Are Veterinary Technician Jobs Truly Recession Proof?

6 Comments Posted by Alyssa Noonan in Business Info, Industry Trends on Thursday, March 12th, 2009.

By way of DVM 360, we’re catching up on a recent story from CBS News, which reports that jobs for veterinary technicians and veterinarians may be among those highly-coveted “recession-proof” jobs. That’s good news in general, but the CBS News report tosses around some numbers that paint a slightly skewed picture of the earning potential for technicians.

CBS quotes Laurence Shatkin, the author of “150 Best Recession-Proof” jobs, who lists veterinary technicians at number 2 on his list and veterinarians at number 4. Why are jobs for techs and DVMs so secure? According to Shatkin, people are spending more money than ever on their pets, especially when it comes to veterinary care. That increased demand in care has resulted in an increased demand for veterinary technicians and veterinarians.

While it’s true people are spending more overall on their pets (a trend groups such as the American Pet Products Association believes will continue, despite the economic downturn), spending in some areas, such as veterinary medicine, is down.

There is one area, though, where CBS really gets things skewed. The report profiles Cynthia Mark, a former computer analyst who traded her keyboard and mouse for a career with dogs and cats. According to CBS, “over time, Mark can match the $70,000” salary of her old job.” Where that number came from is unclear, so it’s unknown where the CBS reporter pulled that figure. But the numbers on the federal Bureau of Labor Statistic’s website tell a different story. According to the BLS, the mean annual salary for veterinary technicians is $28,920, a far cry from $70,000 a year. Meanwhile, the BLS pegs the starting salary for DVMs at $84,090. Those numbers are from a May 2007 BLS report.

Whether jobs for DVMs and technicians are truly recession-proof remains to be seen—we’re still in the thick of a financial crisis, after all, and no area is truly safe. Veterinary Economics has some good tips about talking to your team about the downturn, but we’d like to hear from you. Are these jobs really recession-proof? And what’s the earning potential really like out there for veterinarians and technicians?

6 Comments for Are Veterinary Technician Jobs Truly Recession Proof?

ratlover1 | April 12, 2009 at 7:52 pm

I am a Registered Veterinary Technician. I worked 2 1/2 years at a referral-only specialty practice (internal medicine and dermatology). My highest pay was $13.50/hour ($28,080/year). I have changed career paths and now have a position in research at a well known University. My starting salary is $31,000. Granted, that’s not much higher, but the benefits are outstanding (excellent medical and dental, life insurance, up to 5 weeks paid vacation, paid sick and personal days, and free tuition). I would never have had benefits of that caliber at the clinic.
“Recession-proof”? I think not. Unfortunately, we saw many more clients opting for euthanasia. Many clients could not afford the diagnostics we offered (such as ultrasound or endoscopy), and those who could afford the diagnostics could not afford treatment of the disease. Many of the general practice veterinarians who referred clients to our clinic had seen a sharp drop in office visits over the past year. I know of several veterinarians who were laid off. And–we are in a major metropolitan area.
I don’t know of many vets who make $70,000, and certainly technicians do not. I believe that I now may have the potential to double my income over the next 5 to 10 years, but that will include earning my Bachelor’s degree and continuing in the field of research. I know that techs aren’t in the career for the money, but at the same time, we have families to support. While working at the clinic, I could not afford to go to the dentist and my family went without doctor visits. Yet registered techs do the same work as an RN with 1/3 the salary. It’s a shame. I loved my job, but simply could not afford to stay there.

neverenuffkitties | May 20, 2009 at 8:08 pm

i am a 39 yr old single mother (NOT by choice, unfortunately..) college educated w/ a BS in Biology ( and LVT ),over 20 years of day and referral practice experience..and what was i getting paid?? $13/hr, and after 1 1/2 years of NO RAISE and bending over backwards for the last surgeon i worked for, i finally threw in the towel. i think i may finally pursue that degree in psychology i always wanted….at least i may get a lunch break after 11 straight hours.

Marie | October 15, 2009 at 1:58 pm

See this is the info I am looking for. Honest opinions from people in the career. I love animals and would love to do something that involved working with them, but I dont see how I can live off that pay. Thanks to the posters that posted their experience.

Julie | December 7, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Depends on where you live. Techs in this area here make anywhere from $20-$30 per hour (Northeast). Also depends on your experience level and skill level. A great career for the right person!

Stephanie | December 9, 2009 at 8:51 pm

I too am wondering what salary I should be expecting. I’m going on my 10th year of experience as a RVT and am making around $20/hr. I am now specializing in oncology and wondering if I should ask for a raise or not. According to some of the posts here I feel like it would be impossible for me to ask see how other licensed techs are only making $13 in other specialties like surgery and IM.

Deb | April 19, 2011 at 11:32 pm

I find the above comments very interesting. I have been an RN for over 20 yrs – not by choice but by necessity…I had to raise my child alone & an RNs pay would give me ample resources to do so. But I never wanted to be an RN & only very, very rarely enjoy the job. I have always enjoyed & love animals. As a child I was the one to care for all our pets. After 5 yrs of introspection, I made the decision & have started an Accredited Vet Tech program. I am aware that I will lose 75% of my income but have used those 5 yrs to pay off all debt along with other financial arrangements so that I can take the loss in pay. After much introspection I found that if I don’t work doing something I love to do, I will not be happy, satisfied or feel productive & complete. RVTs have such a wider scope of practice compared to a RN. I’m an ER RN & must carry 3 specialty certifications to do so. Even with those certifications, I cannot do dental prophys, intubate a patient (although was taught how to do so), extract teeth, suture existing wounds such as the last layer of skin during surgery, induce a patient & monitor the anesthesia machine, make a cut down in order to start an IV or euthanize a patient. Actually, I believe when comparing an RNs scope of practice & an RVTs, the RVTs should be paid considerably more! The only difference is that RNs take care of the human mammal. RVTs rejoice in the wide range of skills & procedures you can do! If you begin to feel bummed out, remember that you can do alot more than an RN!

Leave a comment!