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How to Become a Veterinary Technician

Pets need careful love and attention and sometimes the help of a trained veterinarian. If you want to help veterinarians with procedures and check-ups to keep animals healthy, then you should learn how to become a vet tech.

Being a vet tech is a rewarding career choice that allows you to make a difference in people’s lives. If you love animals, check out this guide on how to become a vet tech.

What Is a Vet Tech?

Vet techs help animals get healthier and happier. They use their knowledge and skills to provide emergency nursing care to animals alongside a licensed veterinarian.

What Does a Vet Tech Do?

Vet technicians have a wide array of responsibilities. They assist vets in whatever way they are needed. Some of their work is general, such as monitoring the vital signs of an animal.

Other work is much more detailed and even potentially dangerous, such as restraining animals during examinations. Below is a list of the things a vet tech does each day.

Performs Examinations

Oftentimes, vet techs perform the first examination of an animal. They collect medical history, take vital signs, and even draw blood if needed. If not done alone, vet techs typically help veterinarians with examinations.

Provide Emergency Aid

When a veterinarian isn’t able to help directly, a vet tech is qualified to do similar work. Vet techs are trained to provide emergency aid to an animal when they are in immediate danger. The extent of the aid they provide varies based on the situation, but it is typical for a vet tech to stabilize an animal.

Restrain Animals During Exams and Treatment

Animals can get very nervous or scared during an exam or treatment. It can be difficult for them to realize vets are trying to help. Vet techs are trained to safely restrain an animal during treatment or an exam so they can be examined without getting injured.

Assist Veterinarians with Research

Vet techs are not allowed to diagnose animals, but they do assist veterinarians in the research process. This may involve researching the condition of an animal or taking time to observe and report on the condition and behavior of the animal.

Prep for Surgery

In order to ensure surgery goes well, vet techs prep the animals and instruments used for surgery. This work could involve shaving a certain area of the animal for better access or making sure the instruments to be used are properly cleaned, sanitized, and easily accessible for the surgeons.

Essential Vet Tech Skills

Communication Skills

Vet techs must convey a lot of complex information about animals to coworkers and clients. They are often tasked with explaining the condition of animals to the owner and giving them information on the proper way to administer medicine or how to proceed with an animal’s illness. Strong communication skills are vital to properly explain everything related to an animal’s health.

Physical Stamina

Working with animals is no easy feat. Many animals struggle or resist treatment and vet techs have to restrain them. Techs must also work long hours, sometimes spending several of them outdoors and on their feet. You must be willing to pay close attention to animals and give full attention to them throughout the long hours you work.

Passion for Animals

Veterinary technicians must have a love for animals. This is a high-stress work environment and fatigue and burnout can be significant. The passion you have for animals may be the only thing that allows you to keep going.

Compassion and Empathy

No matter how hard you work, there will be times when you come across a situation that cannot be helped. There are moments when you have to give bad news to a pet owner. You’ll need empathy and compassion for this situation and understand the emotional state of everyone involved.

High Tolerance

Vet techs work in a high-stress environment. There are several situations when you’ll come across people in heightened emotional states. You won’t know what emotions a client will have when you meet them. No matter what happens, you’ll always have to handle the situation with compassion, understanding, and a great deal of patience.

A Strong Resolve

While it can be fun working with pets and animals, it is not always a great experience. You will see animals in terrible conditions, some in great pain, and others afflicted with illnesses that have no cure. You’ll need the strong resolve to do what’s best for the animal, even if it is something such as euthanasia.

Confidence and Strong Judgment

In any medical field, you’ll have to make judgment decisions. A vet tech may find themselves in an emergency situation where they must act immediately. This requires confidence in your skills and the ability to make judgment decisions where you must evaluate the consequences, risks, and benefits of your actions.

Vet Tech Job Outlook and Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for vet techs is 16 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average of all other occupations. Employment of vet techs is expected to increase due to veterinarians using technicians and technologists to do lab work and general care of pets.

The average salary of a vet tech is $35,320 annually or $16.98 per hour. Several factors impact salaries, such as location, experience, additional skills, and education.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Vet Tech?

It typically takes two years to become a vet tech. The process involves going through a vet tech degree program, which lasts two years. The program must be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

After earning a degree, vet techs must receive their certification, license, and meet registration requirements. These requirements vary from state to state.

How to Become a Vet Tech: A Step by Step Guide

If you have a passion for animals, you can become a vet tech and help them live happier and healthier lives. Below is a step-by-step guide to begin your career as a veterinary tech.

Step 1: Earn Your Degree

The first step to becoming a veterinary technician is to earn your degree. You can get your associate degree in two years or sign up for a four-year degree in veterinary technology. Make sure the program you choose is accredited.

Step 2: Get Training at a Vet Clinic

After you’ve earned your degree, it’s time to get some hands-on training. This training will give you valuable experience as a veterinary tech. These are similar to internships and are often taken while students are still in school.

You’ll work as an assistant to a veterinarian and do everything from taking temperatures of animals carefully to drawing blood and even performing dental cleanings.

Step 3: Earn Your Certification

After you’ve completed your degree program and received training, you can take the credential exam. Every state certification exam has three components, oral, written, and a hands-on component. Several states use the National Veterinary Technical Exam. Look into the state you want to work in to find out what requirements they have for certification.

Step 4: Apply for Jobs

Once you’ve earned your certification and received your license, you can work as a vet tech in the state. Apply to veterinary facilities and start your work helping animals. It’ll take time, but throughout the job, you’ll adjust to the long hours, improve your skills, and become a reliable member of the team.

Step 5: Choose a Specialty

If you’re passionate about the field, you can choose a specialty in a clinical area. Some of these specialties include dentistry, emergency care, zoo keeping, avian medicine, and nutrition. These specialties take additional training, but it can be well worth it to advance your career.

Should You Become a Vet Tech in 2020?

Vet tech positions are in high demand and it only takes two years to earn your degree and work in the field. You can then advance your career in a specialized area as you work with animals.

There are many reasons to become a vet tech in 2020. However, not every workday as a vet tech is easy and it can be dangerous, saddening, and highly stressful.

If you can handle the difficulties of being a vet tech and you have a passion for helping animals and doing what’s best for them, then this is the career for you.


What does it take to become a licensed vet tech?
To become a licensed vet tech, you need to earn a degree, receive training, and take the national licensing exam. You must also meet the requirements of your specific state.
How long do vet tech programs take?
Vet tech programs take around two years to complete. It can take more or less time, based on your circumstances.
How much do vet techs earn?
The average salary of a vet tech varies based on many factors. Most earn around $30,000 per year. However, some specialties, such as large animal vet techs, earn upwards of $48,000 per year.
What hours do vet techs typically work?
Your schedule depends on where you work. Some vet techs work typical daytime business hours. However, if you work for an emergency facility, you’ll work at night, on weekends, and on holidays.
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