In the Mount Rushmore State, there’s no shortage of people and organizations focused on the well-being of animals. The Sioux Falls Area Humane Society has been in operation since 1919 and its mission is to connect animals with permanent homes, provide advocacy for creatures which can’t speak for themselves, and educate people on the best treatment practices. PAWS Animal Rescue, Inc. also provides adoption services and clinics for population control, and the esteemed no-kill shelter at Western Hills Humane Society found homes for 327 surrendered animals in 2015, many from police impounds. One way for animal-lovers from South Dakota to become involved in the provision of optimal care for furry, scaly, and feathered animals is to become a veterinary technician.
According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA 2016), veterinary technicians (vet techs) nationwide play an invaluable role in veterinary healthcare environments by giving assistance to licensed veterinarians with various procedures (e.g., dentistry, diagnostic imaging, laboratory tests, post-surgical monitoring, anesthesia); maintain veterinary patient records; educate pet-owners about best practices for animal healthcare; process and analyze biological samples; keeping veterinary equipment and facilities sterile; giving first aid and immunizations to animals; and helping out with vet office clerical duties. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA 2016) also lays out the scope of practice in the vet tech profession based on state of residence. To qualify as a veterinary technician in South Dakota, a candidate must have a high school diploma or GED; proof of “good moral character” from two reputable people; an interview with two member of the South Dakota Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners; the completion of a Board-approved vet tech program; and a score of at least 75 percent on a written or oral Board exam.
In South Dakota and across the US, there’s expected to be a wealth of opportunities for veterinary technicians into the future, including for those interested in online programs. Keep reading to discover the projected growth in openings in this occupation, the salary prospects, the accredited vet tech programs in SD, and how to become a registered vet tech (RVT) in the state.
Accredited Vet Tech Programs in SD
For aspiring veterinary technicians in South Dakota, there are various training options available, although it’s strongly recommended to pursue at least a two-year associate degree in the field. According to O*NET (2016)—a data partner of the US Department of Labor—68 percent of vet techs nationwide hold associate degrees, and 12 percent have HS diplomas. This composition will likely change in coming years toward increased education as the profession becomes more regulated nationwide.
The main organization which accredits vet techs training schools is the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). To qualify for a AVMA-accredited program, applicants typically need to submit the following:
- Official high school transcripts with proof of specific coursework (e.g., chemistry, English, biology)
- Personal statement (500-600 words)
- Proof of health insurance and immunizations
- Application fee
While most vet tech programs do not require test scores, background checks, or interviews, there are exceptions. Also, it is advisable for aspiring veterinary technicians in South Dakota to work or volunteer in an animal healthcare setting to give them an edge in the application process.
Until recently, there were two CVTEA-accredited programs in the Rushmore State. However, these programs are no longer accepting new students. So, to pursue an accredited vet tech education, the South Dakota student must either leave the state (note that all surrounding states now have at least one AVMA-accredited vet tech program) or enroll in an accredited online program.
Accredited, Distance-Based Vet Tech Programs
There are presently nine CVTEA-accredited online programs offered by eight schools around the country. These programs involve a combination of online coursework and clinical trainings which are completed at approved veterinary facilities close to a student’s home.
One fully accredited, online vet tech program is available at Penn Foster College. As one of the more affordable options in the country at $79 per credit, Penn Foster provides rigorous online training in areas including biology; animal anatomy & physiology; information literacy; clinical parasitology; veterinary office management & skill with people; mathematical applications; pharmacology; clinical pathology; and laboratory animal medicine & nursing. It’s worth noting that between 2013 and 2016, 67.75 percent of program graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt.
Additionally, St. Petersburg College of Florida provides an online associate of science (AS) in veterinary technology, comprising 73 credits of coursework in areas such as animal nursing; animal physiology; animal anesthesia; emergency medicine; lab procedures; pharmacology; and avian & exotic pet medicine. Also, between 2013 and 2016, an impressive 74.4 percent of St. Petersburg’s vet tech graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt. Conveniently, credits from the AS program may be transferred to the school’s competitive on-campus bachelor of applied science in veterinary technology program.
To learn more about the full array of distance-based programs available, check out the online vet tech programs page.
Job Outlook for South Dakota Vet Technicians
In South Dakota and other states, there is a very bright career outlook for people in the veterinary technology field. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) expects vet tech openings nationwide to swell 19 percent between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the average growth projected for all occupations during that time (7 percent). The CareerOneStop (2016)—a partner with the US Department of Labor—offers more granular data on the future of vet techs in SD. It found that openings for veterinary technicians and technologists are expected to increase at a slightly lower rate (15 percent) than what’s anticipated nationally, but vet techs occupy the eleventh fastest growing career in the state for people with associate degrees.
Where Do Vet Techs in SD Work?
