Americans love their pets:  the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that there are 75 million dogs and 85 million cats owned in the country; to say nothing of stray animals.  If you include all other pets, from gerbils to parrots to snakes, the number of pets in the U.S. reaches easily into the hundreds of millions.

Even that astounding figure doesn’t do veterinary science full justice:  it doesn’t include horses, cows, llamas, and other farm animals that veterinarians and their assistants are called to care for on a regular basis.

Like their human-healthcare counterparts, veterinarians rely on assistants, technicians, and technologists to meet growing demand for effective, affordable animal care.  As the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts it, veterinary technicians and technologists are to veterinarians what nurses are to doctors: capable and critically-important professionals dedicated to saving lives and trained to do so effectively.

Veterinary technicians and technologists diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries in pets and other animals, with an array of advanced laboratory technology, specialized pharmaceuticals, and proven techniques.

These professionals work daily with animals in many different settings – the majority work for private-practice veterinarians, while others work for animal hospitals, shelters, zoos, or in research laboratories.  Despite the desirability of these jobs to many animal lovers, rapidly increasing demand promises excellent career opportunities for qualified candidates.

Veterinary Technology Career Opportunities

Related Careers: Veterinary Technicians and Technologists

To many Americans, pets are a part of the family.  Americans have proven willing to spend more and more money on extending the life spans and ensuring the quality of life of these animals.  In a nation of so many pets and domestic animals, veterinarians and veterinary technologists and technicians stand to benefit greatly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 79,600 veterinary technologists and technicians in the U.S. in 2008; that figure is expected to increase by 28,500 to 108,100 by 2018.  That’s an occupational growth rate of 36%, far higher than the expected 8.2% expansion of the civilian workforce over the same time period.

Projected Growth Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a resource of the Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration, reports that there will be a total of 48,500 openings for veterinary technicians and technologists from 2008 to 2018.  That figure includes jobs added by occupational growth and positions that open due to retirement or early termination.

Career opportunities are expected to be best in private practice veterinary clinics and larger animal hospitals, though there will be good opportunities open to veterinarian technologists in laboratories and other research facilities.  Despite the need for qualified veterinarian support workers across the board, demand is not expected to be high for positions in zoos and aquariums, due to slow growth of those institutions and serious competition for available jobs.

Veterinary Technician and Technologist Earnings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that veterinary technologists and technicians made a median of $28,900 yearly in 2008.  The middle 50% made between $24,580 and $34,960, while the bottom 10% of the field made less than $19,770 and the top 10% made more than $41,490.

Annual Earnings Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Veterinary Technology Educational Benefits

A veterinary technology associate’s or bachelor’s degree is generally required for entry-level positions as veterinary technologists and technicians.  Associate’s degree veterinary technology programs generally last for 2 years, and can qualify the recipient for entry-level positions as veterinary technicians.  Bachelor’s degree programs last 3 to 4 years, and qualify the recipient for entry-level technologist positions.

Technicians and technologists may perform similar or identical tasks in hospitals and private practices, but technologists may be qualified for more positions than technicians, including high-paying research and laboratory work.

All states regulate veterinary technologists and technicians, with most states requiring a passing score on the National Veterinary Technology (NVT) exam.  A good veterinary technology program will prepare the student for this and other licensing exams.

According to the Occupational Information Network, a project of the U.S. Department of Labor, 30% of working veterinary technologists and technicians have no formal education beyond a high school diploma.  The majority – 53% – have some college, including associate’s veterinary science degrees.  The remaining 17% have bachelor’s degrees or higher.

Educational Achievement Source: Occupational Information Network

Veterinary Technology Programs Online

Degrees Possible: Diploma, Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees

There are a small but growing number of accredited veterinary science programs offered online, most awarding associate’s degrees.  The best of these programs will provide a rigorous education comparable to the veterinary technology programs offered at a local school or college, but in a more flexible format better suited to working students.

As with any serious educational decision, do your research when picking an online veterinary technology program:  is the school accredited?  Do credits transfer?  What is the school’s job placement rate?  What are people saying about this school in general and this program specifically?  You’ll be able to find the answers to many of these questions on this family of Web sites; but don’t be afraid to ask questions of your admissions counselor.

Veterinary Technology Skills and Abilities

Veterinary technicians and technologists are healthcare providers, though their patients are animals instead of people.  Similar to other clinical medical professionals, a strong physical science and math background is important to veterinary science programs of all kinds.

Veterinary technologists and technicians should obviously be good with animals, as the majority of their tasks involve direct interaction with pets and other domesticated (and sometimes non-domesticated) animals.  People skills are important too, as they must frequently deal with the pet-owning public.

Communication and active listening skills are important to veterinary support personnel, as they must be able to work closely and efficiently with veterinarians and other technicians and technologists.

Veterinary Technology Qualifications and Advancement

Completion of a 2-year associate’s degree and state and national licensing exams qualifies the candidate for entry-level positions as a VETERIANARY TECHNICIAN, while a bachelor’s degree qualifies the candidate for positions as a VETERINARY TECHNOLOGIST.

Practicing technicians and technologists who continue their formal education may be qualified for higher-paying and more autonomous supervisory positions.

Additional Information

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) maintains a Web site at http://www.avma.org.