College Resources

Career Tracks: Veterinary Technician

Duties

Veterinary technicians conduct clinical work in a private practice under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The veterinary technician may perform laboratory tests such as urinalysis and blood counts, assist with dental care, prepare tissue samples, take blood samples, and assist veterinarians in a variety of other diagnostic tests. While most of these duties are performed in a laboratory setting, many are not. For example, some veterinary technicians record patients' case histories, expose and develop x rays and radiographs, and provide specialized nursing care. In addition, experienced veterinary technicians may discuss a pet's condition with its owners and train new clinic personnel. Veterinary technologists and technicians assisting small-animal practitioners usually care for small pets, such as cats and dogs, but can perform a variety of duties with lab animal, avian, and exotic species. Very few veterinary technologists work in mixed animal practices where they care for both small pets and large, nondomestic animals.

Besides working in private clinics and animal hospitals, some veterinary technologists and technicians work in research facilities under the guidance of veterinarians or physicians. In this role, they may administer medications, prepare samples for laboratory examinations, or record information on an animal's genealogy, diet, weight, medications, food intake, and clinical signs of pain and distress. Some may sterilize laboratory and surgical equipment and provide routine postoperative care.

While the goal of most veterinary technologists and technicians is to promote animal health, some contribute to human health, as well. Veterinary technologists occasionally assist veterinarians in implementing research projects as they work with other scientists in medical-related fields such as gene therapy and cloning. Some find opportunities in biomedical research, wildlife medicine, livestock management, pharmaceutical sales, and increasingly, in biosecurity and disaster preparedness.

 

Working Conditions

While people who love animals get satisfaction from helping them, some of the work may be unpleasant, physically and emotionally demanding, and sometimes dangerous. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that full-time veterinary technologists and technicians experienced a work-related injury and illness rate that was much higher than the national average. At times, veterinary technicians must clean cages and lift, hold, or restrain animals, risking exposure to bites or scratches. These workers must take precautions when treating animals with germicides or insecticides. The work setting can be noisy.

Veterinary technologists and technicians who witness abused animals or who euthanize unwanted, aged, or hopelessly injured animals may experience emotional stress. Those working for humane societies and animal shelters often deal with the public, some of whom might react with hostility to any implication that the owners are neglecting or abusing their pets. Such workers must maintain a calm and professional demeanor while they enforce the laws regarding animal care.

In some animal hospitals, research facilities, and animal shelters, a veterinary technician is on duty 24 hours a day, which means that some work night shifts. Most full-time veterinary technologists and technicians work about 40 hours a week, although some work 50 or more hours a week.

 

Characteristics & Temperament

Graduates should:

  • have care, compassion, and respect for all animal species

  • be committed to lifelong learning as new techniques and new information are constantly emerging

  • have ability to perform well under pressure, take orders and relate to veterinary medical professionals, patients and clients

  • be able to work as a team member in health care institutions and community settings

  • be neat, clean, careful, conscientious and highly reliable

  • be honest and ethical

  • have ability to handle addictive and/or very expensive drugs

  • have ability to maintain confidential information about patients

  • have excellent communication skills

  • have computer and technology skills

  • have good eyesight/color vision

  • have flexibility to work overtime and adapt to unpredictable requirements resulting from emergencies.

 

Employment Outlook

 Employment statistics for 2011 - 2013 PTC graduates, who found jobs in this field, are as follows:

  • salary average: $25,540.00 per year

  • salary range: $22,000-29,000 per year

  • 97% placement rate

Veterinary technologists in research jobs may earn more than veterinary technicians in other types of jobs. Please visit the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics website at: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292056.htm for the most current Occupational Outlook statistics.

 

Employers

Most work in small animal private practice or specialty practice, but others work in research setting.  Some recent graduates have found work at: