How to Become an Animal Health Technician


Animal health technicians, also known as veterinary technicians, provide basic medical care to animals, perform medical tests under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian and diagnose minor animal-related injuries and illnesses.In order to become an animal health technician, you will need to obtain an associate’s degree.

If you are interested in becoming an animal health technician, you will need to fulfill certain educational, certification and licensure requirements. This article will teach you everything you need to know to enter the field of animal health.

Educational Requirements

You will need to obtain an associate’s degree in animal health or a veterinary technology. Your animal health associate’s degree program will teach you how to provide basic medical care to small, medium and large animals.

Your associate degree program will last for approximately 2 years. Once you have graduated, you may be eligible to take to the licensure and/or certification exam in animal health. If you decide to seek licensure, you may be able to find employment at zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and veterinary hospitals.

Program Coursework

Your degree program may teach you how to manage healthy, sick, wounded and dying animals. It may also teach you how to assist the veterinarian during follow-up appointments and surgical procedures. Furthermore, it may teach you how collect samples for laboratory testing.

You may be required to take the following classes during your program:

  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Animal Nutrition
  • Animal Nutrition
  • Animal Pharmacology
  • Animal Conditions
  • Medical Terminology

Certification & Licensure

If you are interested in becoming an animal health technician, you will need to graduate with an associate’s degree in animal health. In addition, you will need to successfully pass the National Veterinary Technician Exam.  If you plan to work in a laboratory, you will also need to take and pass the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science Certification Exam.

Once you graduated you will have the option of pursuing a bachelor’s degree and/or master’s degree in animal science or a related field. Once you have graduated from your degree programs you will be eligible to sit for the licensure exam.

Job Duties

As an animal health technician, you may work in animal hospitals, private veterinary clinics, animal rescues, animal shelters, boarding kennels, and/or veterinary laboratories. You will also be responsible for performing dental, post-operative and nursing care to a variety of animals. It is important to note that this job may be both physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. For instance, there may be times when you have to care for or euthanize an ill, wounded or dying animal.

As an animal health technician you may be responsible for the following tasks:

  • Monitoring the condition of animals
  • Providing emergency first aid or nursing care to recuperating and/or incapacitated animals
  • Administering anesthesia and monitoring the reactions of the animals in your care
  • Collecting urine, blood and/or tissue samples for laboratory testing
  • Performing and analyzing urinalyses and blood tests
  • Taking and analyzing x-rays
  • Getting the animals ready for surgery
  • Administering medications, vaccines and other veterinarian-prescribed treatments to the animals
  • Documenting the medical histories of the animals

Salary Prospect

As an animal health technician, you can expect to make between $29,000 and $30,000 annually, but if you are in the top 10%, you can expect to earn approximately $41,000 per year (

Career Outlook

Job opportunities are expected to be excellent in the future, especially in rural areas. Animal health technician programs have increased in recent years, leading to an influx of new graduates. As time goes on veterinary assistants will retire opening up jobs for new graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), animal health technician jobs are expected to grow by approximately 40% by 2016. In addition, animal health technician jobs are expected to increase by 52% by 2020 ( As more and more people purchase and adopt pets, the need for animal health technicians will increase.

In addition, now-and-days, people consider their pets a part of their family so they are willing to pay more to maintain their care and make sure they are comfortable – this too will lead to an increased need for animal health technicians. Moreover, as veterinarians get more animal patients, the need for assistance from animal health technicians will skyrocket leading to more animal health jobs. Furthermore public support for animal safety, public health, biomedical research and animal disease control increases so will the need for animal health technician services such as laboratory testing.

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