Veterinary technicians are like the nurses of the veterinary world, performing a wide range of tasks and working in a number of capacities. Vet technician jobs can include everything from assisting exotic vets with zoo animal care to performing dental prophylaxis on companion animals. Much like nurses and medical technicians, vet technicians can pursue general qualification as veterinary technicians, or they can seek additional certifications in a specialty area.
It is important to distinguish between veterinary technicians, also known as vet techs, and veterinary technologists. A typical veterinary technician has two years of training, including clinical experience, while a veterinary technologist holds a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology. Both are expected to pursue continuing education to stay sharp in the field, but they can work in different positions and are authorized to perform different procedures.
Most vet technician jobs are found in the clinical setting, in veterinary clinics, hospitals, and mobile treatment centers. Vet technician jobs are available in small, large, mixed, and exotic animal practices. Vet technicians can also work in research facilities caring for lab animals, for zoos and conservation parks as part of an on-call veterinary staff, and for large farms handling routine care for livestock. A vet tech may specialize in care for a specific type of animal, as well. For example, equine vet techs work specifically with horses. Techs can also opt to work in the lab, focusing on analysis of samples rather than interacting directly with patients.
Vet technician jobs in a number of specialties including critical care, anesthesia, emergency care, veterinary radiology, animal behavior, and dental care are also available. These vet techs have completed their training to achieve certification are veterinary technicians, and taken additional coursework which qualifies them for specialty care. Specialty certifications can expand the number of vet technician jobs available to a candidate, as he or she will be a more valuable addition to a veterinary practice.
A veterinary technician or technologist may also decide to go back to school to train to be a veterinarian. Veterinary schools sometimes view applications from technicians and technologists favorably because they have clinical experience and skills which make them more likely to succeed in a difficult veterinary curriculum, and they may be able to use their experience to help other students. Prior experience may also allow a veterinary technician or technologist to skip some of the veterinary school coursework, as long as he or she can produce transcripts or receive an acceptable score on a placement test.