What is a Vet Tech?
What is it like being a vet tech? A veterinary technician is a certified professional in the field of veterinary technology who provides technical support for veterinarians in the process of patient care. Besides veterinarians, a vet tech is equally involved in the care of patients in veterinary hospitals and represents a valuable team member and irreplaceable asset. Continue reading to find out how to become a vet tech.
A veterinary technician is the person that greets new patients in the waiting room is the vet tech. He/she then escorts the client and the pet to the examination room. If the veterinarian performs the physical exams, the vet tech listens and takes notes.The vet tech can also perform a physical exam and pass the information to the veterinarian afterward.
If there is a need for performing laboratory testing, most likely the veterinary technician will be the one taking samples (for example drawing blood) and documenting the final results. Veterinary technicians also assist in making x-ray images of patients or perform them by themselves.
When there is a surgical procedure intended for a patient, technicians get all the equipment and instruments required for the operation prepared for the veterinary surgeon. They can also administer anesthetics under strict veterinary supervision. While the operation is underway, vet techs monitor the respiratory rate and heart rate of the patient to secure the proper safety of the animal and to help avoid complications.
After surgical procedures, the vet tech will spend the most time with the animal monitoring its condition and applying medications. Giving medications prescribed by the veterinarians is what a vet tech will commonly do on an everyday basis.
Vet techs also perform teeth cleaning procedures with ultrasonic dental machines and can discuss oral cavity abnormalities with the clients. They are trained in properly restraining animals in the clinic and ensure humane treatment and welfare. Technicians educate pet owners on proper animal care, behavioral concerns, and prevention of diseases. They perform active immunization, first aid and assist in making a diagnosis.
How to become a Vet Tech?
The most secure way of becoming a vet tech in the United States is by completing a veterinary technician or veterinary technology program which is accredited by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association). These programs last for two years and there are about 160 of them across the US and are offered at universities, colleges, and community colleges. After completing the program, the students get awarded with an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology. You can also attend vet tech schools online.
In cases where there is a boundary for the student to physically attend and be part of the program, AVMA approves a couple of distance learning programs (vet tech programs online) that are equally accredited as the rest. There are seven vet tech schools online that offer this kind of training.
An alternative choice is a four-year bachelor degree in the field of veterinary technology. Keep in mind that there is a difference, because this way you become a veterinary technologist rather than a technician. Technologists earn more money and can pursue future careers as veterinarians more easily, as well as work in research laboratories.
Vet tech prerequisites for different vet tech schools and vet tech colleges vary and depend on the school itself. The required vet tech prerequisites for getting enrolled are a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) equivalency. Some of the vet tech schools will require new students to take placement tests as well as test scores for SAT/ACT.
It is highly advised to contact the vet tech school you want to attend to and find out exactly what you need. We created a list of vet tech books, you might find it useful. Having a veterinary assistant certification can ease up the process of getting accepted to vet tech schools, vet tech online programs and vet tech colleges with some previous experience.
Vet Tech Certification
When a potential vet tech finishes an accredited program he/she then needs to take the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Examination). With a positive score on the exam, you get the proper vet tech certification in order to work in the field. Students that passed the VTNE are waived from taking a state-issued exam and become a certified veterinary technician, registered veterinary technician or licensed veterinary technician.
There isn’t a significant difference between LVT (Licensed Veterinary Technician), CVT (Certified Veterinary Technician) and an RVT (Registered Veterinary Technician), as all of them are credentialed with different monikers according to state. So in one state, you are a registered veterinary technician, while in other you are a certified veterinary technician eligible for work. You can find out more about all of this at NAVTA.
Only three states in the US don’t require state-exams – Wisconsin, California, and Alaska. It is also possible to acquire an on-the-job training in these states without attending an accredited vet tech school and have the necessary vet tech certification.
Veterinary Technician Jobs
Veterinary technicians take many courses while studying, such as radiology, anesthesiology, hematology, laboratory procedures, basic anatomy, parasitological studies, animal behavior, surgery, physiology etc. They have access to labs and animal hospitals with hands-on learning experience, usually in the last semester of studies.
Later on, they are trained to work in private practices with both, companion animals or large animals. Besides animal hospitals and private clinics, they can also build their careers in rescue facilities, zoos, animal shelters, and boarding facilities.
Other fields of work include government agencies, wildlife control services, livestock facilities, research laboratories, pharmaceutical sales etc.
Working hours depend on the chosen workplace. Although most fields include regular working hours, there are many situations where vet techs need to work overtime and overnight. Wherever you decide to work as a technician, you will definitely need a lot of stamina and motivation, because generally the work tasks are physically demanding and sometimes dangerous. Today there are a lot of veterinary technician specialties recognized by NAVTA.
Vet Tech Salary
Of all of the health-care related jobs, the veterinary technician profession has by far the fastest projected growth rate and it’s getting more and more popular in the United States.
Compared to veterinarians and veterinary technologists, a vet tech salary is a bit lower, but the educational expenses are lower as well (If you compare how long it takes to become a vet tech to the other professions). The average vet tech salary is different between states and locations in the United States.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for veterinary technicians in the US is about $33.300 per year. The professionals at the top of the ladder ear up to $48.000 annually and the middle (which makes about 80% of professionals) earn between $21.400 and $45.700.
Technicians working in government agencies, colleges or those with specialties in surgery, animal behavior, anesthesia and especially Dentistry have the highest revenues. The more educated and experienced ones naturally receive a higher vet tech salary than the rest.
The future is promising as the average vet tech salary rises as well as the demand for new veterinary technicians.. Approximately there are 3.000 new annual job openings for vet techs in the United States. The pet industry is growing substantially and people tend to spend more money on their pets and thus require better and specialized treatment for them.
The veterinary profession is moving towards specialized animal care. The procedures performed on sick animals are becoming more complex and require personalized care and personnel.
Vet Tech characteristics and opportunities
This is a job intended for animal lovers, who also happen to have a passion for science. Technicians spend an extensive amount of time with the patients and often bond with them and build long-lasting relationships, both with the animals and the owners.
Veterinary technicians need to be patient, endurable and emotionally stable individuals. Cold headed and calm during emergencies and kind to animals and clients. Since the job can be physically demanding, a vet tech needs to have enough stamina in order to restrain big patients or stand on their legs the whole day.
Every technician needs to learn as much as he/she can, and in time supervise or train new veterinary technicians, as well as vet assistants. As time passes there will be a lot of opportunities for taking your career to a whole new level.
First, there are the schools for technician speculates that are in high demand on the labor market. In the US there are about 20 academies and societies that offer technician specialties courses. Some of them include the fields of dermatology, surgery, internal medicine, dental care, veterinary nutrition, laboratory animals, emergency and critical care etc.
It is also not uncommon for a veterinary technician to start attending veterinary school and become a certified veterinarian soon enough. Since getting admitted to a vet school is difficult, certified (or licensed/registered) technicians have bigger chances of enrolling considering previous education and working experience in the field of veterinary medicine.
If you liked this article, read “Vet Tech Appreciation Week” on our blog.
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