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Veterinary Behavior Technician

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Veterinary Behavior Technician
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Veterinary behavior technicians are specially certified to assist with behavior modification, training, and management.

Duties

Veterinary behavior technicians have advanced training in managing animal behavior. Responsibilities may vary depending on the specific area a tech works in, but routine duties can include assisting veterinarians with restraining animals, giving behavior modification advice to clients, desensitizing animals to noises or procedures, assisting with puppy or kitten classes, teaching obedience classes, fitting head collars or other devices, and giving training demonstrations or lectures to the community.

It is possible that vet techs will be required to work evening, weekend, or holiday hours, depending on the schedule of their clinic or supervising veterinarian. Techs must also be careful to take proper safety precautions when working with patients, as animals under stress (and especially those being seen in an unfamiliar clinical environment) can cause serious injury if provoked.

Career Options

Veterinary behavior technicians may choose to work in a variety of environments including veterinary clinics, hospitals, zoos, animal parks, emergency clinics, laboratories, and research facilities. They may also be involved directly with animal training or therapy work. Veterinary behavior techs may specialize further by working with one particular species or group, such as small animal, large animal, equine, or exotics.

Veterinary technician specialists may later choose to move into other animal industry roles, such as dog training, veterinary pharmaceutical sales, product development, research positions, or veterinary equipment sales.

Education & Licensing

Over 160 accredited veterinary technician programs currently grant two year Associates degrees to successful graduates. After graduation from an accredited program, vet techs must go on to pass a rigorous licensing examination in their home state. The National Veterinary Technician (NVT) certification exam is the standard means of testing a candidate’s knowledge, though some states have additional requirements that must be fulfilled before licensing.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) is the organization which oversees the certification process for the 11 veterinary technician specialist (VTS) areas. The currently recognized specialties for veterinary technicians are anesthesia, internal medicine, surgical, dental, clinical practice, clinical pathology, emergency & critical care, behavior, equine, zoo, and nutrition. Behavior was first recognized as a VTS specialty in 2008.

The Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (AVBT) offers the VTS specialty certification exam to licensed veterinary technicians after they have completed at least 4,000 hours (about three years) of experience in the field of behavior. They must also submit documentation of 40 hours of continuing education, a case log with at least 50 cases or one year of research in the field of behavior, a skills assessment form, five detailed case reports, and submission of two letters of recommendation from professionals in the field.

It is not uncommon for clinics to show a preference for candidates that have attained specialty certification in the field of behavior, since these techs have proven an advanced level of expertise in this particular field.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect data for the individual vet tech specialties, but it does report that the mean annual wage for the broad category of all veterinary technicians and technologists was $31,030 ($14.92 per hour) in the recent survey of 2010. The survey indicated that, in category of all veterinary technicians and technologists, the lowest 10 percent of all techs earned a salary of less than $20,500 per year, while the highest 10 percent of all techs earned a salary of more than $44,030 per year.

Benefit packages for behavior veterinary technicians may include salary, medical and dental insurance, a uniform allowance, discounted care for a tech’s personal pets, discounts of pet prescription medication, and paid vacation days. All vet technicians can expect that their salary will be commensurate with level of experience and education. Specialists usually can command higher end salaries due to their significant expertise.

Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics employment survey of 2010 found that there were 69,870 veterinary technicians or technologists. Steady year-to-year growth was also predicted for the profession as a whole, with approximately 3,800 new licensees expected to graduate and become licensed in the field each year. The rate of growth for this career path is projected to expand at a rate of 36 percent from 2008 to 2018, a rate that is much faster than the average rate for all professions.

The limited number of new veterinary technicians is not expected to meet the strong demand from veterinary employers, and the very limited number of certified vet techs in the specialty of behavior should ensure strong job prospects for candidates that are able to achieve this specialty certification.

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