profession through retirement or other opportunities, they will need to be replaced. In addition, pet owners are demanding more advanced care for their pets, such as preventive dental care and surgical procedures. With the number of companion pets in the United States increasing, the demand for care will also grow.

Working Conditions

Working with seriously ill, severely injured, and abused or unwanted animals can be a difficult and emotionally draining job. At other times it can be physically demanding. Veterinary technicians must lift injured animals, clean cages, and restrain hostile or scared animals, which may result in bites or scratches.

Veterinary technicians work long hours—sometimes they are on duty twenty-four hours a day—and can work more than forty hours a week.

Where to Go for More Information

American Veterinary Medical Association
1931 N. Meacham Rd., Ste. 110
Schaumberg, IL 60173
(847) 925-8070

Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians
c/o Joel Pond
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-2000

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America
P.O. Box 224
Battle Ground, IN 47920
(765) 742-2216

Earnings and Benefits

The median salary for veterinary technicians is $11.99 per hour. Experienced and skilled workers can earn more than $17.12.

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