California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians in California

May also be called: Animal Health Technicians; and Registered Veterinary Technicians

What Would I Do?

Registered Veterinary Technicians and Technologists (RVTs) perform many of the same duties for a veterinarian that a nurse would for a physician. They are important members of a veterinary health care team, providing technical assistance in veterinary clinics and hospitals, as well as diagnostic or research laboratories, zoos, animal shelters, and other facilities. Their technical skills performing laboratory tests, such as urinalysis and blood counts, contribute to the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases in animals.

In addition to laboratory work, RVTs prepare animals for surgery, assist in surgical procedures, advise and educate animal owners, and record patient case histories.

Most RVTs only work with "companion" animals such as dogs and cats, while others work with large animals such as horses and cattle, or "exotics" such as birds and guinea pigs. Some RVTs work in mixed animal practices where they care for both small companion animals and larger, nondomestic animals.

Under the direct supervision of the veterinarian, RVTs perform more technical tasks such as induce anesthesia, apply casts or splints, extract teeth, and suture cuts. When a veterinarian is not present, RVTs can operate X-ray equipment, give certain life-saving emergency care, and provide some treatment outside of an animal hospital setting.

Some duties are performed in a laboratory setting; however, many are not. For example, RVTs provide specialized nursing care to animals, as well as train new clinic personnel.

Besides working in private clinics and animal hospitals, RVTs may work in research facilities, where they administer medications orally or topically and prepare samples for laboratory examinations. They record information on an animal’s pedigree, diet, weight, medications, food intake, and document any signs of pain and distress. At these facilities, RVTs typically work under the guidance of veterinarians or physicians.

While the goal of most RVTs is to promote animal health, some contribute to human health as well. They occasionally assist veterinarians in implementing research projects as they work with other scientists in medical-related fields such as gene therapy and cloning. Some find opportunities in biomedical research, wildlife medicine, the military, livestock management, or pharmaceutical sales.

Tools and Technology
Veterinary Technicians and Technologists use a wide variety of tools in their daily work. These include needles, stethoscopes, X-rays, scissors, bandages and splints, and scales. They also use a variety of software programs to record patients' procedures and progress, inventory stock, send electronic mail, or enter billing costs.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Although specific job duties vary by employer, there often is little difference between the tasks carried out by Technicians and by Technologists, despite some differences in formal education and training. Those who have a four-year degree generally use the Technologist job title. Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Prepare and administer medications, vaccines, or treatments, as prescribed by veterinarians.Medicine and Dentistry
Collect, prepare, and label samples for laboratory testing, culture, or microscopic examination.Biology
Take and develop diagnostic radiographs, using x-ray equipment.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Perform laboratory tests on blood, urine, or feces, such as urinalyses or blood counts, to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of animal health problems.Critical Thinking
Prepare treatment rooms for surgery.Time Management
Observe the behavior and condition of animals and monitor their clinical symptoms.Monitoring
Administer anesthesia to animals, under the direction of a veterinarian, and monitor animals' responses to anesthetics so that dosages can be adjusted.Chemistry
Fill prescriptions, measuring medications and labeling containers.Near Vision
Maintain laboratory, research, or treatment records, as well as inventories of pharmaceuticals, equipment, or supplies.Clerical
Dress and suture wounds and apply splints or other protective devices.Finger Dexterity
Supervise or train veterinary students or other staff members.Speaking
Take animals into treatment areas and assist with physical examinations by performing such duties as obtaining temperature, pulse, and respiration data.Coordination
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Work environments vary depending on the job location. Technicians in animal clinics and hospitals or research laboratories work almost entirely indoors, using modern equipment. Those who work in zoos, animal shelters, or in large-animal practices work both indoors and outdoors.

While the job gives satisfaction to those who love animals and want to help them, parts of the job can be unpleasant. At times, RVTs must clean cages and lift, hold, or restrain animals, risking exposure to bites or scratches. These workers must also take precautions when treating animals with germicides or insecticides. The job can cause emotional stress for some, particularly when treating abused animals or hopelessly injured pets.

Most RVTs work about 40 hours a week. In 24-hour facilities, Registered Veterinary Technician may work night shifts.

