Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Spaces In Between

I meet with many prospective students in the course of a given semester and had the opportunity to meet with another interested individual about a week ago. This young woman was bright, energetic and a complete delight. Like most prospective students, though, she thought she already knew the extent of what a career in veterinary technology has to offer. In outlining our rather intense curriculum I explained that our mission is to prepare students for careers not only in companion animal practice but also in research, shelter management, laboratory diagnostics, public health, nutritional counseling, behavior, dentistry…well, you get the idea.

It is the tendency to focus on dogs, cats and horses when we speak of a career in veterinary medicine. I see this time and again with students each year. We perceive the jobs to be in companion animal medicine and yet so many technicians leave the profession after a few years stating that they can’t make a living in this career. So, because this is a brand new year and I believe we can’t move forward as a profession until we address some basic issues I would like to share some facts that might help adjust your perspective:

A new graduate veterinarian leaves school with approximately $142,613 of debt looking forward to a starting salary of $46,971(Shepard 2011). This, for a doctorate degree in medicine. Using the costs of this associate degree vet tech program as an example, and assuming a student borrows all the money needed for books and tuition, a vet tech graduate will leave school approximately $4000 in debt and can look forward to a starting salary of $36,120 (NAVTA,2008).

I will let these numbers speak for themselves but it appears fairly obvious why technician salaries are not higher in companion animal medicine. I urged you in my last post to look for the needs in society and there you will find opportunity. Put another way, we need to look for the spaces in between what we perceive to be veterinary medical practice and what the world needs from veterinary medicine to create new opportunities. One more telling statistic before I move on…less than half of technicians attend any kind of continuing education meetings (NAVTA,2008). How on earth can you hope to better your prospects if you stop learning?

There are twenty colleges in the United States that offer baccalaureate degree programs in veterinary technology, many with fully online instruction. I can’t begin to describe the professional “jump start” that occurs every time I attend a veterinary conference or workshop. If those options don’t appeal to you there are numerous opportunities for CE as close as your own computer. There are no excuses left. What happens at the intersection of humans, animals and the environment is an area that is demanding greater attention as we march forward into the 21st century. Please start doing your own research and re-invest yourself in this profession. We are a force to be reckoned with!

May your new year be filled with hope, enthusiasm, and greater educational opportunities which will lead you to be the change you want to see in this world.

Shepard, A., Pikel, L. (2011). "Employment, Starting Salaries, and Educational Indebtedness of year-2011 Graduates of US Veterinary Medical Colleges." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association239(7): 953-957.

Decker, C., Navarre, P., (2008). Technicians Respond! National Demographic Survey Summary. The NAVTA Journal, Spring. Retrieved from