Follow the Yellow Brick Road……
A veterinary technician today has unlimited potential for professional growth. We are no longer limited to the narrowly defined traditional path. Look at yourself, be honest about what you love to do, carve out your place in the veterinary world and get adequately compensated for it!
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 91% of veterinary technicians work in veterinary practices, with most of them employed in companion animal practice. Within a practice, there are many areas of potential growth depending on your initiative, talents, ambition, and the progressiveness of the practice to recognize your ability and potential contribution.
Areas to explore within a practice include
- Management. This can mean head technician, kennel manager, inventory manager, office manager, practice manager, or hospital administrator. If you are good at seeing the overall picture, like being a leader, want to make a solid impact in your hospital, are skilled in communication , and adept at problem-solving, this may be a natural route of progression for you. Most of the veterinary conferences, both local and national, have programs in management. Take a look at the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association website at www.vhma.org for information on becoming a certified veterinary practice manager.
- Client Educator/Coordinator. If you really enjoy dealing with clients and following through, you can possibly carve a new position for yourself. Think about the need for someone to coordinate all of the complex and long-term cases you see. How often do diabetics, renal pets, hyper- and hypothyroid, etc. pets fall through the cracks in their long term care? Tracking each case, calling clients regularly for progress reports, making sure each pet continues on their meds and comes in for follow-up when needed, can be a very valuable position. When you present this one to your employer make sure you are prepared to show how this benefits the hospital in both client relations and the bottom line.
- Grief Counseling. If you have a natural ability toward sympathy and empathy, you can be a valuable asset to the hospital. One person who can help the pet owner through the entire difficult process of euthanasia of a beloved pet can make quite a difference for that pet owner. From making appointments, answering questions, being there for the procedure, and being a resource for the family regarding any professional grief counseling they may need afterward, you can be their lifeline.
- Puppy day care/early training. If your hospital has the space, and you have experience with dog training, think about organizing and managing a puppy day care program and having puppy training and socialization classes. This is a great way to bring in new clients to the practice, via word of mouth from clients who attend your classes.
- Specialty Veterinary Technician. Technicians can now earn specialties from 10 different academies including emergency and critical care, anesthesia, dentistry, nutrition, internal medicine, behavior, nursing, zoological, surgical, and clinical practice. If you can complete the demanding requirements, make sure you negotiate a salary increase from your employer. Research this opportunity at www.navta.net.
Areas to explore outside of private practice can be lucrative, and include
- Industry. These companies include medical supply and equipment, pet food, pharmaceutical, pet insurance as well as others you may find in your research. The technicians who work in industry make the highest salaries and the benefits are usually good.
- Veterinary Technician Educator. If you love to teach others, this avenue is worth exploring. Contact one of your tech program educators and talk to them about it.
- Research. This includes private companies as well as universities, but may require more than a 2-year associate’s degree. For laboratory medicine see the Association for Laboratory animal Science at www.aalas.org.
- Government/Military. These technicians are enlisted members of the military, and treat military dogs and horses as well as the companion animals of enlisted members.
- Veterinary Associations. These include AAHA and the ASPCA, and there are others that you can research.
- Starting your own business. Like to be your own boss and willing to take risks? This could include pet sitting, pet shops, obedience training, grooming, or even owning your own hospital depending on the state you live in (not New Jersey, sorry!). If you can cook, how about selling homemade pet treats? Think about what you love and what you are good at, and maybe you can carve a niche in this area.