The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020) predicts that the veterinary technician and technologist role is going to experience an occupational growth rate of 16 percent between 2019 and 2029. This growth rate is four times faster than the average growth rate predicted for all occupations in that time period (4 percent).
In 2019, there were already 112,900 veterinary techs employed across the country, and this growth rate will add 18,300 new jobs for a total of 131,200 jobs in the subsequent decade. When looking at why job outlook for this profession is so bright, part of the story has to do with the steady increase in households that own and spend money on their pets.
In the United States, 84.9 million households—two out of every three—provide homes to furry, scaled, or winged creatures. Pet ownership has risen nearly 20 percent since 1988, and nearly 36 percent of all spending on pets is for medical and veterinary care.
While part of the reason for the need for vet techs is pet ownership, the U.S. is also home to ranch animals that also need care. According to the USDA, the 2021 population of cattle and calves as of January 1st was 93.5 million. Pigs and hogs in 2021 numbered 75 million. The U.S. was home to five million sheep and lambs in 2017, 225 million turkeys in 2019, and more than 400 million egg-laying chickens in 2019.
When one looks outside of the home and the ranch and into the wild, the U.S. is also home to 580 species of endangered mollusks and invertebrates, 251 endangered fish species, 82 bird species, 56 amphibian species, 37 reptile species, and 36 mammal species.
Vet techs—the nurses of the animal medicine world—are essential to providing care to the nearly endless number of animals who may need it. By assisting veterinarians through the completion of essential tasks like patient intake, caretaker education, diagnostic imaging, surgery prep and assistance, sample collection, anesthesia administration, clinic management, dental care, and more, vet techs keep the animal medicine world running smoothly and seamlessly. With only two years of training required to practice, vet techs can begin to tap into the occupational growth anticipated for the profession quite quickly.
While it is sure that more vet techs will be needed in the United States, how much do vet techs have the potential to earn? The answer to this question varies depending on factors like geography, experience, industry, role, and more. Keep reading for a comprehensive breakdown of vet tech annual salaries and hourly wages in the United States.
How Much Do Vet Techs Make Nationally?
According to the BLS (May 2020), the average annual wage for the 109,490 vet techs in the United States in 2020 was $37,860 per year. When translated into an hourly wage, this clocks in at an average hourly wage of $18.20.
When diving deeper into salaries, the following table shows vet tech potential earning power at the various earning percentiles:
|Annual Salary||Hourly Wages|
|50th percentile (median)||$36,260||$17.43|
The Bureau for Labor Statistics collects their occupational data through surveys provided to employers, follow-up calls to nonresponders, and additional calls to provide clarifications.
The various salary websites in existence compile their data differently. Websites like Payscale, Indeed, and Glassdoor use self-reporting—a methodology where employees and employers can report salaries for certain positions. Salary.Com uses HR-reported aggregate market data (i.e., data from employers) to determine its salary estimates. ZipRecruiter uses job posting and third-party data to determine salaries.
The following chart represents the average annual salaries and hourly wages for vet techs based on data collected from popular salary websites:
|Source (Number Of Self-Reports)||Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Wages|
|PayScale (3,480 individuals)||$35,371||$15.20|
|Salary.com (N/A)||$35,882 (Median)||$17.00|
*This number was derived by taking the average annual salary and dividing it by 2,080—the standard number for hours worked in a full-time work year.
How Much Do Vet Techs Earn in Specific Industries?
From a national perspective, the industry in which a vet tech chooses to work may also determine earning potential. The BLS reported that the median salary for a vet tech in 2020 was $36,260, but when broken down into industries, the numbers look a bit different.
According to the BLS (2020), here is how industry impacts earning potential in the industries that employ the most vet techs nationwide:
|Industry||Annual Salary||Hourly Wages|
|Scientific Research and Development Services||$44,860||$21.57|
|Universities, Colleges, and Professional Schools||$43,600||$20.96|
|Social Advocacy Orgs||$36,460||$17.53|
Salaries and Wages Compared to Other Veterinary Medicine Roles
There are various routes that an animal medicine professional can take to enter the field, all of which require different training timelines. The fastest timeline from training to work is that of the vet assistant—often only requiring six months to one year of training. Becoming a vet tech requires two to four years of training. Becoming a veterinarian requires a minimum of eight years of training.
The following chart breaks down how much vet techs make in comparison to other veterinary medicine roles based on national averages, according to the BLS (May 2020):
|Role||Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Wages|
What are the Top-Paying States and Cities for Vet Techs?