Workers in this occupation are typically not represented by unions.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Registered Veterinary Technician may appeal to those who are interested in the welfare of animals, enjoy assisting others, and who like work activities with practical, hands-on problems and solutions. It requires personal characteristics such as integrity, dependability, compassion, and the ability to maintain composure and keep emotions in check, even in difficult situations.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Veterinary Technologists and Technicians in California is $38,003 annually, or $18.27 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$30,100$38,003$47,245
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits for full-time RVTs normally include vacation and sick leave and health insurance. Employers usually pay a portion of health insurance costs for part-time RVTs. Many also supply uniforms and offer discounts on employees' own pet care needs.

What is the Job Outlook?

A growing pet population will require more Veterinary Technicians and Technologists. In addition, many people consider their pets to be part of their family and are willing to pay more for pet care than in the past. Also, as veterinarians perform more specialized tasks, clinics and animal hospitals are increasingly using Veterinary Technicians and Technologists to provide more general care and to do more laboratory work.

Demand for these workers will also stem from the desire to replace veterinary assistants with more highly skilled RVTs in animal clinics and hospitals, shelters, boarding kennels, zoos, and humane societies. The keenest competition will be for jobs in zoos and aquariums due to the small number of RVTs employed.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Veterinary Technologists and Technicians is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Veterinary Technologists and Technicians are expected to increase by 29.8 percent, or 2,800 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2014-2024)
9,40012,2002,80029.8900
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 280 new job openings per year is expected for Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, plus an additional 90 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 370 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2014-2024)
28090370
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

California requires prospective Veterinary Technicians to first complete an approved training program. Several types of training exist:

  • 9-to-12-month certificate programs
  • Associate degree programs (on campus and online)
  • Bachelor's degree programs
  • Extensive on-the-job training (a minimum of 4,416 hours of practical experience within a two-year period) combined with classroom training.

After completion of training, individuals must then apply for registration through the California Veterinary Medical Board, pass an exam, and meet other requirements.

Experience

Most employers require job applicants to have previous experience working in veterinary hospitals or clinics, either as an RVT or a veterinary assistant.

Early Career Planning

Persons interested in careers as Veterinary Technicians and Technologists should take as many high school science, biology, and math courses as possible. Volunteering at an animal shelter, veterinary hospital, or working in a grooming salon can also serve as testing grounds for this career.

Related training programs are available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). The training program entitled Animal and Veterinary Careers includes instruction and on-site placement as veterinary assistants, kennel assistants, and pet groomers. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Registered Veterinary Technicians are required to accumulate 20 hours of continuing education credits within a two-year period in order to renew their license. Credits must be earned from an approved provider through conference and workshop attendance, including 4 hours of self-study using Board-approved journals, audios, or videos.

Licensing

The state of California requires any person using the Veterinary Technician or Veterinary Technologist title to be licensed or "registered" through the California Veterinary Medical Board. This process includes completing an application showing proof of approved training, successfully passing an exam, and obtaining fingerprint clearance. Registration must be renewed every two years.

Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information.Click on the license title below for details.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Almost all RVTs work in veterinary clinics or hospitals. Some firms are small with only two or three employees, while others have large staffs and may have multiple locations. In addition to clinics and hospitals, RVTs work in boarding kennels, animal shelters, stables, zoos, research and development institutions, and pharmaceutical companies.

Finding a Job

Veterinary Technicians and Technologists generally find work by applying directly to animal clinics and hospitals, shelters, zoos, and research institutions. Job openings are found in newspapers and online job boards. Some get job leads through their school or with professional associations. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Veterinary Technologists and Technicians.

  • Animal Shelters
  • Kennels
  • Pet Stores
  • Veterinary Clinics and Hospitals
  • Veterinary Specialty Services
  • Zoos

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

As they gain experience, RVTs take on more responsibility and carry out more difficult tasks while under a veterinarian's direct supervision. Technicians who choose to complete their bachelor's degree and become Technologists increase their earning potential. Some may become staff supervisors in larger clinics or hospitals.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Veterinary Technologists and Technicians with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Pharmacy TechniciansGuide
Respiratory Therapy TechniciansProfile
Surgical TechnologistsGuide
VeterinariansGuide
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal CaretakersProfile

Other Sources

  • California Veterinary Medical Board
         www.vmb.ca.gov
  • California Registered Veterinary Technicians Association
         www.carvta.org
  • American Veterinary Medical Association
         www.avma.org

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-2056
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Veterinary Technologists and Technicians29-2056.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RIC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Veterinary/Animal Health Technology/Technician & Veterinary 510808
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Veterinary Technician (Licensed)010210