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What does a Veterinary Technician do?

A career as a veterinary technician could be ideal for you if you like working with animals and want a job with excellent prospects.

What is the typical job role of a veterinary technician?

Veterinary technicians could be described as nurses for animals. They work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian in the same that nurses work under the direction of a physician. Their work is often conducted in the laboratory where they perform diagnostic tests on blood, fluids, and tissue taken from animals. Other tasks may include:
  • Taking blood and other samples from animals
  • Assisting veterinarians during surgery and other treatment
  • Taking x-rays and radiographs
  • Providing nursing care to animals, for example following surgery
  • Cleaning and sterilizing surgical instruments, and maintaining equipment and machines
  • Administering vaccinations
  • Taking patient histories and maintaining records
Unfortunately, your work may also include euthanizing animals that are unwanted or seriously unwell.

You are most likely to find work either with domestic pets such as cats and dogs or with large, non-domestic animals such as horses or cattle--rarely both together.

Most veterinary technicians work in private clinics or animal hospitals. Some veterinary technicians work in zoos or aquariums. You may find employment in a research facility, or in a related career such as livestock management, wildlife management, biosecurity or disaster preparedness.

What education do veterinary technicians need?

A 2-year associate degree in veterinary technology gained from a college accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is the usual requirement for an entry-level position. You could also gain a 4-year college degree in veterinary technology. Following graduation, you can take your credentialing exam, which you are required to pass in order to work as a veterinary technician.

Certification by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) is recommended if you want to work in a research facility.

You can expect to begin your career as a trainee under the supervision of a veterinarian, which should enable you to build up the experience necessary to advance.

What is the career outlook for veterinary technicians?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 36 percent increase in employment, which is much higher than the average for all occupations. Opportunities for employment are excellent, due partly to the relatively small number of graduates qualified to work in this occupation. Demand for veterinary technologists and technicians is also likely to remain strong because animals continue to require care regardless of economic factors.

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