Like many professions, the average vet tech salary depends on many factors. The field of veterinary technology has a wide salary range depending on the region, your specific job experience, where you’re choosing to work, and how long you’ve been working in the field.
With such an array of income potential, as a prospective student or fresh graduate, you might wonder what you’re going to be making after investing in an education. A love of animals can’t pay the bills, after all, so it’s important to enter a career with animals that can let you live a financially stable life.
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Here is a table of with the average salary across the nation for all the different jobs working with animals.
|Occupation Field||Jobs||Hourly Avg. Pay||Annual Avg. Salary|
|Zoologists & Wildlife Biologists||18970||$30.40||$63,230.00|
|Veterinary Technologists & Technicians||93300||$15.56||$32,350.00|
|Veterinary Assistants & Laboratory Animal Caretakers||71060||$12.20||$25,370.00|
|Animal Control Workers||13450||$16.52||$34,370.00|
|Animal Care & Service Workers||172990||$11.34||$23,580.00|
|Nonfarm Animal Caretakers||161820||$11.04||$22,970.00|
|Farmworkers Farm Ranch & Aquacultural Animals||31540||$12.10||$25,160.00|
*This table was populated May 2015 but was published by the BLS on May 2014.
Where you work will have the biggest impact on how much you’ll end up making and the main factor the will determine the salary of a vet tech.
If you’ve been researching this as a career, you’re well aware of the fact that you aren’t relegated to working in a traditional veterinary clinic; you can expand your horizons and work in a large variety of settings.
There are large, multi-doctor specialty clinics that focus on things like:
There are laboratories that will eagerly hire veterinary technicians to run tests, examine samples sent in from clinics across the country, and even develop new testing protocols. Humane societies like to have a trained vet tech on staff to help with spays and neuters, treat sick/abused animals, and perform health exams on animals that are being put up for adoption. The government even employs vet techs for jobs with health departments examining zoonotic (transmittable from animals to humans) diseases.
On average, you’ll make the most money being employed by teaching hospitals at universities, top vet tech schools and colleges. If you have a lot of experience and advanced certifications, you can expect to make over $20 an hour with great benefits. You’ll also make a fair amount of money being employed by larger clinics, particularly hospitals that are certified by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
These clinics have a much higher standard of routine care, surgery, drug handling, and client services than non-certified hospitals, so they tend to hire more highly trained staff to adhere to these strict regulations. Depending on the region, technicians working in AAHA certified clinics can expect to start at $14-15 an hour with a full benefits package.
Smaller day practice technicians will have their vet tech salary based on experience and/or education. New technicians with a degree might make as much as a more experienced technician without a degree, but that depends on the clinic itself. New technicians, even with a degree, start out between $11-13 an hour, but that could be more in areas with a higher cost of living, like California or the east coast. The salary at a humane society or animal shelter depends on that shelter’s funding. Larger shelters, like the ASPCA, will pay hourly wages around $14-17 an hour, while smaller rural shelters might pay barely above minimum wage.
Increase your income by becoming a certified veterinary technician.
Besides your certification as a licensed vet tech, you can further your education by getting certified in a specific field. These are typically best suited for technicians who have a few years of experience under their belt and are looking to advance their career.
If you have a love of surgery and anesthesia, you can get an advanced certification as a veterinary surgical technician. As of 2011, the average salary for a surgical vet tech was around $39,000 a year. The Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians (AVST) is responsible for accrediting technicians and sets the requirements for a certification. You will have to have worked at least 6,000 hours (3 years) as a certified vet tech with at least 4500 hours of these taking place in surgery. After the application is put in with the AVST, you’ll have to create a case log with detailed case reports, attend continuing education classes (some of which are available from an online program), submit letters of recommendation, and fulfill a skill list. There’s then a national exam that you must take and pass.
When you have a preference for an adrenaline rush, you should consider an Emergency & Critical Care certification. Average salaries are around $38,000 per year, and with more people accepting the necessity of emergency medicine for their animals, job prospects look excellent. To qualify, you must have worked as a credentialed technician for at least three years.
Before you’ve submitted your application to the Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians (AVECCT), you must have attended at least 25 hours of continuing education in emergency medicine. You also you have to complete a log of a minimum of 50 critical care or emergency cases as part of your job responsibilities. Four of these have to be detailed and recorded to prove your current skills.
If teeth are the name of your game, you can consider an advancement with the American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians (ASVDT). On top of the typical 6000 hours of work as a technician, 3000 of those hours must be specific to dentistry.
This can be difficult to obtain in a regular day practice and easier to do in a larger hospital with a bigger patient load. You’ll need to keep several case logs that focus on different aspects of dentistry.
In addition to the logs, you’ll have to write five case reports that are of high enough quality that they can be published as a peer review. The final examination, which can only be taken after all of these requirements are filled, is divided into three parts: a written portion, clinical methods, and a practical exam.
Brief overview of regional average salary differences:
There are a handful of states that come out on top in regards to salaries.
These are the highest paying states:
Below is a breakdown of each state’s average hourly & annual income by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the veterinary technologists occupation field. We added the US Census ranking data on cost of living so you could better compare how far your dollar will go in each state (if you were to relocate).
A good example of this would be if you were to work in Virginia, your salary of $37,160.00 would go much further than if you lived in California and made the same amount (CA has one of the highest cost of living in the nation).
|State||Jobs||Avg. Hourly Pay||Avg. Annual Salary||Cost of Living State Rank|
|District of Columbia||60||$15.66||$32,570.00||49|
*Data extracted on May 2015 and was released by the BLS on May 2014.
Wages aren’t the only important financial aspect of becoming a vet tech. Benefits are quite important, too, and a critical aspect to how beneficial a job is to your life. Most full-time technicians in a moderately sized clinic are given medical and dental benefits as part of their employment. Many clinics also offer great incentives on pet care.
Technicians gets vaccinations at cost (meaning what the clinic pays for the vaccines), discounted surgeries, and discounts on medications. Because continuing education is a requirement in maintaining your state and national accreditation, most hospitals offer reimbursement on continuing education classes.
Some will even assist you in furthering your career if you started as vet tech assistant. This includes paying for the course itself, but also giving you paid time off and even paying for your travel expenses if you go to larger conferences in other towns or states.
What this video for a day in a life of a vet tech experience working with a cow:
Becoming a veterinary technician has many personal rewards, but it isn’t out of line for you to worry about the financial gains you’ll hopefully make in your new career. As you’re looking for jobs, remember that your education entitles you to a job that’s not only emotionally fulfilling but also allows you financial stability. Make sure you’re weighing your options to find the job that’s best suited to your skills and your financial situation, too.