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Veterinary Technician Career Profile

Do you want to work as a Veterinary Technician?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for your career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

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UPDATED:

1 June 2024

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What is a Veterinary Technician?

A Veterinary Technician is a trained professional who assists veterinarians in the care and treatment of animals. They play a crucial role in veterinary practices, providing support in various medical and administrative tasks.

Dog 2

Differences in general Veterinary profiles:

In some countries, there is almost no distinction between a veterinary technologist, a veterinary technician, and sometimes even a veterinary nurse. Due to the different definitions and overlapping functions, here’s a comparison of the careers of veterinarian, veterinary technologist, veterinary technician, veterinary nurse, and veterinary assistant. It also gives you an idea of what to study for, especially regarding the level and length of study.

NB! Find out which profiles are actually found in your country, before starting your education!

Career Profile Comparison

1. Veterinarian

Description:

Veterinarians are medical professionals who diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries in animals. They may work with a variety of animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife. Their duties include performing surgeries, prescribing medications, conducting routine check-ups, and advising pet owners on proper animal care.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited veterinary college.
  • Licencing: Must pass the North American Veterinary Licencing Examination (NAVLE) and obtain a state licence to practice.

2. Veterinary Technologist

Description:

Veterinary Technologists perform medical tests under the supervision of a licenced veterinarian to help diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals. They often work in laboratories or research facilities, and their tasks may include conducting tests, preparing vaccines, and managing anaesthesia during surgeries.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Technology from an accredited programme.
  • Certification: Optional certification from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) as a Registered Veterinary Technologist (RVT).

3. Veterinary Technician

Description:

Veterinary Technicians assist veterinarians in clinical settings by performing a variety of tasks, such as taking medical histories, collecting samples, conducting lab tests, and administering medications. They are essential in both routine care and emergency situations.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Associate degree in Veterinary Technology from an accredited programme.
  • Certification: Must pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) and obtain state-specific certification or licencing.

4. Veterinary Nurse

Description:

Veterinary Nurses provide nursing care to animals under the direction of a veterinarian. They are responsible for tasks such as monitoring vital signs, providing pre- and post-operative care, administering anaesthesia, and educating pet owners on animal care.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Varies by region, but generally a diploma or degree in Veterinary Nursing.
  • Certification: Often required to pass an examination such as the VTNE or a region-specific certification exam.

5. Veterinary Assistant

Description:

Veterinary Assistants support veterinarians and veterinary technicians by performing basic care and administrative duties. Their responsibilities include feeding and bathing animals, cleaning cages, sterilising equipment, and assisting with handling animals during examinations.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: High school diploma or equivalent. Some veterinary assistant programmes offer certificates or diplomas.
  • Certification: Certification is optional but can enhance job prospects. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation.

Career Categories

The Veterinary Technician career can be found within the following OZT career categories:

  • Health
  • Farming & Livestock Management
  • Marine Conservation
  • Wildlife Conservation
  • Zoos, Aquariums, Museams and Theme Parks

History?

One of the first full training courses was created by the US Army!

Scrub Colours?

Registered Veterinary Technicians wear navy coloured scrubs

What does a Veterinary Technician do?

Groups of animals a Veterinary Technician works with

Cats List Icon
Cats
Dogs List Icon OZT
Dogs
Critters List Icon OZT
Critters
Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
Mammals List Icon OZT
Mammals
Birds List Icon OZT
Birds
Fish List Icon OZT
Fish
Reptiles List Icon OZT
Reptiles
Amphibians List Icon OZT
Amphibians

A veterinary technician works with a wide range of animals across various settings. Here are the main groups of animals they typically work with:

Companion Animals

  • Dogs and Cats: The most common group, involving routine check-ups, vaccinations, surgeries, dental care, and emergency treatments.
  • Small Mammals: Includes rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, and other small pets that require specialised care.

Exotic Animals

  • Birds: Parrots, canaries, and other pet birds that may need specialised dietary and medical care.
  • Reptiles: Snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises require specific environmental conditions and medical treatments.
  • Amphibians: Frogs, salamanders, and newts that have unique care needs.

Large Animals

  • Horses: Often involving work at equine hospitals or farms, focusing on preventive care, injuries, and reproductive health.
  • Livestock: Cows, pigs, sheep, and goats that require herd health management, vaccinations, and treatment of illnesses.

