Career Profile: Veterinary Technologists & Technicians

by April Karbowsky
Career Profile: Veterinary Technologists & Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians (also called "vet techs") work under the supervision of a veterinarian, most often in a small-animal veterinary practice.

As a veterinary technologist working at a clinic, you may:

  • Obtain and record animal patient case histories,
  • Take blood or tissue samples,
  • Perform laboratory tests (i.e., urinalysis and blood counts),
  • Assist in the analysis of test results,
  • Perform x-ray services,
  • Clean and dress wounds, and
  • Provide specialized nursing care to animal patients.

When an animal is released from a clinic, experienced veterinary technologists and technicians discuss recuperative procedures and medication dosing instructions with pet owners.

Another career option for veterinary technologists is to work in research facilities. In this environment, you may:

  • Handle records of an animal (diet, weight, food intake, medications, indications of pain or discomfort),
  • Administer medications,
  • Prepare laboratory samples (blood and tissue),
  • Ensure proper sterilization of surgical and laboratory equipment, and
  • Provide pre- or postoperative care.

You may be required to euthanize animals as needed. Like veterinarians, veterinary technologists and technicians also can work in fields that relate to human health.

You can assist veterinarians who work with other scientists in fields such as wildlife medicine, livestock management, biomedical research, or pharmaceutical sales.


Education

To pursue a career as a veterinary technologist/technician, you can earn a diploma, associate's, or bachelor's degree in animal health or veterinary technology.

Diplomas cam be earned in less than two years of study, and prepare you for entry-level positions as veterinary technicians.

Employment opportunities include work in zoos, retail and exotic pet centers, veterinary practices, farms, and some animal research facilities.

Job options may be limited, as many states require veterinary technicians to be licensed for employment, and approximately one-third of these states require an associate's degree for licensure.

An associate's degree takes two years to complete and usually requires an externship to gain hands-on experience with procedures learned in the classroom.

In this program, you'll take courses in math, chemistry, animal anatomy, and physiology in addition to courses covering basic office management skills.

An associate's degree will give you more options for employment. Some interesting choices include wildlife rehabilitation, pet nutritionist, animal caretaker, and veterinary office supervisor.

In a bachelor's degree, you'll typically spend the first two years of a program taking core courses in science and liberal arts. Yo'ull then spend the third and fourth years completing advanced courses that emphasize the application of medical technology, plus an externship.

In a bachelor's degree program, you'll learn to perform more advanced tests and procedures that will allow you to assist veterinarians in settings such as private veterinary practices, research facilities, critical care centers, or in an animal production programs.

For more information on applying to veterinary schools, see Getting Accepted to Veterinary School.


Financial Aid

Start your financial aid search at the U.S. Department of Education, which provides low-interest federal education loans.

Then get matched with and apply for scholarships and internships via Fastweb.com. You can also look for private grants and fellowships from a variety of veterinary professional associations.

Once you've decided on a school, contact the school's financial aid office, which will often offer other financial resources, such as private scholarships, grants or work-study programs.

For more, see the Financial Aid channel.

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