• One Health
  • Pain Management
  • Oncology
  • Geriatric & Palliative Medicine
  • Ophthalmology
  • Anatomic Pathology
  • Poultry Medicine
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Dermatology
  • Theriogenology
  • Nutrition
  • Animal Welfare
  • Radiology
  • Internal Medicine
  • Small Ruminant
  • Cardiology
  • Dentistry
  • Feline Medicine
  • Soft Tissue Surgery
  • Urology/Nephrology
  • Avian & Exotic
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Anesthesiology & Pain Management
  • Integrative & Holistic Medicine
  • Food Animals
  • Behavior
  • Zoo Medicine
  • Toxicology
  • Orthopedics
  • Emergency & Critical Care
  • Equine Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pediatrics
  • Respiratory Medicine
  • Shelter Medicine
  • Parasitology
  • Clinical Pathology
  • Virtual Care
  • Rehabilitation
  • Epidemiology
  • Fish Medicine
  • Diabetes
  • Livestock
  • Endocrinology

Career choices within veterinary practice (Proceedings)


Veterinary technicians are staying in the field longer, reinventing themselves and making their job into a career full of passion and compassion.

Veterinary technicians held about 71,000 jobs in 2006. Approximately 91 percent worked in veterinary practices under the direct supervision of Veterinarians. As the number of Veterinarians grows to meet the demand for veterinary care, so will the number of veterinary technicians needed to assist them.

Veterinary technicians are staying in the field longer, reinventing themselves and making their job into a career full of passion and compassion. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America has generated professional surveys over the past several years. Their surveys reveal that in 1999 NAVTA members stayed in the profession for 7 years. In 2007 NAVTA members were in the profession for an average of 11.5 years and 6.8 of those years were with the same employer.

Average salary

1991: 19,200

1995: 22,000

1999 :27,070

2000: 30,500

2001: 36,120

Average Salary 2007:$36,120

Credentialed Veterinary Technicians have many career options ahead of them. After graduation, it is recommended that a technician receive at least two years of experience working in a veterinary hospital in order to hone their technical skills, become familiar with the business of veterinary service, learn how to communicate with fellow team members, veterinarians, sales representatives and clients. Positive attitude, strong work ethic, problem solving skills and superb technical skills will allow for greater career choices.

While working in a veterinary hospital, technicians may advance into a supervisory position, be a veterinary technician specialist or be given the hospital manager title. Technicians may choose to perfect grooming skills, offer pet training, be a relief veterinary technician, be an owner or offer behavior counseling.


If you find yourself creating the schedule for your co-workers, if you play "referee" between the kennel assistants and if you write the surgical protocols and surgical release forms for patients, you may have the skills to be a department supervisor. Maybe you have found a niche overseeing inventory, speaking with sales representatives and placing orders to become the inventory manager. Taking on added responsibilities and proving yourself an asset to the hospital manager may be personally and financially rewarding. Don't take it for granted that management sees what you are doing. Bring it to their attention, present them with documentation of your increased duties and let them know you wish to take your career to the next level. Attend Continuing Education classes that build leadership skills, improve communication between employees and clients and keep track of your completed projects. It's up to you to possess a positive attitude, to take responsibility for you and your team's achievements.

"BRAG, it's not a four letter word! In today's competitive business world bragging is a necessity-not a choice! Being quiet about yourself or worse yet, downplaying your successes, leads to being under appreciated, or even allowing others to take credit for your achievements. When done with grace and style, bragging promotes your best asset-YOU," writes Peggy Klaus in her book BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. Technicians must learn to sell themselves. You have to market yourself and always recreate yourself to keep your job interesting and your career on track. In the pages of Brag, you will learn how to communicate your talents and accomplishments with tact and grace.

10 tips to help you grow your career, in Firstline, identified skills to cultivate while on the path of professional development.

1. Chat it up.

2. Seek a Mentor.

3. Take Charge.

4. Listen.

5. Get Technical.

6. Learn another language.

7. Cram.

8.Treat yourself.

9. Network.

10. Be a bookworm.

Dr. Carin Smith states there are myths about being a leader. You may be under the impression that there are certain "types" of leaders and you may feel you are not that "type." Smith says, "People with any personality can be a leader. The key is to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and to be open in your communication so everyone knows what to expect. You will need to learn and cultivate new skills to be successful in your new role as supervisor."

One of the toughest things you will have to overcome as a new supervisor are your relationships. Some individuals do this gracefully, others not so good! In Dr. Smith's book, Team Satisfaction Pays, she has an exercise called "how to get more respect." There are career coaches that can help you through the transition. You have a lot of resources available to you. Utilize them!

Practice management

Practice management is a natural progression for a number of technicians. Some technicians steer away from the title like the plague, whereas others may embrace the challenges of human resources, enjoy creating financial reports and building team efficiency, and wish to seek education in practice management.

Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM began her management career as a client services technician, then as a director of client services and is now a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager. "I started by helping with various management duties while still working in client services. First, I performed smaller tasks, like employee scheduling, and then moved up to more complex tasks, such as interviewing and hiring staff. Eventually I was made senior manager of the client service staff. When the front office supervisor left the practice, I took a full-time management position to oversee the client services staff and the receptionists." She really moved up the ladder. "The compassion I felt toward our clients transitioned into a desire to make the work meaningful to the staff. This made me realize that I should pursue a career in management. When I worked full-time while attending tech school, I never would have imagined that a management career would be in my future. Now, I can think of nothing more fulfilling."

