Becoming a Vet Tech: Salary, Qualifications

Becoming a Vet Tech: Salary, Qualifications
Last updated at December 6, 2021

Whenever you visit a vet — be it for an emergency or your pet’s annual checkup — you will interact with a veterinary technician. While vet techs aren’t what are considered veterinarians, they are considered the nurses for animals, and the vet tech salary can be substantial.

Working with animals as a veterinary technician can be incredibly gratifying, and you also earn a respectable salary as a vet tech. Further, the demand for these medical professionals is expected to rise in the coming decade. This makes it a solid career choice.

But how much does a veterinary technician make? What is the level of education required to get the job title? And what are the responsibilities that entail the role?

We’ve answered these questions in detail to help you consider a career as a veterinary technician. 

What is a Veterinary Technician?

A veterinary technician plays a key role in a veterinary clinic. Per the American Veterinary Medical Association, a vet tech is responsible for monitoring and recording the health of animals, performing diagnostic tests with sophisticated equipment, and assisting a vet with anesthetics, surgery, and dental procedures.

There’s a lot more to the role, and the key responsibilities are highlighted in the next section. But what you need to know is that the job title entails assisting the vet with providing quality animal care.

What Does a Vet Tech Do?

Some of the many responsibilities of a veterinary technician include:

  • Restraining animals for medical examination
  • Communicating with pet owners 
  • Maintaining the facility’s inventory
  • Preparing vaccines for animals
  • Bathing animals if and when required
  • Collecting samples per the instruction of the vet
  • Providing first aid in emergencies
  • Performing IV catheter and phlebotomy placements
  • Caring for animals before, during, and after surgery
  • Educating pet owners about the animal’s health and instructing them on how to prevent disease
  • Ensuring humane treatment of animals in the veterinary office

It’s important to note the difference between a veterinary technician and a veterinary technologist before taking up the role.

According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America:

  • A veterinary technician holds a two-year associate’s degree in Veterinary Medical Technology; whereas
  • A veterinary technologist holds a four-year bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medical Technology.

For this reason, a veterinary technologist is considered a “doctor” while the technician is considered the “nurse” for animals.

It’s also important to note that different states have different laws that govern veterinary credentialing and practice. For instance, in states such as Florida and Arizona, a vet tech can perform dentistry. Other states do not allow vet techs to perform equine dentistry.

Where Do Veterinary Technicians Work?

While it may seem like a licensed vet tech can only work at a clinic, it is also possible for you to find a job at a lab or a college. These settings vary in many ways, and your responsibilities in the various work environments will also vary.

Your working hours and the level of multitasking you may need to do will also be different, so you can choose to work in the environment that you think you’ll be most comfortable with. Most vet techs work full-time, which is an essential factor to consider.

Veterinary Tech Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2020, the median average salary of Veterinary Technologists and Technicians is $36,260 per year. This works out to average pay of $17.43 per hour.

However, these stats don’t provide a complete picture. While you can expect your base salary to be around that figure, you can earn a lot more if you pursue a specialty. 

You can get certified in several specialties, including zoological medicine, dentistry, and critical care. Specializing may also enable you to get hired outside of vet’s offices and earn a higher salary.

You can also earn a higher vet tech salary if you’re open to moving to another state. The District of Columbia is by far the best state for veterinary technicians to work in. Professionals earn an average base salary of $66,850 in the state. 

According to the BLS’s state data, other best-paying states include Connecticut, Nevada, California, and Massachusetts. Veterinary technicians earn an average base salary of between $46000 and $48000 in these states.

As your gain more years of experience and learn more skills, you will be paid a higher vet tech salary.

Career Outlook

Per the BLS’s latest report, the demand for veterinary technicians is expected to increase by 15% by 2030. In other words, by 2030, there will be 17000+ more job openings for veterinary technicians.

How Do I Become a Veterinary Technician?

You can become a veterinary technician in five steps:

Step #1: Get an Associate’s Degree

After you finish high school or get your GED, you must work towards an associate’s degree in veterinary technology. There are 230+ programs across the US that are accredited by the AVMA. 

Ensure that you enroll in an accredited program since this will guarantee that you can pursue higher education later down the road without any hitches.

Depending on the program you enroll in and whether you choose an in-state or out-of-state program, getting an associate’s degree will cost you between $1300 and $30000.

Step #2: Pass the National Exam

Most states require veterinary technicians to pass the national exam administered by the AAVSB. Passing this exam will give you a certificate, and in most states, a license to practice.

After passing the exam, you can consider getting a NAVTA membership since it offers many personal and professional benefits.

Step #3: Find a Job

While you can find a job at a college or a social advocacy organization, most openings for vet techs are at veterinary offices. Getting a job at a vet’s office is the right place to start your career since it will give you the experience you need to become a better vet in the long run.

Step #4: Maintain Your Certification

You must renew your certification every two years by paying a small fee and earning continuing education units. 

As mentioned earlier, different states have different laws when it comes to veterinary practice. Some states require all vet techs to get a state license before they can get a job. Other states do not regulate credentialing whatsoever.

You can read more about your state’s scope of practice at its respective Veterinary State Board website. You can find the list of sites here.

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The Takeaway

While becoming a veterinary technician will take long hours of learning, there is much to look forward to.

There will be thousands of job openings for veterinary technicians in the coming decade, and the respectable average salary figures indicate that it’s a solid career choice.

If you have a strong gut and can stay calm under pressure, becoming a veterinary technician may be the right career path for you. If you’re not sure if you can handle it, volunteering at a veterinary location will give you the surety you need to make a decision.

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