Average Vet Tech Salary

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes regularly statistics on the Average Veterinary Technician (Vet Tech) Salary.  Its latest published figures relate to May 2010.  The national average vet tech salary was $14.92 per hour or an average annual salary of just over $31,000.

The annual salary is estimated on the basis of a 40 hour working week which translates into 2080 hours per year.

What is a Veterinary Technician?

A vet tech works under the supervision of a veterinarian.  A veterinary technician’s role is analogous to a nurse’s role in relation to a doctor.  The vet tech prepares the treatment room for the examination of animals; restrains animals during examinations, treatment, or inoculation, administers injections, applies wound dressings, cleans teeth and cleans up after the animals have gone.

Most veterinary technicians have a 2-year associate’s degree from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-accredited community college program in veterinary technology. Some colleges offer a 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology.

In practical terms although veterinary technologists undergo twice the level of college training, when they qualify they carry out much the same functions as veterinary technicians and pay scales do not often give extra reward to those who have trained longer to become veterinary technologists.   Veterinary technician is the term most commonly used to describe both technicians and technologists.

Geographical variations in salary

The national salary figures quoted above mask considerable variations based on geography and setting.  The five highest paying states with their average salaries are:

Connecticut        $36,680
New York           $36,540
Alaska                $35,810
California            $35,300
Massachusetts   $35,190

By contrast average salaries are significantly lower in:

Mississippi          $25,120
West Virginia      $25,500
Georgia               $25,510

There are even larger variations in average salary levels between metropolitan areas and rural areas.  The highest paying cities are:

Sacramento        $44,580
Waterbury(CT)    $41,960
San Jose             $41,290
San Francisco     $40,250
Detroit                  $40,170
Albany (NY)         $39,990

In some rural areas average salaries are much lower:

East Kentucky            $20,520
Northwest Alabama    $22,020
Las Cruces (NM)        $22,710

The differences in salaries between cities and rural areas reflect different costs of living and other factors.  In cities high demand and limited supply are always going to push up salaries.

There are considerable variations in average salary levels within individual states.  For example in Southwest Minnesota the average salary stands at $33,630 while in Southeast Minnesota it is $27,700.

All these figures are averages which means that some vet techs will earn substantially more than the average and some will earn substantially less.

The other key factor which affects salary levels is length of experience in the job.  The more experienced you are the more responsibility you are likely to be given and that is likely to translate into higher salaries for the more experienced.  For those whose experience in the job is less than 8 years average salaries are commonly below $26,000 while those with 15 years of experience can expect, on average, more than $45,000 per year.

So the two key factors which determine the average vet tech salary are where you work and what level of experience you can offer.

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