Survey shows veterinary technicians grapple with new, old challenges

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Results from a recent study of veterinary technicians reveals that the more the field of veterinary technology changes, the more it stays the same.

NAVTA logoThe 2007 demographic survey was commissioned by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and was the association's fifth quadrennial survey since 1991. Results are published in The NAVTA Journal, and represent input from members and nonmembers alike.

For this survey, as for all of the previous surveys, veterinary technicians chose salary as the number one problem they face in their career. On the most recent questionnaire, two-thirds of NAVTA members and three-fourths of nonmembers ranked low income among the top three problems they face. Other concerns voiced by respondents included the lack of professional recognition, job burnout, the lack of career advancement opportunities, and competition with assistants trained on the job.

That's not to say the salary situation, or at least the perception of it, hasn't changed. For instance, when respondents were asked whether they thought "veterinary technicians are so underpaid that the feasibility of staying in the profession is declining," the percentage of members who agreed or strongly agreed with the statement dropped from 87.7 percent in 2003 to 78.7 percent in 2007.

Comparing salary ranges for the 1991 and 2007 surveys mean salary of NAVTA member veterinary technicians has nearly doubled from $19,200 to $36,120, according to the survey. Nonmembers saw their compensation grow from $17,500, on average, in 1991 to $31,070 in 2007. However, NAVTA-member veterinary technicians in companion animal and mixed animal practice had the lowest mean salaries in the profession ($33,270 and $28,960, respectively), even though this is where most technicians are employed (52.2 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively). In recent years, veterinary technicians gradually have been moving away from clinical practice to other career opportunities. The data indicate that this trend is continuing.

The percentage of veterinary technicians receiving health insurance has increased substantially since 1991. That's when roughly two-thirds of respondents were provided this benefit by their employer. Now, 83 percent report they have it.

In general, NAVTA members who responded to the 2007 survey were more likely to receive benefits than were their nonmember counterparts. For example, 85 percent of NAVTA members indicated in the 2007 survey they had health insurance, compared with 70 percent of nonmembers. Sixty-seven percent of NAVTA members received paid sick time, compared with only 55 percent of nonmembers.

Respondents were asked to predict what three issues would likely affect them five years from now. For both members and nonmembers, salary, specialization in veterinary technology, and medical and computer technology were the three issues most frequently listed.

The percentage of members who were happy with the recognition afforded them by professional veterinary organizations increased from 39 percent in 2003 to 43.1 percent in 2007.

By the numbers

Respondents to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, 2007 demographic survey:

  • 95 percent were women.
  • 38 was the mean age.
  • 77 percent had at least an associate degree.
  • 87.7 percent of NAVTA members were graduates of AVMA-accredited programs.
  • 69.2 percent of nonmembers were graduates of AVMA-accredited programs.
  • 11.5 was the mean number of years in the profession for members.
  • 6.8 was the mean number of years with their current employer for members.
  • 39 hours was the mean workweek.
  • 57 percent worked in communities of greater than 50,000 in population.