Technicians can become certified as a Veterinary Practice Manager. The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) has a complete application on their website www.vhma.org. You will also find testing requirements, on-line courses, continuing education classes, management retreats and more. Benefits of belonging to the national professional organization are many. You may also have a local or state veterinary hospital managers group near you. Many of your questions will be answered as you view their websites.

There are different levels of management and titles. As your career progresses, you may earn new responsibilities and different titles. When searching for a job as a practice manager, consider using the three categories defined by the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association: Hospital Administrator, Practice Manager, and Office Manager. Different titles do have different levels of responsibility, samples of the job descriptions can be found on their site under the Sample Document Library (www.vhma.org).

The American Animal Hospital Association's "Compensation and Benefits Review," 2008 edition ('07 data) show these averages (rounded numbers; some reported as hourly wages and others as annual salaries).

Receptionist manager........$13.45 / hr

Technician manager.........$38,000 / yr

Office Manager...............$37,000 / yr

Practice Manager ............ $45,000 / yr

Hospital Administrator...... $56,000 / yr

Recent (Feb 2007 VHMA Survey of Compensation and Benefits for Veterinary Managers) statistics show that 20% of the Certified Veterinary Practice Managers identifying their credentials were in fact credentialed veterinary technicians! For those providing credential information 10% were DVMs, 7% MBAs and 2% CPAs. Interestingly enough, only 2/3 of managers surveyed had job descriptions. Office managers and hospital administrators with clear job descriptions earned considerably more than those who did not have a formal, written job description. It is evident that job descriptions are a tool for success!

Veterinary technician specialties

Your career will advance when you decide to become a Veterinary Technician Specialist (VTS). There are currently five Academies recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). A few specialty societies are petitioning for recognition and in the process of establishing new Academies.

The Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties (CVTS) reviews the petitioning process and once an Academy has been recognized, is granted either provisional or full-recognition to the Academy. The CVTS is comprised of NAVTA board members, general members and liaisons from each academy. They are charged with setting the guidelines for petitioning and annual review of Academies.

Current academies

  • Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians (AVECCT)
  • Academy of Veterinary Technician Anesthetists (AVTA)
  • Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians (AVDT)
  • Academy of Internal Medicine for Veterinary Technicians (AIMVT)
  • Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (AVBT)

Societies creating an academy

Be on the lookout for a few new Academies appearing in the near future. There is rumor of an Equine Specialty Group, Surgery Academy, Cancer Society, Zoo and Nutrition Specialists on the horizon. To search for these specialties, Google the specialty and see what is happening. You may decide to be a Charter Member.

Other career choices within veterinary practice

Mentioned earlier, technicians can become their own boss and still work within veterinary hospitals. Consider starting a grooming or pet sitting service that works directly through or with your veterinary hospital. You will need to make contractual arrangements with your employer. Grief Counseling may be a venue technicians can consider pursuing. Pet behavior, animal massage, geriatric care, rehabilitation, equine dentistry and food animal reproduction may be a possibility if you are able to perform the services in your state. Be sure to check with either the State Veterinary Board or Licensing Agency in your state.

You may also choose to become a Relief Veterinary Technician. By taking your business seriously, you will establish a true business by becoming a Sole-Proprietorship or Limited Liability Company, create contracts, set fees, track expenses, pay taxes and present yourself professionally with business cards and letterhead. Relief technicians offer a valuable service. Managers are beginning to understand the benefits of hiring and using a reliefer's service. Temporary Technicians take care of their own dues, working attire and pay for their own taxes. Make sure, when you become a relief technician, that you follow the tax advice of an accountant and create contracts discussed with a lawyer.

Some states allow non-veterinarians to own veterinary medical hospitals. There may be some advantages for the veterinary profession, such as higher employee retention, increased capital, and more selling options. However, many veterinarians are concerned that non-doctor owners may put more emphasis on money than medicine. To overcome difficulties in ruling, states can regulate facilities with non-veterinarian owners by using facility permits or registration. If you are a technician wanting to pursue practice ownership, contact your state government and local veterinarian professional association for information about regulations that may affect you.

In conclusion

Veterinary Technicians can keep their careers alive by identifying their passion and reaching for new heights. By goal setting, learning, applying and taking a few calculated risks you can achieve new career goals within veterinary hospitals. Reinventing yourself, proving your worth and taking on new challenges can seem scary, however there are a number of great technicians who were in your shoes and they dared to succeed and they have made it. You can, too!


Defining the Relationship: The first step is Commitment. Trends Magazine. AAHA Press. David Hawkins. 2003, pg 22-23

Practice Made Perfect, A Guide to Veterinary Practice Management. Marsha L. Heinke, DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM and John B. McCarthy, DVM, MBA. AAHA Press 2001

Connecting with Clients, a Talk With Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM. Veterinary Technician. October 2007. pg 630 – 633

Defining the Relationship: The first step is Commitment. Trends Magazine. AAHA Press. David Hawkins. 2003, pg 22-23

Practice Made Perfect, A Guide to Veterinary Practice Management. Marsha L. Heinke, DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM and John B. McCarthy, DVM, MBA. AAHA Press 2001

Connecting with Clients, a Talk With Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM. Veterinary Technician. October 2007. pg 630 – 633

Relief Veterinary Technician's Manual. Dr. Carin Smith and Rebecca Rose, CVT, Smith Consulting and Publishing. 2002

AVMA Guidelines for Veterinary Hospice Care www.avma.org/products/hab/hospice.pdf

Canine Rehabilitation Resource www.canineequinerehab.com/ General information and list of educational conferences, including the University of Tennessee program, 1-800-272-2044

Should Nondoctors Own Practices? Jim Wilson, DVM,JD and Perri Stark. Veterinary Economics. February 2000. pg 43,44-48,49

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