Vet or Vet Tech: Which Animal-Related Career is Right for You?

Although both a veterinarian and a veterinary technician perform similar day-to-day duties, the roads to each of these professions are very different. In order to become a vet, one must complete college and then earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M or V.M.D.), a process that takes at least eight years. To become a vet tech, the journey is significantly shorter and only requires an associate’s degree. An associate’s degree can be earned in two years, although some students complete these degrees more quickly, reports, among the institutions that offer a veterinary technician program.

Is a career caring for animals in your future? Below we provide a breakdown of your options.

Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine

Veterinarians are responsible for the diagnosing, preventing and treating a variety of animal illnesses and diseases, along with administering tests, performing surgical procedures, and prescribing treatments and medication. If you decide to pursue a career as a vet, you can choose from 29 schools across the country that offer D.V.M. programs. Students can expect to pay upwards of $27,000 per year in tuition and fees for some programs.

Vet Tech Associate Degree

Vet techs are responsible for the care and well-being of animals, including keeping them clean, comfortable and ready for treatment. In an emergency procedure, vet techs may administer the initial first aid in order to stabilize an animal before further treatment can be provided by the veterinarian. Vet techs are also responsible for maintaining office machinery and keeping inventory of equipment, and placing orders for medicine and product. If you’re interested in pursuing a vet tech programs at one of the 217 schools around the country, the cost of a vet tech degree is around $1,500.

Veterinarian Salary vs. Vet Tech Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for a vet is just over $40 per hour, or the equivalent of $84,460 per year. Licensed veterinarians enjoy the benefit of being able to start their own practice and be a business owner, thus increasing their salary potential.

In contrast, vet techs earn a median wage of $14.56 per hour, or the equivalent of $30,290 per year, according to BLS.

Because pet owners across the country spend nearly $50 billion on their pets each year—a quarter of which goes towards veterinary care, there is a high demand for both veterinarians and licensed vet techs. However, landing a vet tech job may be easier as this position is growing at a rate of 30 percent, much faster than the 12 percent growth rate seen by vets.

Job seekers can minimize their financial risk by becoming a vet tech early in their career, and continuing to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine thereafter.

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