For vet techs who aren’t tied to a certain region, this salary information may help to create a frame around where vet techs have the most earning potential in the country. Although these numbers can be helpful on their own, considering how much it costs to live in that high-paying region can paint a more complete portrait. When looking at salaries in the region, it may be useful to cross-reference the cost of living data compiled by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021). Knowing how expensive or affordable a place is will help vet techs to understand how far their dollar will stretch in that region.
The following is a list of the top ten states for vet tech salaries in the U.S. (BLS May 2020):
|State||Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Wages|
|District of Columbia||$66,850||$32.14|
Vet Tech Salaries and Wages in Ten High-Paying States
Although certain states in the country may offer the highest salaries, they may not have the most opportunities for vet techs. Therefore, a vet tech may be curious to know how much they have the potential to earn in states that have the most job openings for the role.
The following chart illustrates salaries and wages in the states that employ the most vet techs in the nation (BLS May 2020):
|State (Number of Vet Techs)||Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Wages|
|New York (4,350)||$43,780||$21.05|
|North Carolina (3,570)||$35,790||$17.21|
Ten Metropolitan Areas Offering The Highest Vet Tech Salaries and Wages
For those really interested in the specifics on where vet techs earn the most, this table zooms in on the metropolitan regions that pay vet techs the most (BLS May 2020):
|Region||Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Wages|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||$53,580||$25.76|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$53,440||$25.69|
|Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA||$51,890||$24.95|
|Nevada nonmetropolitan area||$51,260||$24.64|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$50,820||$24.43|
|Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV||$48,300||$23.22|
|San Diego-Carlsbad, CA||$48,170||$23.16|
Salaries and Wages for Vet Techs in Ten Top-Employing Regions
The following table breaks down average annual salaries and hourly wages in the regions in the united states that employ the greatest number of vet techs (BLS May 2020):
|Region (Employment)||Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Wages|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (4,100)||$44,690||$21.49|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (3,550)||$36,380||$17.49|
|Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX (2,930)||$34,400||$16.54|
|Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI (2,890)||$42,080||$20.23|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI (2,310)||$38,530||$18.52|
|Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV (2,240)||$48,050||$23.10|
|Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH (2,180)||$48,320||$23.23|
|Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (2,180)||$38,210||$18.37|
|Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (2,140)||$33,590||$16.15|
Vet Tech Salaries and Wages by Experience and Specialization
When thinking about tech salaries, years of experience do make a difference in earning potential. As is the case for all occupations, the more experience one has, the great earning potential there is. While the BLS does not track salary by experience, some of the major salary websites do estimate this information.
The following table illustrates how years of experience impacts earning potential for vet techs based on two major salary websites, as of May 2021:
|Years of Experience||PayScale: Yearly* (Hourly)||Salary.com: Yearly (Hourly**)|
|Less than one||$26,728 ($12.85)||$34,107 ($16.35)|
|1 – 4||$29,120 ($14.00)||$34,570 ($16.62)|
|5 – 9||$32,822 ($15.78)||$37,899 ($18.22)|
|10 – 19||$35,402 ($17.02)||$38,403 ($18.46)|
|20+||$38,022 ($18.28)||$38,403 ($18.46)|
*These figures were derived by taking the average hourly salaries and multiplying them by 2,080—the standard number for hours worked in a full-time work year.
**These figures were derived by taking the average annual salaries and dividing them by 2,080.
Vet Tech Salaries and Wages Based On Specialization – How Much Do VTSs Make?
Following graduation from a vet tech training program, vet techs with a passion for certain aspects of animal medicine can choose to become a veterinary technician specialist (VTS).
While there are 16 specializations currently officially or provisionally recognized by the AVMA-recognized National Association of Vet Techs in America (NAVTA), there are a few that may be standouts in terms of salary. Because specializations are very new, much of this salary data is speculative. It is included here only to provide an idea of how specializations can impact vet tech salaries.
The following table represents the potential salary boost that having a specialization can incur, based on self-reported data from PayScale (2021):
|Specialization (Numbers Reporting)||Possible Percent Pay Increase||Possible Median Annual Salary (Hourly*)|
|Oncology (20)||6 – 37 percent||$35,000 – $46,800 ($16.82 – $22.50)|
|Surgical (48)||1 – 14 percent||$34,540 ($16.60)|
|Emergency and Critical Care (800)||2 – 28 percent||$32,080 – $44,000 ($15.42 – $21.15)|
|Anesthesia and Analgesia (3,010)||1 – 2 percent||$30,920 – $34,300 ($14.86 – $16.49)|
*These figures were derived by taking the average annual salaries and dividing them by 2,080 hours.
For more information on how to pursue these specializations, check out our blog post on top-paying vet tech specialist careers.