Career Focus: Veterinary Technology

Veterinary technology is a growing field that’s a good fit for people looking to work with animals or in a medical setting. The profession dates back to the 1940s, and today the field boasts a national organization (NAVTA), a robust accreditation process, and careers in specialties ranging from dental to emergency, internal medicine, and anesthesia. If you love animals and want to provide them with medical attention, a career as a vet tech might be for you.

The good parts of a vet tech JOB

  • If you work in a veterinary office (as over 90% of vet techs do), you’ll see your animal patients over the course of their lives, and you’ll get to help their owners be the best pet parents they can be. You’ll provide advice on nutrition, grooming, medication, behavior, and disease prevention.
  • If, instead, you work for a zoo or as a farm tech, you’ll work with larger animals (some of them exotic), many times out-of-doors, and your patients’ owners will have different priorities for the health and safety of their animals. You’ll provide many of the same services to your patients, though, including recording medical histories, monitor behavior, administer medications, and treat animals that are sick.
  • If you’d prefer a more clinical setting, a career in animal research or surgery might be a better fit. Even veterinary office techs assist the attending veterinarian in surgeries at the practice, but you can also be certified as an Emergency or Critical Care Technician to help animals suffering from severe trauma. You can also work in a research lab, developing new medications, testing the safety of pet food, or figuring out best practices for disaster preparedness.
  • No matter which specialty you choose, you’ll have the joy of working with animals every day. You will also enjoy the perks of being in a field with a high demand for certified professionals, including multiple job opportunities, rare lay-offs, and a fairly recession-proof career. Most candidates are considered qualified for an entry-level vet tech position after a two-year associate degree, and with the multiple certifications available, career (and pay) advancements are relatively easy to find.

The not-so-good parts of a vet tech job

  • Your earnings may vary widely.  The median salary is around $35,000, but there’s a wide range, dependent on how big the practice is, how rural your area is, and what kind of vet tech you are. If you’re working for a small practice, you’ll be making less than if you work in research, but you’ll need less education to begin working. Zoos and aquariums pay much less to start, since the entry-level positions are internships. However, the median pay for vet techs has been trending upward, and it’s expected to continue.
  • The job can be physically  demanding. Vet techs can work up to 12-hour shifts, and on weekends and evenings, too. Over the long workdays, techs can be expected to lift and wrangle pets weighing up to 100 pounds. Many animals are scared or hurting when they come to the vet, so they can be guarded or even aggressive. You will have to deal with all sorts of bodily fluids, some of which can make you sick.
  • There can be a heavy mental toll: Since most vet techs get into the field through a deep love of animals, seeing those animals hurt, struggle, and sometimes die can be very difficult. Some techs experience what’s called “compassion fatigue,” where caring about their patients wears them out.

All that being said, many veterinary technicians derive a deep satisfaction and sense of worth from their careers. Even though the work can be hard, it can be equally rewarding.

Becoming a veterinary technician

Generally, before getting a job as a vet tech you’ll need to have a degree from an accredited veterinary technology program, then become certified through a state board. In Louisiana, that board is the Louisiana Board of Veterinary Medicine (LSBVM). There are currently four accredited schools in Louisiana that offer veterinary technology degrees:

There are also accredited online programs. You can find more information at the following websites, and around the web:

After you get your degree, you’ll need to be accredited. For information on accreditation, as well as continuing education and certification, visit the LSBVM’s website.

Further reading

Most of the information in this blog post has been taken from Careers in Veterinary Technology: Vet Tech, a publication by the Careers Internet Database. You can find more information about veterinary technology and other careers by visiting their website.

If a career with animals sounds like something you’d like to look further into, see our Cool Careers blog post about different options.

You can also check out the following links, provided by the Careers Internet Database:

Written by Case Duckworth