This two-year Associate’s Degree program is ideally suited to anyone who is interested in helping animals and wants a steady, reliable job without the long years and heavy investment needed to become a veterinarian. If you love working with animals and are looking for a fast track to a career working with them, consider becoming a veterinary technologist.
The duties of a veterinary technologist are very similar to those of a nurse or physician’s assistant for a medical doctor. If you work as a veterinary technologist in a veterinarian’s office or animal clinic, you will spend part of your time doing crucial paperwork and part of your time working directly with pets of all shapes and sizes. A typical day might include filling out charts and documents, scheduling appointments and updating patient records. Or, you may help in collecting specimens, blood draws and skin scrapings for lab tests. You may even assist in preparing animals, lab equipment and instruments for surgery and other procedures. Other tasks include grooming animals and assisting with routine procedures such as vaccinations, taking x-rays and performing lab tests.
Because there are so many different responsibilities, a veterinary technologist needs to be able to juggle many different tasks and delegate responsibilities effectively. Decision making skills are very important, as is attention to detail. Medical charts must be accurate and readable to avoid the possibility of errors in treatment. A love of animals is, of course, essential to anyone pursuing a degree in veterinary technology. You will spend most of your time around animals and should have a soothing personality for pets in distress, as well as their owners.
There are many career options available for anyone with a veterinary technology Associate’s Degree. While the majority of graduates will work in a veterinarian’s office or animal clinic, there are also many opportunities in other areas. If you are interested in medical research or the sciences, there are many research facilities that rely on veterinary technologists to take care of animals in their biomedical research facilities. In this capacity, you would oversee all work with animals to make sure humane care is provided and track all research protocols for the supervising scientists.
You can combine a love for the outdoors or wildlife with your career by working at a zoo or wildlife park. Many veterinary technologists work behind the scenes at zoos doing everything from preparing special diets for animals to taking care of newborn animals. Larger cities with professionally staffed Humane Societies or SPCA’s often recruit vet techs with Associate’s Degrees to assist in caring for the many abused or abandoned animals that come to them. This is a particularly rewarding but taxing job that involves a great deal of healthcare work.
Many people don’t realize that pet food and pet supply companies also need veterinary technologists for their Research and Development divisions. These companies are always looking for ways to improve the quality and appeal of products like dog treats, cat food and pet toys. They need staff members who can work with their products and their “testing panel” of animals to determine what is most attractive and also healthiest for their target customers.
A career as a veterinary technologist requires a two year Associate’s Degree, which you should seek from a technical school that is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The program will consist of basic courses in math and business as well as more intensive courses in areas such as zoology, anesthesiology, pharmacology, animal nursing, surgical principles, comparative anatomy, public health and more. You will also be required to serve an externship during which you’ll put what you’ve learned into practice under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
If veterinary technology sounds like an exciting career for you, check into various health and business schools in your area. Many of these will offer a vet tech program. Also contact animal hospitals, clinics and veterinarians who can suggest good vet tech programs in your area.