V is for Veterinary Technician
by Chloe Campbell
Americans love their pets. According to a 2015 Harris poll 62 percent of Americans live with an animal, and 95 percent of pet owner consider their pet to be a member of the family (http://www.theharrispoll.com/health-and-life/Pets-are-Members-of-the-Family.html). Pet owners take their pets to the veterinarian for routine checkups, surgeries, and to receive immunizations. They rush their pets to the vet when they are sick and for unscheduled surgeries. As with doctor’s offices and hospitals, it is the “animal nurses,” also known as Veterinary Technicians, who will spend the most time with someone’s faithful, mostly four-legged companion while they are patient at a small animal (i.e., pets rather than farm animals) clinic or hospital.
What do Veterinary Technicians do?
Veterinary Technicians are the nurses of animal health care. Most Veterinary Technicians work in small animal hospitals assisting Veterinarians in the care of cats, dogs, and other small animals. During a typical day Veterinary Technicians will observe the behavior and condition of animals, provide nursing care of emergency first aid to recovering or injured animals, bathe animals, clip nails or claws, administer anesthesia to animals and monitor their responses, collect lab samples for testing, take and develop x-rays, prepare animals and instruments for surgery, administer medications, vaccines, treatments prescribed by a veterinarian, and collect and record patients’ case histories (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm#tab-2). A smaller portion of the United States workforce of Veterinary Technicians also work in biomedical, disaster preparedness or food safety research related jobs, university hospitals, or zoos.
Brief History of the Veterinary Technician Profession
Humans have had a long relationship caring for animals they have domesticated. However, the Veterinary Technician profession is relatively young considering the amount of time humans and animals have lived together. In 1852 the Veterinary College of Philadelphia opened as the first veterinary school in the United States. One hundred years later the United States Air Force “developed the first organized and official animal technician training program for enlisted Air Force members” (http://www.veterinarytechnician.com/vet-techs-owe-existence-to-the-blue-yonder/). Ten years later the State University of New York at Delhi offered the first civilian veterinarian technician training program offering Associates Degrees. In 1968 the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) established an advisory board on Animal Technicians and by 1972 the board had become the Committee on Accreditation of Training for Animal Technicians (CATAT). CATAT was recognized by the United States Office of Education in 1976 as the accrediting body for animal technician training programs. Today there are more than 140 CATAT accredited AVMA programs nationwide.
Minnesota does not require Veterinary Technicians to be licensed or certified to work in the state. However, having a certificate or license from an accredited institution will likely improve a candidate’s job prospects. There are several AVMA accredited schools that offer Associates of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology degrees in Minnesota. More information can be found on the Minnesota Association of Veterinary Technicians (MAVT) website https://www.mavt.net/education/vet-tech-schools.1
Economic and Growth Outlook
According to the most recent Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) data, 95,790 people work as Veterinary Technicians in the United States and 2,570 of those are in Minnesota. The median wage for Veterinary Technicians was slightly higher for Minnesota than the U.S. However, that was because the Seven County Minneapolis-St Paul Region median wage was over $2/hr higher than the U.S. median wage. Every other region in Minnesota had a lower median wage than the U.S. median wage. Long term projections are for growth in the U.S. and Minnesota. The U.S. will experience a 19 percent change from 2014 to 2024. Minnesota will experience 14.7 percent growth in that same period. Growth will be strongest in the Northeast and Central Regions of the state but slower in Southwest Minnesota.
Anyone pursuing a career as a Veterinary Technician needs to have a passion for working with animals. The work can be physically and emotionally challenging as you are at times dealing with injured, sick, and scared animals who may behave aggressively. Additionally, owners may be experiencing a range of emotions depending on the situation their pet is in. Although not necessarily the most financially rewarding career, this career can be deeply rewarding on a personal level. For an animal lover who is searching for a hands-on healthcare career working with animals that does not require years of schooling this is a good choice.
1 Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business are facing an uncertain future. Readers are encouraged to call the MAVT directly for current information on accredited Minnesota Veterinary Technician programs.