By far, one of the biggest things stopping most people from pursuing a vet tech career is the low salary. Median annual wages were under $29,000 in 2008, and at the time of this writing, still haven’t seen much improvement. No wonder so many people are asking for ways to raise your salary as a vet tech. But are there any?
Of course there are.
As with any occupation, they key to higher earnings is to increase the amount of value you provide. It also helps to think outside the box and search for new income opportunities where you can use your vet tech expertise. Here are some ideas:
- Graduate from a 2 or 4 year program to earn your certification. Pretty soon, this step is going to be mandatory. But right now, there are still a lot of people working as “vet techs” – mostly in smaller towns – that have been trained on the job. These people have no academic experience, and therefore the amount of value they provide to their employers is limited. In the future it is likely that states will make certification mandatory for veterinary technicians. But in the mean time, even if you have to enroll in online vet tech school, it’s worth it to get your degree.
- Pursue VTS (Veterinary Technician Specialist) designation in a niche you are interested in. There are currently nine officially recognized vet tech specialties: dentistry, anesthesia, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, zoological medicine, equine care, surgery, clinical practice, and behavior. If one of these fields interest you, it’s a great idea to specialize in it! Specialization not only opens up new career opportunities to you, but it definitely adds to the amount of value you provide and increases the odds of better pay throughout your career. A vet tech with a certified specialty on their resume will instantly stand out from other job applicants.
- Work as a veterinary technician in a larger metropolitan area. This one is basic, but not feasible for some. Vet techs in larger cities have more access to job opportunities, and they generally receive better pay and benefits than their small-town counterparts. Of course, higher cost-of-living in cities may offset some of the gains in pay, but usually there isn’t an exact ratio. Research job openings and salaries in the bigger cities near you to see if a change of scenery would be worth it for your career.
- Work as a tech in a hospital setting. Overall, vet techs working in a hospital setting earn more than those who work in regular private practices. These hospitals generally have more resources to work with than your standard family veterinarian. There are some trade-offs: hospitals generally see lots of difficult and discouraging cases, often related to animal abuse. They also see a lot of emergency patients with severe injuries requiring immediate critical care. Sometimes hospitals may require you to be “on call” during early morning hours or weekends. For some vet techs, these trade-offs aren’t worth the pay raise.
- Work as a vet tech in a research lab. Like hospitals, research labs seem to offer more pay to the veterinary technicians they employee. Working in a research lab means you’ll be providing care to animals that are being used as test subjects. If it doesn’t sound very glamorous or fun to you, that’s because it probably isn’t. Many vet techs are unable to deal with some of the things they witness. Others, however, feel they are the only ones who can increase the quality of life for test animals that are going to be in a bad situation either way. The point here is that it may be difficult for most techs to work in a research setting, so research companies offer higher pay to entice applicants and reduce high turnover rates.
These are five basic things you can do that relate directly to your education, experience, and work environment. Easy enough, right? Well, let’s think outside the box for a little. What other ways are there that would allow you to earn more money as a vet tech? How about:
- Use your vet tech skills for speaking engagements. Not everyone is born to be a public speaker, but those who are might be able to earn some side money doing speaking engagements. Do some research about relevant organizations in your area and see if you might be able to add value to their next event by delivering an informative speech. Colleges and universities are a great place to start, as are your local humane society or rescue groups. These places may not have a huge budget, but they might be able to put a little extra money in your pocket.
- Write books, blogs, or magazine articles. Again, not everyone is born to be a great writer, but if you think you’ve got some skills when it comes to the world of words, leverage it! Get in touch with magazines and newspapers in your area, or e-mail your favorite Web sites to see if they are interested in taking on a guest blogger. Of course, before you contact these people, come up with a few ideas for interesting, entertaining, and VALUABLE articles. Talk about funny experiences you’d had with animals, offer some care tips and advice, outline basic training strategies, etc. Again, it may take some time for you to get paid for your content, and even when you do it might not be much – but the more you focus on it, the more opportunities will present themselves.