Working as a Veterinary Nurse

A veterinary nurse, also known as a veterinary technician, is responsible for creating and maintaining the animal patient's history and assisting the veterinarian during the exam. They also perform both non-invasive and invasive procedures.


According to College Navigator, there are over two hundred veterinary nurse training programs in the United States. Out of those two hundred programs, one hundred and eighty of the programs take less than two years or less to complete.

A veterinary technician training program will include courses in dentistry, anatomy, animal diseases, anesthesiology and pharmacology, so it is a good idea to have a solid background in mathematics and biology before applying to a veterinary nursing program.


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has accredited one hundred and sixty veterinary technician programs, and these programs will be known to veterinarians and clinics that hire veterinary technicians. A list of these programs is available on the AVMA websites and it is organized by state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, certification for veterinary technicians varies from state to state, but all states require a veterinary technician to complete an examination to verify their knowledge and credentials.

Job Duties

A veterinary technician will assist in the preliminary examination of the animal and document the appearance and symptoms that the animal presents. The technician will take the animal's temperature and blood pressure, and collect samples, such as blood, for analysis. Under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon, a veterinary technician will also administer anesthesia and assist in surgical procedures, just as a trained nurse would perform for a surgeon that is operating on a human patient. The veterinary technician also monitors the patient after surgery. Veterinary technicians also perform dental care procedures on animal patients.

Veterinary technicians will also give instructions about animal care to the animal's owner after a procedure or when medications are prescribed. They can also engage in public education, such as encouraging spaying and neutering, showing owners how to take care of their animal's dental needs or by informing owners or animal caretakers about proper nutrition and diet for the animals in their care.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of veterinary nurses is $28,900 per year. Veterinary technicians who work for the federal government receive the highest wages at approximately twenty-one dollars an hour. The highest paying states in this field are New York, Illinois and California. The highest paying cities are Fresno, Oakland and San Diego, California.

Employment Opportunities

There are employment opportunities for veterinary nurses in animal clinics, animal hospitals and animal shelters. There are also opportunities in research facilities that house laboratory animals and in food processing facilities. Zoos, aquariums and wildlife clinics also employ veterinary nurses. If you are interested in working with wild animals, you should explore volunteer and paid opportunities in these facilities while you are completing your education to become a veterinary technician, or while in high school. Depending on the veterinary technicians experience, such as experience working with small or large domestic animals or with wild animals, there are opportunities in both rural and urban communities.