While enrolled in a veterinary technician program, a student may regard graduation or getting that first job as the ultimate goal.
But once you get there, where do you go? Is receiving a regular paycheck enough of a goal to keep you motivated? Not for long. Once you are a vet tech, you will want to consider what you will do once the learning curve flattens out and your days start feeling “routine.”
The online newsletter Exceptional Veterinary Team recently published an excellent article that outlines various directions a veterinary technician might pursue. In “The Sky’s the Limit: Career Planning for Veterinary Technicians,” Rebecca Rose, CVT, reviews areas of specialty practice as well as other opportunities for advancement and increased earnings for CVTs.
First, however, Rose defines some questions a technician should answer:
- What parts of practice do you enjoy the most?
- Is there a particular species of animal you like working with best?
- Do you thrive on client interaction or does it create discomfort?
- Are you willing to find the time and energy to pursue additional education?
Technicians who discover a passion for a certain area of practice, such as surgical cases or emergency response, can work toward becoming a veterinary technician specialist (VTS). There are at least 10 specialty academies under the NAVTA umbrella, including equine, dentistry, nutrition, and behavior, among others. VTS status can be attained while you are working. These usually involve a combination of case studies and continuing education courses. A vet tech with VTS status can often turn that into a better-paying job or an interesting business venture.
Do you love client education and interacting with people? Consider developing puppy behavior classes for your clinic or as an independent business. Seek out training in website development and offer your services (for a fee, of course) to small veterinary practices that are lacking, as well as to dog clubs and breeders. Develop a course on Pet First Aid for a nearby Community Education program. You will be using your strengths and special interests in any of these endeavors to make a positive impact on your total income.
If you enjoy unusual species but could do with less client contact, a position in research and development might be just the thing. These positions tend to come with significantly higher pay than do jobs in private practice. Entry-level in R&D usually involves basic animal care but additional course work through the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) can lead to certifications that command higher pay and some exciting responsibilities. Some R&D veterinary technicians actually perform surgery.
Nine percent of veterinary technicians work in industry, handling sales and consulting on veterinary supplies and equipment, pharmaceuticals, or pet foods. These positions generally require a 4-year degree but are the highest paid among vet tech jobs. So there’s motivation to continue your education beyond the AAS degree. Many vet techs work and take a class or two at the same time. By the time the BS degree is attained, that person has some great experience to add to it for a competitive advantage when the perfect industry job comes along!
Don’t forget, too, that other parts of the country may offer much better opportunities and pay than what you can find in your immediate vicinity. Getting away to a different locale is a wonderful way to expand your horizons and grow, both personally and professionally. You can always move back “home” in a couple of years if you need to. But you will be returning with an interesting and different background that could put you many steps ahead of the competition.
Your career as a vet tech is in your hands. So do some self-analysis and make some plans. Focus on a direction and make it happen!
The article that inspired this post, “The Sky’s the Limit: Career Planning for Veterinary Technicians,” can be found online.