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The Employment Turnover Rate for Vet Techs

When you are considering your career choices you want to research them in depth.  If you are thinking about a career as a veterinary technician you will want to know many things about the field.  Things like: what is the growth expectation for this field, what kind of salary can I expect to earn, what are the job duties of a vet tech, and you will also want to know about the turnover rate in this career field.  Research by the AAHA’s recently released Compensation and Benefits, Fifth Edition, indicates a turnover rate of almost 30-35% for veterinary technicians in veterinary practices.  When you compare this to the national average of 12% and 15% across all industries it is significant.  So now the question is why is there such a high turnover rate?  There isn’t just one answer for this question though, and we will highlight some of the reasons in this article.

Low salaries might be one reason for this high turnover rate.  Over 75 percent of NAVTA members agree that vet techs are so underpaid that the feasibility of staying in the profession is declining.   The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that many technicians remain in the field less than 10 years. Other sources state that the average practice life of a veterinary technician is five years.  The good news about this situation though, is that there is a larger than average expected job growth in this field, with the BLS estimating the job growth at 38%.  The median annual wages of a veterinary technologist/technician were $28,900 in May 2008.  The bottom 10 percent earned less than $19,770, but the top 10 percent earned over $41,490 per year.  The highest average annual salaries are found in California, Illinois and New York, which also have some of the highest costs of living in the nation. Vet techs that work in the research field or for the government also tend to make more money.  All of this said most veterinary technicians do not go into this career for the money; they go into it because of a love for animals and a desire to make a difference. 

A second reason for this turnover rate is the lack of growth potential within the field.  After attaining a veterinary technologist or technician degree there isn’t another level to be promoted to.  This stagnate position leads to lower moral amongst vet techs.  Many advocates are pushing for a tiered system in the veterinary field for technicians.  Starting with an entry level position as tier one, and as the technician gains more experience and certification they move up the tier ladder and gain more responsibilities; this upward move would include monetary incentives as well. This plan is gaining in popularity as the dropout rate and the turnover rate of vet techs increases. The number of graduates cannot keep up with the demand and this impacts veterinarians; they are then forced to handle the jobs a veterinary tech would normally do in the practice.

Some people consider the work environment as a contribution to the high turnover rate.  Most technicians work in hospitals, clinics and veterinary practices with animals that are sick and injured.  The work can be stressful and even dangerous at times.  The most difficult aspect of the work environment is the emotional toll they may face when dealing with sick pets and their owners. It is especially hard when they are dealing with abused animals or in cases where the animal must be euthanized.  While veterinary technicians are comparable to a nurse in a medical facility, their duties are not always the same.  Technicians many times are expected to handle janitorial duties within the practice and other menial tasks a nurse would not be expected to do.

At the end of the day, it is actually the pay that is the number one reason people decide not to train to be a veterinary tech and why they leave the field of veterinary practice.  There are things they can do to increase their earning potential though.  Location, experience and type of employer are all factors in the pay scale.  Working in a larger city or working in a laboratory are both areas a technician can get a job making more money.  Another way is by becoming a specialty veterinary technologist.  There are 10 official specialties recognized by the AVMA, and by becoming specialized in one of these areas you can increase your earning potential.


Comment from A CVT
Time October 16, 2012 at 3:02 am

It would be helpful to have the facts correctly stated here. The AVMA does NOT recognize Veterinary Technician Specialists (VTS) NAVTA does. There are ways to advance in veterinary practice, with or without a veterinary technologist degree: practice or clinical management or supervisory.

There are three main reasons that VTs leave the profession: money, delegation and recognition. Until VTs across the US really make their voices heard, and more veterinarians engage in recognizing VTs needs, it will not get better.

Comment from Lynn
Time November 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

While I worked directly with equine, the practice of vet tech is a different world. Equine are much larger and can do much more damage to a body than companion animals. I was hurt after 13 years at the same practice and it was a combination of low pay, lack of true benefits, stagnation of position, and this injury which lead me to leave the practice and move into another career. The veterinary medicine career path has no jobs beyond vet tech for me once I achieved my BASVT. The bad economy dried up the positions I thought I could strive for once I got my BA. And now with an injury that only surgery can repair, I can’t even do what I am trained for – campanion animal vet techs hate me because I am a large animal tech and I can’t do the harder, more physical large animal vet tech job. I’m stuck in outer space for the time being. Not a pretty place to be.

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