Just as human doctors have medical technicians and nurses to do the many types of technical tasks needed to assess and treat patients’ health symptoms so do veterinarians. Veterinary technicians, also referred to as veterinary technologists, are those responsible for many aspects of the care and treatment of animals at veterinary hospitals. These medical professionals perform the necessary tasks which leave the veterinarians free to do their specialized work like performing surgeries, diagnosing maladies, and prescribing medications.
1. Veterinary Technician Skills
Those who pursue veterinary technician careers love animals and generally have high job satisfaction. They work in a variety of venues like zoos, animal shelters, and private and public veterinarian hospitals. Although veterinary technicians do not have the same credentials or skill sets as doctors of veterinary medicine, they still contribute greatly to the field of veterinary medicine.
A veterinary technician is often the first person that a pet and its owner sees when they enter the veterinarian’s office for a routine check-up or something more serious. The veterinary technician must have the soft skills to put often anxious animals at ease enough to complete their medical tasks. The veterinary technician’s arsenal of technical skills includes the following tasks:
- Drawing and collecting blood or other bodily specimens
- Conducting analysis of collected specimens to help veterinarians diagnose problems
- Taking temperatures
- Assisting doctors during surgeries
- Administering anesthesia along with other medications
- Performing radiography functions
- Giving vaccines
- Monitoring post-surgery recovery process
- Performing medical record keeping
2. Education and Training Requirements
Because of the important role that veterinary technicians play on the veterinary medical team, many states require that veterinary technicians complete educational requirements from an accredited school, obtain specialized hands on training, and sit for a licensing exam. It took time for the industry to recognize the need for registration and licensing for doctors of veterinary medicine, and the veterinary technician career field appears to follow the same path.
Typical veterinary technician coursework from an accredited program includes a series of clinical medical courses that teach students about dog and cat nutrition, breeds, and common diseases of these animals. Other courses teach students technical skills like correct animal care and grooming, administering of medicines, and operation of medical equipment for animals in their care. Anatomy and animal physiology courses are also included in the curriculum so that veterinary technicians will understand the various parts, locations, and functions of animal organs.
Veterinary technician degree granting programs introduce students to clinical laboratory studies that include in-depth study of animal hematology as well as blood and urine testing methods. Pharmacology courses enable veterinary technicians to give medicines in the right dosage. There are many other courses in the typical veterinary technician degree curriculum that specialize in radiography, surgery assistance, and anesthesia.
Also, most students do not graduate without participating in some sort of internship for hands on experience. Graduates of accredited veterinary technician degree programs usually get help from their schools with job placement. Employers looking for veterinary technicians often have relationships with schools so it is important for students to do well in their coursework.
3. Projected Job Outlook
While the educational requirements for veterinary technicians look rigorous, they are mostly included within an associate degree level program. Veterinary technicians must love their patients and enjoy their jobs for reasons other than monetary compensation because the average pay for veterinary technicians is very low compared to similar jobs in the human medical field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for veterinary technicians in 2010 was less than $30,000. In addition to this being an enjoyable profession, those pursuing veterinary technician careers find the future job outlook completely sunny. Those interested in this career field expect to see 52 percent job growth well in to 2020 which completely outpaces job growth in most other industries.
In addition to the common places of work for veterinary technicians previously listed, there is also a demand for people with these skills and credentials in centers for disease control, food and animal safety programs, and biomedical research facilities. Job prospects for veterinary technicians seem to be best outside city limits in suburban or rural areas.
For those who do not mind sacrificing high pay for a challenging career working around lovable animals, the veterinary technician career field may be the right choice because there will soon be more positions than qualified candidates if labor statistical projections are correct. Additionally, most veterinary technicians have nothing but praise for their chosen professions. One technician claimed that the only drawback to the job is that the short natural lifespan of the patients always brings a level of sadness to technicians when the animals pass away.