Wildlife

  • Native Wildlife: In rehabilitation centres or wildlife parks, treating injured or sick wild animals such as deer, foxes, birds of prey, and small mammals.
  • Zoo Animals: Working in zoos, I assist with the care of a wide range of exotic animals from around the world, including large mammals, birds, reptiles, and aquatic species.

Laboratory Animals

  • Research Animals: Mice, rats, rabbits, and other animals used in scientific research, ensuring their health and welfare under strict ethical guidelines.

Specialised Areas

  • Marine Animals: Some Veterinary Technicians work with aquatic species like fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and seals, particularly in marine parks or rehabilitation centres.
  • Animal Shelters and Rescues: Providing medical care to a variety of animals awaiting adoption or rescue, including dogs, cats, and sometimes exotic pets or livestock.

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With who does a Veterinary Technician work?

Besides working with all of the animals, Veterinary Technicians will need to interact with other people while doing their daily tasks. The people might include fellow staff members or the public.

Fellow staff might include:

  • Supervisors/Managers
  • Operational staff, such as Human Resources, Finance and Maintenance
  • Veterinary Staff

What does a Veterinary Technician focus on?

The main focus of a Veterinary Technician is to assist the veterinarian by administering allowed medical treatment while taking care of the animals.

What are the daily tasks of a Veterinary Technician?

  • Provides animal care by determining animal requirements.
  • Conducts examinations and diagnostic procedures.
  • Assists during operations.
  • Feeds and cares for animals.
  • Maintains supplies and equipment.
  • Maintains records.
  • Determines animal requirements by conducting examinations and interviews.
  • Completes laboratory tests and studies and diagnostic imaging.
  • Takes vital signs and collects samples.
  • Administers medications, drugs, and vaccines.
  • Bandages and wraps wounds.
  • Supports animal examinations by assembling required supplies and instruments.
  • Explains animal status to owners.
  • Prepares surgery table instruments.
  • Completes local/regional anesthesia.
  • Places catheters and obtains blood gases as needed.
  • Maintains sterile conditions.
  • Obtains and verifies medications.
  • Cleans animal cages and equipment
  • Maintains safe, secure, healthy, and humane environment by sterilizing and wrapping instruments, sanitizing operating areas, verifying shelf life of medications, and complying with legal regulations.
  • Enhances service reputation by accepting ownership for accomplishing new and different requests and exploring opportunities to add value to job accomplishments

(Source: Hiring Monster)

Working conditions of a Veterinary Technician?

Where does a Veterinary Technician work?

Environment –

Veterinary Technicians work primarily indoors within a professional setup. Most of the tasks will be in a examination room or surgery.

Places of Employment –

They are employed by veterinary clinics, universities, medical laboratories, government, zoos, aquariums and various kinds of sanctuaries.

What is the average annual salary of a Veterinary Technician?

On average the income per year is around US$35,000. This will differ from country to country.

Country Specific:

  • South Africa – R 260,000
  • United Kingdom – £22,500

Can a Veterinary Technician be promoted?

Advancement in the field typically depends on work experience. First-year technicians often fit their training commitments around the daily work demands.

The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:

Intern -> Junior Technician -> Senior Technician -> Manager

What kind of difficulties can a Veterinary Technician face?

Being a Veterinary Technician, you experience similar difficult moments than Veterinarians, and it’s good to know these things before you truly make a decision to pursue this career:

  • Most veterinarians are on call around the clock since emergencies can occur at any time.
  • Schedules may include evenings, weekends, and holidays.
  • Dealing with sick animals and their distraught owners can be very stressful.
  • Vets may in certain circumstances need to put an animal to sleep, called euthanasia.
  • Sick or frightened animals may bite, kick, or otherwise injure those who are treating them.

​Future growth and Possibilities

The career market for veterinary services is growing well at around 10% annually. The need for veterinary technicians to assist in rural areas and with wildlife is growing.

Availability of Jobs

Average

Which Skills are required by a Veterinary Technician?

The skills required for a career as a Veterinary Technician can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
Life Skills
40%

Career Skills

  • Animal handling
  • Animal care techniques
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Good computer literacy
Career Skills
60%

Which Subjects must I have at School to help prepare for this career?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to Study to become a Veterinary Technician?

Minimum Requirements

The minimum educational requirement for all veterinary technician positions is an approved College Diploma. The market can be competitive in certain countries, which might require higher studies (Bachelor’s Degree) to secure a job.

Study Focus

Major –

Most colleges and/or universities will require you to take subjects such as biology, mathematics, animal science, veterinary technology.

