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Becoming a vet tech

We've mentioned on this blog the importance of taking your pets to the vet for regular wellness checks, as well as for the treatment of specific illnesses and injuries. What you may not know is that the operation of a successful veterinary practice is truly a team effort. October 14–20 is National Veterinary Technician Week, a time when the animal care and welfare community pauses to recognize the many essential duties performed by dedicated vet techs and assistants throughout the US.

What does a Veterinary Technician do?

The veterinary tech is a vital part of any vet’s office. Their duties are integrated throughout the practice—from administering meds, obtaining x-rays, and assisting in delicate surgical procedures to dealing with client concerns, scheduling appointments, and billing. Often a vet tech is called upon to wear several hats in the course of a day: she may be bathing a stray dog, administering insulin to an elderly cat, assisting in the delivery of a litter of puppies, or counseling a client on the home care of a recently treated animal. And while some of the vet tech’s duties are less glamorous—such as cleaning cages and changing litter pans—all are vital to providing top-quality care to the pets we love.

What are the requirements for becoming a Veterinary Technician?

Here are some requirements for being considered an ideal candidate:

A love of animals. As a vet tech, you’ll be working with animals daily. Many of these pets are ill, injured, or frightened, so if you have a natural love of animals and are able to deal with the medical needs of a stressed, scared, or hurt animal without losing your focus, you may have what it takes to begin a career as a vet tech.

Education. Minimum education requirements for vet tech positions vary by state. Though an associate’s degree is often required, many vet practices will consider candidates with life experience in animal care (such as prior work with an animal rescue organization or shelter). Many of the skills you’ll need as a vet tech, you’ll learn by doing. Techs typically start by performing basic duties like cleaning cages and feeding animals, before moving to higher-level tasks like administering medications or assisting in surgeries.

Patience. Often your patient is a frightened animal unable to understand the wellness-promoting or life-saving procedures being performed on it. The best vet techs keep their cool, regardless of what’s happening around them, and follow the direction of the veterinarian. Remember too, that a vet’s office can be a crowded, busy, and noisy place (especially if the practice boards dogs).

The ability to juggle multiple responsibilities. As mentioned above, a vet tech must wear many hats. If you’re a natural multi-tasker who’s not easily flustered by rapidly shifting demands and responsibilities, vet tech may be the career for you.

People skills. While your patients are animals, your clients are people. And as anyone who’s taken a sick animal to the vet can tell you, it can be stressful. As a vet tech, you may be called upon to calm a nervous client, to explain a medical procedure, or to review an itemized bill with a client. A large part keeping a veterinary practice successful is building relationships with clients. As a tech, you may find yourself working a full shift at the front desk, handling phone calls, appointments, and walk-ins. So, your people skills should be at their best.

We hope this article has helped you better understand why the job of veterinary technician is so important and whether vet tech might be the right career for you.

Editor’s Note: Vet techs are superstars of the pet world. And while you may know a few things they do behind the scenes, here are eight things only vet techs would know about their important work.

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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