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Career choices beyond veterinary practice (Proceedings)

Article

Veterinary technicians held about 71,000 jobs in 2006.

Veterinary technicians held about 71,000 jobs in 2006. About 91 percent worked in veterinary practices under the direct supervision of veterinarians. The other 9 percent were within veterinary technician education, universities, research, government, not-for-profit, consulting and industry. NAVTA's last survey, in 2007, showed that technicians working in industry, research and education were bringing home the largest salaries.

Career choices are only limited by your imagination. In the book Career Choices for Veterinary Technicians literally hundreds of options are at your fingertips. Chapters include in depth review of government agencies, industry, not-for-profit, education and more. Veterinary technicians can aspire to be anything they would like to be within the veterinary community. Consultant, business owner, or entrepreneur, the sky is the limit!

Industry

For every large corporation there is a "careers" tab on their website. In recent years, veterinary industry has begun to understand the resources available to them from veterinary technician skills. You may speak with a sales representative that appears to really enjoy their job. Why not pursue that? When you are attending a convention, cruise around the exhibit hall, speak with the representatives about their job (the best time, when everyone else is in class), exchange business cards and begin to see yourself working for an industry leader. There are many advantages to working for a corporation; yearly evaluations, pay based on commission/sales, advancement, and career development.

There are a wide variety of companies that make products or perform services for veterinarians and pet owners. These include medications, medical supplies, medical equipment, pet foods, laboratory supplies, equipment, and insurance (for businesses, pets and livestock). Technicians are hired in every business that manufactures, provides, or distributes these products and services. All of these jobs require an ability to work within the structure of a business organization, including following all the company policies and procedures. You should enjoy working as part of a team, and be interested in keeping up your knowledge of company products and the associated diseases or management problems. Basic computer skills, good writing and speaking skills are necessary. Experience with a wide variety of animal species and a passion for greatness are helpful. Knowing how to interact with the media is useful. Companies often send their employees to speaker training or media training workshops.

Education

Technicians know a great deal about a variety of scientific subjects. If you enjoy teaching others, you can get a job at a community college, veterinary technician program or veterinary teaching hospital. There are many jobs that can be filled by a credentialed veterinary technician without additional training and that don't require research work. Technicians may be qualified to teach a number of science, anatomy, office management or animal production courses. They may also be hired as counselors, directors, college retail store administrators, Web site assistants or internship coordinators.

Lori Renda-Francis, LVT, Professor, Director of a community college veterinary technician program in Michigan first began working as a teacher. After 15 years of teaching, she became Director in 1999, the second veterinary technician to be the Director of a veterinary technician program.

University/research and development

R & D is the area to explore if you still want hands-on work with animals and have an interest in clinical medicine. Many positions are open to technicians, although some require additional training. Some R & D jobs allow you to stay in one place, but others require travel. Compared with some other industry jobs, the hours of some R & D jobs can be long since there are often deadlines to be met. Technicians with these jobs must be comfortable with the company's use of animals in research. Basic research often requires specialists such as veterinary pathologists, toxicologists, and laboratory animal technicians. However, technicians may be employed as assistants to these specialists.

The R & D technician may manage the animal facility, including care and feeding of a large number of animals, treatment of sick or injured animals, and preventive health care. Technicians and veterinarians work closely in this environment monitoring the use of animals in research projects to be sure that experiments are both necessary and appropriate, and makes sure the facility passes inspection by meeting Federal requirements. In most cases this person has advanced training in laboratory animal medicine. You may find a position in the pet food industry, maintaining a variety of animals, assisting with preventative health care, rigorous dietary studies, food studies and wellness programs.

Government

What do the words "working for the government" mean to you? The reality of government work is far more varied than you may think. These jobs pay well, offer mental stimulation and can still fill your need to work with animals, if you so desire. One important area of "government" jobs is animal shelter work.