Short Courses –

You can secure the best jobs by completing additional short courses while preparing for this career. They may include subjects such as animal behaviour, animal physiology or animal first aid.

Study Duration

The duration of a College Diploma is on average 2 years, while a Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 3 or 4 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

FREE Career Path Plan

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A preparation path is like a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

1. Attend Career Guidance Sessions:

Participate in career fairs, school counseling sessions, and workshops to understand the veterinary field.
Seek advice from school counselors about the Veterinary Technician career path.

2. Research All Possible Careers:

Explore various roles within veterinary medicine, such as Veterinary Technician, Veterinary Technologist, and Veterinarian.
Understand the differences in responsibilities, education requirements, and career prospects.

3. Explore Educational Paths:

Investigate accredited Veterinary Technician programs at community colleges and technical schools.
Look into dual enrollment or early college programs that offer veterinary-related courses.

4. Align High School Subjects with the Educational Path:

Focus on biology, chemistry, and other science courses to build a strong foundation. Take courses in animal science if available. Consider classes in mathematics, English, and computer science to develop essential skills.

5. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent:

Ensure completion of all required coursework to graduate. Maintain a strong GPA to meet admission requirements for post-secondary programs.

6. Learn About Animals That Will Work With:

Gain knowledge about different animal species and their care needs. Read books, watch documentaries, and take online courses related to animal health and behaviour.

7. Align Post-School Path with Career Goals:

Decide whether to enter the workforce directly, pursue further education, or start a related business. Research options for part-time or online Veterinary Technician programs if immediate work is necessary.

8. Gain Experience Through Volunteering, Internships, Mentorships:

Volunteer at local animal shelters, veterinary clinics, or farms to gain hands-on experience. Seek internships or shadowing opportunities with veterinary professionals. Join mentorship programs to receive guidance from experienced technicians or veterinarians.

9. Pursue Extracurricular Activities:

Join animal-related clubs, 4-H, FFA (Future Farmers of America), or similar organizations. Participate in science fairs, pet adoption events, or community service projects related to animals.

10. Join Professional Associations:

Become a student member of organizations such as the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). Attend local veterinary association meetings and events to network and learn.

11. Gain Specialized Skills:

Learn skills such as animal handling, basic first aid, and familiarity with veterinary software. Take additional courses or workshops in areas like animal nutrition, behavior, and welfare.

12. Network with Professionals:

Connect with veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and other animal care professionals. Utilise social media and professional networking sites to build connections in the veterinary field.

13. Enter the Job Market, Finish Tertiary Studies, or Launch a Business:

After completing an associate’s degree in veterinary technology, pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). Apply for jobs in various settings, such as clinics, shelters, zoos, or research facilities. Consider starting a pet care business, such as a pet sitting or grooming service, if entrepreneurship is a goal.

14. Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education:

Engage in lifelong learning by attending workshops, seminars, and conferences.
Take continuing education courses to stay current with advancements in veterinary medicine. Consider specialising in areas like anaesthesia, dental care, or exotic animals through additional certifications.

By following these steps, a high school student can effectively prepare for a rewarding career as a veterinary technician, gaining the necessary education, experience, and skills to succeed in this field.

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Stepping Stone Career

Being a Veterinary Technician can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).

You can begin as an intern technician after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and apprenticeship

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a veterinary technician will be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior technician or veterinarian.

Join the Veterinary Technicians Group in the OZT Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of all the people who enter the career:

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Veterinary Technicians are required by law to be certified to work with animals. Certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.

Learn more about requirements by joining the OZT Community.

Professional Associations

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care and handling.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in figuring out a path to prepare, as well as help you to gain further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools. There are almost a dozen free tools, but these are the three primary ones:

CAREER PATH PLAN

Use the career path plan above on this profile as an example to follow, or to work out your own path.

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 

SHORT COURSES

Access easy-to-use short courses to make your career preparation easier! The basic information in each course is free, but the rewards can only be unlocked as an OZT member!

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 

STUDY GUIDE

Get a supercharged study guide that fits into the career path plan! Now that's really upping your preparation game! Join us for free to gain access!

COST; Free

ACCESS: Members Only

But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.

OR

Join the OZT community and career chat Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a Veterinary Technician.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being a Veterinary Technician, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu, and search for something different.

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Contributions by expert members are always appreciated to allow the students to make informed decisions. Please add your contribution through the attached form:

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