Advances in both veterinary medicine technology and technique are the fuel firing the increased demand for well-trained individuals to work as veterinary technologists.
Veterinary technologists are knowledgeable in the care and handling of animals, in the basic principles of normal and abnormal life processes, and in routine laboratory and clinical procedures.
Career Overview and Employment Outlook
Veterinary technologists are often called animal nurses because they care for animal patients the way nurses care for humans. But veterinary technologists’ responsibilities extend beyond nursing, combining duties of many human healthcare jobs. In addition to providing general nursing, technologist help to administer and monitor anesthesia just as surgical nurses do, take x-rays and sonograms like radiological technicians, clean teeth like dental technicians, provide rehabilitation like physical therapy aides, monitor surgical equipment like surgical technicians, and conduct laboratory tests like clinical laboratory technicians. Many people are attracted to veterinary technology because they love animals—and that’s a good foundation for a veterinary career. But veterinary technologists also need solid scientific skills. As veterinary medicine becomes more advanced, the duties of technicians are becoming more complex and varied.
In many cases, a veterinary technologist’s first step in caring for an animal is to give a general exam by looking for external parasites, anatomical problems, or other medical issues that should be brought to the veterinarian’s attention. Technologists need to know what’s considered normal for a wide variety of species and breeds. They talk to the animal’s owner, asking specific questions to uncover symptoms. In addition, veterinary technologists provide direct care, administering prescribed medicines or vaccinations orally or by injection.
Technologists take animals’ temperature, blood pressure, respiration, EKG readings, and other vital statistics. They collect samples by drawing blood, scraping skin, or collecting bodily fluids and waste. Bodily fluids are examined through a microscope, for example, to identify bacteria, toxins, parasites, or nutrient deficiencies. And tissue cells are cultured and checked for signs of cancer or other abnormalities. Analyzing test samples is a little like detective work, with technologists looking for clues about what’s wrong with an animal. Veterinarians rely on the results to make the right diagnosis.
A veterinary technologists’ work extends to people as well as to animals. Technologists often spend more time with people and their animals than veterinarians do. They write after-care instructions for animal owners, calm owners’ fears, and answer questions. Many supervise other animal-care workers and entry-level technicians and assistants. Technologists who work at veterinary teaching hospitals show veterinary students how to insert catheters, give injections, and perform other procedures.
Employment of veterinary technologists is expected to grow 41 percent over the 2006-16 projection period, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Pet owners are becoming more affluent and more willing to pay for advanced veterinary care because many of them consider their pet to be part of the family. This growing affluence and view of pets will continue to increase the demand for veterinary care. The vast majority of veterinary technicians work at private clinical practice under Veterinarians. As the number of Veterinarians grows to meet the demand for veterinary care, so will the number of veterinary technicians needed to assist them.
Biomedical facilities, diagnostic laboratories, wildlife facilities, humane societies, animal control facilities, drug or food manufacturing companies, and food safety inspection facilities will provide additional jobs for veterinary technologists and technicians. However, keen competition is expected for veterinary technologist and technician jobs in zoos and aquariums, due to expected slow growth in facility capacity, low turnover among workers, the limited number of positions, and the fact that the work in zoos and aquariums attracts many candidates.
Bureau of Labor Statistics