Veterinary technologists, under direction from a veterinarian, perform medical tests in a laboratory to diagnose animal illnesses and injuries. They take blood, urine and tissue samples and execute related tests such as urinalysis and blood counts. They also perform diagnostic tests, such as taking and developing X-rays, and assist veterinarians with exams and surgery, including administering anaesthesia to animals and maintaining appropriate dosage.
- Prepare animals, instruments and treatment rooms for surgery
- Observe and monitor the behaviour and health of animals and record their symptoms
- Collect, prepare and label blood, urine, faeces and tissue samples for laboratory testing
- Hold, restrain or move animals during examinations or procedures
- Assist veterinarians in all areas of surgery, including performing catheterisations and dental work
- Administer anaesthesia to animals and maintain correct dosage under veterinarian's direction
- Prepare and administer prescribed medications, vaccinations and other treatments
- Assist in exams, including taking animals' temperature, pulse and respiration data
- Perform diagnostic tests, including X-rays and ultrasound scans
- Record and update medical histories, treatment progress and laboratory results
- Administer first aid to animals, dress and suture wounds, and apply splints or other medical devices
- Assist veterinarian with euthanasia and transfer of remains to pet funeral services or owner
- Monitor and reorder medical supplies as needed
- Provide pre- and post-operative care to animals, and monitor their condition
- Feed, bathe and groom animals being boarded temporarily or for surgical or research procedures
- Perform office, clerical and accounting duties as required
- Conduct specialised procedures such as branding or hoof trimming
- Supervise and train assistants, veterinary students and other staff
Skills and qualities
Veterinary technologists may work part time as veterinary assistants to gain experience while they earn their bachelor’s degree. The four-year degree opens opportunities for jobs in large practices and hospitals, with more responsibility and supervisory roles. Those who earn a master’s in a specialty field are more likely to land jobs in research roles at private, academic or government laboratories.
A master’s degree also allows you to take on teaching positions at a college or university, often with a research component. You may wish to pursue further education, earning a medical degree to practise as a veterinarian.
Nights and weekends possible
Veterinary technologists usually work full time in a laboratory environment. Though some work in clinics and animal hospitals, they are typically hired by research facilities, including pharmaceutical companies, zoos and university labs.
Technologists with customer service duties may have to work evening, weekend and holiday shifts.
Dealing with sick, injured and abused animals can be stressful for technologists. The job can also be physically demanding, with risks for scratches, kicks and bites when holding an animal. Technologists may also be exposed to contagions and potentially hazardous sterilisation and pharmaceutical chemicals.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
BS in veterinary technology
Veterinary technologists must complete a bachelor’s degree programme accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Students interested in pursuing veterinary technology should take biology and other science courses in high school. Some veterinary technologists also earn a master’s degree in a specialty, such as anaesthesia or zoological medicine.
Most technologists must also pass a credentialing exam, the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Check with your state’s licensing boards and regulatory agencies to determine any further registration or licensing requirements.
SourcesAmerican Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Bureau of Labor Statistics O*NET Online Oxford Martin School
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022