Sometimes ill or injured animals need testing that goes beyond a routine veterinary examination to include more sophisticated methods that allow the source of a health care problem to be identified. Veterinary radiology techs can help with this by carrying out advanced diagnostic testing that is now often being used by veterinarians in their offices. However, veterinary radiology techs do not need to rely on hands-on job experience to learn about diagnostic equipment. This is typically available as part of the curriculum of a vet tech program.
Students attending a veterinary radiology technician school might learn about use of x rays as part of their instruction as well as about computed tomography (CT), nuclear imaging, digital fluoroscopy, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). As use of diagnostic imagery with animals continues to progress, more specialized equipment is being used in veterinary offices. In fact, diagnostic equipment is now being built and specifically designed for use with animals and takes into consideration their size.
Much of this diagnostic imagery creates pictures for veterinarians by use of X rays or sound waves. Of course, X rays are known to give off radiation and, as part of their training, students in veterinary x ray technician schools will learn what amount of radiation is safe and permissible and what they need to do to take protective measures. Animal Insides provides additional information about radiation safety steps that vet technicians can take.
From 2010 to 2020, job opportunities for veterinary technicians are expected to increase across the U.S. by 52 percent, according to 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. This job growth could lead to the creation of nearly 41,700 new vet tech positions during that time, including new opportunities for veterinary radiologic techs. In fact, among the reasons for this anticipated job growth is that veterinary treatment is becoming more sophisticated in its approach and needs highly-trained team members to assist and that busy veterinarians are needing other team members to help with some of their tasks, which could include use of diagnostic equipment.
While the BLS does not provide job growth data specific to veterinary radiology techs (or any vet tech specialties for that matter) this doesn’t mean that jobs for these vet tech can’t be found. A first step might be to go to the American College of Veterinary Radiology website and look through its list of certified veterinarians (known as diplomates) to find which provide diagnostic services for animals in an area. These veterinarians might be more likely to need veterinary radiology techs in their employment. Of course, any veterinary office could be in need of the services of a veterinary imaging technician as could a university, research center, or wildlife rescue facility. These could all be places to look for a job. Additionally, the American Veterinary Medical Association hosts a job board featuring employment opportunities for vet techs as well as veterinarians and other trained specialists working in the field.
Pay ranges for vet techs can vary and this includes for those working in specialized areas, such as veterinary radiology technicians. SimplyHired notes that the average pay for all vet tech working in the U.S. was $33,000, as of September 2013. However, it lists the average pay for X ray veterinary technicians at $35,000 and those of diagnostic veterinary technicians at $38,000, as of September 2013. This may reflect some of the variations that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports as salary ranges for vet technicians. For examples, as of May 2013, it indicates that the median annual nationwide wage earned by vet techs was $30,290. However, vet techs in the highest 10th percentile earned up to $44,030 while those in the lowest 10th percentile earned as little as $21,030. Because these wages reflect incomes ranges for all types of vet techs, it could be postulated that vet techs who have more training, experience, or work in specialty fields could have the potential for higher wages.
All graduates of vet tech programs, including those of veterinary radiology technician schools, need to follow a series of steps to obtain credentials or licensing. Often, the first step is to take the Veterinary Technician National Examination offered through the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. This exam assesses the understanding and comprehension of applicants whose results are then sent to a state panel, often the likes of a state veterinary board. Most applicants need to have graduated from a vet tech program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association as well. Additional requirement may then be necessary, such as passing a state-level exam or fulfilling other steps to obtain licensing.
After meeting the requirements to work in a state and becoming a registered vet technician (RVT), licensed vet technician (LVT) or certified vet technician (CVT), graduates of veterinary radiology technician schools or similar programs may want to join the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. This organization offers membership on a number of levels, including active, associate, and student, and provides networking opportunities, information on continuing education, and news on upcoming conferences and events.
Veterinary imaging technicians may want to keep in mind that they could be working with a diverse range of animals in their career. As such, they might seek first to be an animal lover and to possess many of the qualities listed as important by the BLS for a vet tech career. These include: high manual dexterity, a good ability to communicate, and a tendency to be a compassionate individual. As well, veterinary radiology techs will want to keep in mind that part of their job will be working with equipment that gives off radiation that can be dangerous to both animals and themselves. They should be sure to take the steps necessary to be safe at all times and must be comfortable working in a setting where X rays are taken.
Most veterinary diagnostic techs need to complete a two-year associate of science degree to be able to work as a vet tech. Students can look for accredited AVMA schools offering specific radiology or X-ray programs or should sign up for vet tech programs providing coursework or a specialty in radiographic and sonographic diagnostic assessment. The vet tech program available through Columbus State Community College in Ohio, for example, offers radiology coursework as part of its instruction. Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania also offers students in its vet tech program coursework in diagnostic radiology. Students should also look for internship or externship opportunities that provide them with even more opportunities to learn more about X rays and diagnostic radiology as it relates to animal care.