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


  1. Trying to find where we can do the most good while at the same time enjoying ourselves is a concept that seems very hard for most people to conceieve. I blame it all of the movies, commercials, Tv shows, books, and online blogs, forums, and social networking sites. There is so much negative associated with professionalism and a career. How are people supposed to see how good focus can be? Thank goodness for moments of clarity. Opening your eyes to the problem before you is the first step in any kind of change. It's also the hardest.
    Thank you for putting a different perspective on your earlier words. Changing the words but not your meaning helps those of us who didn't get it the first time pick it up this time. It also brings up the memory of the first time for those of us the did get it.

  2. Good Afternoon Ms. Bonnie- It is with great enthusiasm that I am jump started each time I am reminded of the endless possibilities that will be available to me when I get my license. Not solely because the license automatically opens doors, but because I will be looking for those doors that are "in between" traditional veterinary medicine. I will be seeking out those unique and special opportunities that will value how hard I have worked to become an RVT. Thanks to those who stand behind us and have come before us...

  3. Good morning Ms. Bonnie. Once again after reading your blog I feel the inspiration inside me rising. When I talk to people about my career choice and where it can potentially take me, it amazes at how many people think I plan to work in the same small town, small animal, cats and dogs only clinic that I have now worked at for six years. I love my job, but I have always known that there is more for me out there. To be completely honest, since I reached an age where I realized that my childhood dream to work in a career with animals was never going to change I also knew that I was not going to limit myself to cats and dogs. Also, I am very excited about all of the continued education opportunities out there. As much as I get exhausted from school, I have always had a hunger for knowledge; I love to learn. I will most likely go on to get a bachelors in veterinary technology and who knows how much farther, because I just cannot imagine myself not in school. My entire life I have loved school. I find myself getting tired and feeling like i can't wait until school is over. Then shortly into a break I am thinking about the next semester and get so excited about what I get to learn now. This passion for knowledge in me is why I am sure that I will be seizing many CE opportunities.
    Also, i would like for you to know that I have your blog bookmarked on my internet browser, and it has been there since I first started investigating the program before I even met you. I find your posts to be inspiring and hope that you never lose your passion.

  4. Today in class you talked to us about working together as a team. As I read your post I though about how many times I have heard people say that they want to work with animals because they don’t’ like people. I guess at one point I had those same feelings. However, that changed over this past year. I have to say that one of the reasons would be seeing how pumped you are to teach us about veterinary technology. It just reminds me that even if I don’t particularly feel like dealing with one person at one time, there is a bigger picture (that I sometimes think you have permanently painted in my brain). Thank you Ms. Loghry for again reminding what veterinary medicine is about and how cool it is to be a (future) Vet Tech, and how many paths are out there in this profession.

  5. Every time I tell somebody the career path I have chosen as a technician, their first question is "Are you going to continue on to be a full-on veterinarian?" I quickly respond no and they seem somewhat bewildered at the fact that I am so confident in the fact that I wouldn't want to make as much money (in their opinion). The statistics you shared in regards to debt and starting sallary are the same I share with them, and proudly. There really are countless opportunities to do something special with this profession, it is almost mind-boggling! While the degree I will be acquiring will only be an Associates initially, there are so many continuing educational opportunities that I will be pursuing. While I may not have the knowlege that equals the DVM I will work under, I can bring an entire different perspective to the table and make all the difference. I appreciate all of the areas that you introduce us to in hopes to broaden our horizons of education, you truly are a champion for the profession of veterinary technology.

  6. Ms. Bonnie,

    Very good points! We often forget to look "outside the box" when we are considering our profession. There is so much more out there than dogs, cats, horses. The intersecton between people, animals, and the environment is such an interesting dynamic. Educating the public in these areas is so important too. I remember how shocked I was teaching when I realized there were many in my class that knew literally NOTHING about animals and what they did know had been seen mostly only on TV. Fortunately, I taught in an era when I could take them on field trips, so they ended up knowing more about animals than they ever wanted to know. (A quote from one of my students...)
    Continuing education is such a great emphasis too. I have learned so much taking even the same classes that I told years ago. There is a lot of new information out there and we need to stay updated through out our whole lives. Besides I'ave decided I really like learning. Yes, it really is fun.

    :) Julie

  7. Without even looking I find opportunities for continued education in our field all over the place. I am very glad that in order to keep my license I have to continue my education each year. I wish that all degrees had that requirement. I don't think you should ever stop learning and that is one of my favorite things about becoming a veterinary technician. Every day I learn someting new without even trying. I also had no idea that you could go on to become a veterinary technologist doing online coursework. I was interested before but now I am certain that I will do that. As hard as it is to become a veterinary technician I am so glad I finally chose to do this and I can't wait to see where I end up and how many great experiences I get to have.

  8. Geographic location, while not the largest variable in veterinary assistant pay, will also determine one’s average veterinary technician salary. In a regional division, “average salaries” overall were only separated by a couple thousand dollars per year on average. However realistically someone in New York City will earn a higher vet Tech salary than someone who lives in Denver Colorado, Atlanta Georgia, Chicago Illinois, or Houston Texas. Veterinary Tech Salary

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  10. What a magnificent achievement! Thanks a lot for sharing this story. I’d like some advice too. Are you looking for vet assistant courses in Revillo, Sd? You can search our directory for the Veterinary Technician schools in South Dakota. Thanks for sharing.....

  11. Thanks for the great post. I'm interested in becoming a veterinarian near mesa az. It seems like a fulfilling job.