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The Life of a Veterinary Technician

A wide range of job responsibilities and emotions


Veterinary technician placing an IV catheter in a dog © Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM

Veterinary technician placing an IV catheter in a dog.

© Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM

What Does A Vet Tech Do?

Veterinary technicians perform a variety of duties in the veterinary hospital. The type of duties they do depends on many factors: their individual experience and skills, the patient caseload of the clinic, and what the veterinarian assigns them to do in the course of a work day. Vet techs generally perform higher level tasks and have great responsibilities than veterinary assistants, which are entry-level animal caretakers.

How Much Does A Vet Tech Earn?

The salaries for vet techs vary widely with certification and experience, location of the practice, type of practice (i.e. large or small animal) and size of practice.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the US Department of Labor, the mean hourly wage was $13.90 and the mean annual wage was $31,030 in May of 2010 (most recent information on their site).

Full report: Veterinary Technician Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010.

See also: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians - Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

What Do Vet Techs Have To Say?

Opinions run strong on this topic from a wide range of viewers -- from techs with years of job experience to those thinking about entering the field. Here are two examples of the pros and cons of this career, from the Veterinary Technician Salaries blog post comment thread on this site.

From Molly:
Don't give up so easily! I've been a vet tech in NY for 15 years and make $20 an hour; with EXCELLENT benefits. Look to your institutions (colleges and universities that teach veterinary medicine in any capacity), or industries like Banfields that might not pay much an hour, but by the time you figure in health insurance and other benefits, you can be doing fairly well.

I also use my veterinary technician qualifications to run a THRIVING pet-sitting service. I have more clients than I can handle, and it's all because I'm an LVT. I charge the minimum of $17.50 a visit to take care of cats, and I have a client with a kennel that pays me $35/hour. She is most definitely the exception, not the rule, but she has realized, it would be hard to replace a vet tech alone, especially hard to replace one who knows each and every one of her dogs. So don't get depressed - go at it all from a different angle!"

I can definitely attest to the fact that there are many opportunities for vet technicians who want to pet sit in addition to their regular veterinary clinic duties. Being a trained animal caregiver is an added bonus for many people seeking a petsitter, and for special need pets, it can be an invaluable service and piece of mind for people when they are away from their cherished pets.

From Ellen: (excerpt)
Whew... Where do I begin? I am currently a Licensed (in two states) Head Vet Tech with 25 continuously employed years of experience. I love my job, but am leaving the profession.

I worked for 20 years at the same practice, until I relocated with my husband. EVERY position I interviewed for, I was offered. My professional references are excellent. I have worked waaaay too many 10-14 hour days, waaay too many over 40 hour work weeks with no overtime, (just "comp" time) nights, weekends and holidays. I truly belive in capitalism and God bless the business person making a lot of money, BUT, veterinary practice owners know and have known for the longest time that people, mostly women, go into this profession for the love of it and exploit that fact! (Most) Young men do not want to go into a profession for the kind of money MOST veterinarians are willing to pay.

You can continue to feed the part of your heart that made you consider being an animal nurse by volunteering your time to a worthy animal cause!

What Is Your Opinion?

What do you think? Can you work for the love of animals and earn a decent living? Please post your thoughts in the Can love and money coexist? Readers Respond page.
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