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Veterinary Careers

photo of a Vet Tech student assisting

Veterinary technician is the fastest-growing job in the nation for those with an associate degree! America’s Career Infonet projects job openings will grow at an incredible 52 percent nationwide over the next several years.

What Does a Veterinary Technician Do?

Technologists and technicians usually begin work as trainees in positions under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.

Veterinary technicians:

  • Answer client concerns either by phone or in person
  • Clean and sterilize instruments and materials and maintain equipment and machines
  • Help prepare animals for surgery, monitor anesthetics and assist in surgery
  • Perform medical tests in a laboratory environment for use in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases in animals
  • Prepare vaccines and serums for prevention of diseases
  • Prepare tissue samples, take blood samples and execute laboratory tests, such as urinalysis and blood counts

Job Abilities and Skills

Successful veterinary technicians and assistants should have:

  • Good communication skills, both verbal and written, to communicate effectively with veterinarians and pet owners and to be able to keep accurate patient charts
  • Excellent scientific aptitude, since they use laboratory tools such as microscopes and perform laboratory tests, with a good understanding of animal anatomy and physiology
  • Good observation skills, with the ability to look for subtle clues in animals’ movements to gauge comfort and predict behavior
  • Creativity, especially for technicians who work with many animal species, since tools and procedures may need to be modified to fit a particular animal or species not commonly seen
  • The ability to multitask, starting several processes and tasks before any one is finished
  • Physical strength to be able to hold and restrain larger animals
  • Organizational ability

Job Locations and Working Conditions

Veterinary technicians work for:

  • Animal shelters and humane societies
  • Attorneys as paralegals who work as veterinary specialists or consultants in veterinary lawsuits
  • College and university veterinary programs and teaching hospitals
  • Government regulatory agencies such as the Texas Animal Health Commission
  • Large-scale ranching operations
  • Private animal clinics
  • Research facilities
  • Veterinary hospitals
  • Veterinary medical suppliers or distributors
  • Veterinary pharmaceutical industry
  • Zoos

People who love animals get satisfaction from working with and helping them, though caretaking work includes repetitive, dirty and unpleasant tasks. Veterinary technicians may clean cages and lift, hold or restrain animals, risking exposure to bites or scratches. Workers must take precautions when treating animals with germicides or insecticides. The work setting can be noisy.

Veterinary technologists and technicians who work with abused animals or who help perform euthanasia 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 suggestion that owners are neglecting or abusing their pets.

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.

Licensure and Certification

Depending on the state, candidates may become registered, licensed or certified. Commonly used terms include:

  • registered veterinary technician (RVT)  used by the state of Texas
  • licensed veterinary technician (LVT)
  • certified veterinary technician (CVT)

Most states use the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam. Prospects usually can have their passing scores transferred from one state to another, so long as both states use the same exam.

Passing the state exam assures the public that the technician has sufficient knowledge to work in a veterinary clinic or hospital. The exam includes oral, written and practical portions and is regulated by the state board of veterinary examiners or the appropriate state agency.

Cedar Valley’s associate degree program graduates are eligible to take the Texas Examination for Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVT) and the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). Both exams are required for registration in the state of Texas, and the VTNE is required for credentialing as a technician by several other states.

Projected Job Growth and Estimated Salaries

Veterinary technologist is the fastest-growing job in the nation with an associate degree and the fifth-fastest-growing job in Texas. According to America’s Career Infonet, average salaries in Texas are:

Job Hourly Rate Annual Salary Projected Growth Through 2020
Veterinary technologists and technicians $12.81 $26,6000 +40%
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers $9.96 $20,700 +7%