When considering government jobs, remember to look beyond jobs that require higher degrees, to those that simply ask for someone with a science background, or someone with a degree in microbiology, biology, or chemistry. Think of your overall qualifications, not just your degrees; for example, you write well, you may have held supervisory positions and have dealt with the public. You may find a job working for a county shelter, state veterinarian, extension agency, Transportation Security Administration (training dogs or being a working team), agriculture department, and the list goes on.

Resources

  • Government Agency Web sites:

  • CDC Center for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov

  • To find more, use a web search engine and enter the name of the organization you want.

Not-for-Profit

There are good opportunities for technicians to work in organized veterinary medicine. "Organized veterinary medicine" is a term used by veterinarians and their teams that refers to the associations that focus on professional issues. In addition to those groups with direct ties to veterinary teams, many other livestock or animal related groups may have jobs for technicians. These are primarily indoor jobs that include telephone communication, reading, writing, supervising, and managing. Some positions require extensive travel and involve lots of meetings. Many allow for continual contact with veterinarian teams. Some positions that would be ideal for a technician are not necessarily advertised that way, and many times the person responsible for hiring has a typical stereotypic view of "technician," which may result in you being told that the group doesn't have any jobs for a "tech." Modify your approach to ask about any job openings at all, and then see for yourself whether any are suitable for your talents.

To learn more, talk to technicians and veterinarians who are on state association committees or on a Board of Directors. Volunteering on a board or committee is a good way to gain experience; these are part-time, volunteer positions. Once you are involved with a particular association, you will have a better idea of how to advance to a paid position.

Technicians are currently employed by American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians (CACVT), American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians (AAEVT), and the Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians (AZVT). By searching veterinary association websites, you may find a job waiting for you enhancing the very profession you are passionate about.

Consulting

A consultant is someone who charges a fee to share special knowledge and to give specific help or advice to a client. The advice can be in the area of business, career coaching, technology, computers, management, or just about anything else.

One association of veterinary consultants (VetPartners) currently has 12 veterinary technicians in their membership directory. These technicians have taken their career to new consultant heights.

In conclusion

For some veterinary technicians, thoughts of a change start with dissatisfaction with their current jobs. However, to gain happiness in a new job or new career path, you must be driven by more than the desire to get away from your old one. It's time to turn dissatisfaction into desire. Enjoy your pursuit! Follow your passions!

Resources

1. Career Choices for Veterinary Technicians: Opportunities for Animal Lovers. Rebecca Rose, CVT and Carin Smith, DVM. AAHA Press. March, 2009

2. Bureau of labor statistics See www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292056.htm This site breaks down technician jobs into research, teaching, and more. This is a super resource.

3. Industry web sites. You can access a list of job openings of just about any company by visiting their Web site.

4. Association of Veterinary Technician Educators (AVTE). www.avte.net

5. AVMA Veterinary technician teacher openings are advertised through the AVMA Career Development Center's Job Placement Service. www.avma.org A complete list of veterinary technology programs accredited by the AVMA in the US can be found on the AVMA Web site. Write to those to whom you are interested in applying.

6. Most consultants are regular speakers at veterinary, technician and related industry meetings. Speaking is a way to educate as well as to let potential clients evaluate the consultant's expertise. Many consultants also create their own seminars, which they offer independently from other veterinary related meetings. Clients may attend these seminars as a way to pick up business tips, and then decide to hire the consultant for specific help. Consultants also publish regularly in journals or magazines appropriate to their area of expertise (e.g., business consultants might write for Veterinary Economics magazine, technician utilization consultants might write for Firstline). Writing is done for the exposure, to disseminate word about their work, to establish their credentials, and to educate potential clients about the benefits or need for their services.

7. Vet Partners (Formerly the Association of Veterinary Practice Managers Consultants and Advisors) www.avpmca.org, www.vetpartners.org

8. ALAAS American Association for Laboratory Animal Sciences Contributes to the advancement of responsible laboratory animal care through certification and education. www.alaas.org 1-901-754-8620

9. All About the Network, A Talk with Denise J. Mikita, MA, CVT. Andrea Vardaro Tucker, Veterinary Technician. March 2007 pgs 194-197

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