Veterinary technicians and SD may seek employment in a variety of environments which offer animal healthcare such as veterinary hospitals, farms, kennels, food inspection organizations, speciality animal clinics, rescue centers, sanctuaries, zoological research institutes, biomedical facilities, aquariums, laboratories, governmental regulatory groups, parks, and wildlife centers. While some South Dakotans in this field may work traditional business hours, others may be asked to work evenings, holidays, or weekends to serve the needs of their veterinary patients.
If the traditional job-seeking websites are any indication, there should be plenty of opportunities in this field in coming years. By illustration, Indeed (Sept. 2016) posted job openings for vet techs at places such as Patterson Companies, the Black Hawk Animal Clinic, Globe University, and the Animal Clinic of Rapid City. Monster (Sept. 2016) had additional postings in SD at the National Veterinary Associates and Eli Lilly & Company. The South Dakota Veterinary Medical Association (SDVMA) provided job postings for vet techs at places such as Best Care Pet Hospital, the Animal Health Center, the Animal Clinic of Pierre, Oahe Veterinary Hospital, Menning Enterprises, Dakota Hills Veterinary Clinic, and All City Pet Care East. There’s no shortage of openings in this career field in SD.
One way which a SD vet tech can stand out from the crowd of job applicants is to become a veterinary technician specialist (VTS). The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA 2016) recognizes many subfields of veterinary technology, including dermatology, equine science, laboratory animals, clinical pathology, dentistry, zoological medicine and anesthesia. To this end, there are various societies and academies, some of which offer professional accreditation in the field, including the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians and Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians. To qualify as a VTS, candidates typically need to have at least 1,000 hours of experience in their subfield and pass an exam. To learn more about the VTS pathways, check out the vet tech careers page.
South Dakota Vet Tech Salary Report
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015), the 95,790 veterinary technicians nationwide had an annual average salary of $33,280 and the following percentiles:
United States (95,790 working vet techs): $33,280 annual average salary
- 10th percentile: $21,890
- 25th percentile: $26,350
- 50th percentile (median): $31,800
- 75th percentile: $38,480
- 90th percentile: $47,410
In hourly terms, these figures equate to (BLS May 2015):
US: $16.00/hour average
- 10th percentile: $10.52/hr.
- 25th percentile: $12.67/hr.
- 50th percentile (median): $15.29/hr.
- 75th percentile: $18.50/hr.
- 90th percentile: $22.80/hr.
Although the salary averages and percentiles for SD vet techs were somewhat lower, it’s important to note that the Rushmore State is also more affordable than roughly half of US states. As proof of point, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) reported that SD is the 27th most affordable state nationwide, offering savings in transportation and groceries relative to the national index. It’s important to keep this in mind while evaluating the following figures.
The BLS (May 2015) found that there were 260 vet techs in SD with an annual average salary of $29,300. In more detailed terms, SD vet techs had the following salary percentiles:
South Dakota (260 working vet techs): $29,300 annual average salary
- 10th percentile: $21,820
- 25th percentile: $25,140
- 50th percentile (median): $28,610
- 75th percentile: $33,190
- 90th percentile: $38,010
In hourly terms, the salaries for SD vet techs equate to:
South Dakota: $14.09/hour average
- 10th percentile: $10.49/hr.
- 25th percentile: 12.09$/hr.
- 50th percentile (median): $13.76/hr.
- 75th percentile: $15.96/hr.
- 90th percentile: $18.27/hr.
It’s important to note that these figures also varied based on the data’s source. By illustration, Indeed (Sept. 2016) found an average annual salary of $22,000 among SD veterinary technicians, and Payscale—a data aggregator of self-reported salaries in common occupations—found national figures which differed from the BLS.
By illustration, Payscale (Sept. 2016), found the following percentiles among its 327 responding vet techs nationally:
- 10th percentile: $21,000
- 25th percentile: $25,000
- 50th percentile (median): $30,914
- 75th percentile: $40,000
- 90th percentile: $49,000
A majority of the vet tech respondents around the country preferred to respond with their hourly wage estimates, and among the 3,152 vet techs in this category, Payscale (Sept. 2016) found the following percentiles:
- 10th percentile: $10.00/hr.
- 25th percentile: $12.00/hr.
- 50th percentile (median): $13.00/hr.
- 75th percentile: $16.00/hr.
- 90th percentile: $18.00/hr.
Not only do the salaries for vet techs vary based on source of data, but also by region within South Dakota, for which the BLS keeps detailed figures. In fact, the BLS (May 2015) designates four regions in SD which reported the following numbers of vet techs, average salaries, and wage percentiles:
Rapid City, SD: (60 vet techs employed): $28,230 annual average salary ($13.57/hr.)
- 10th percentile: $21,940 ($10.55/hr.)
- 25th percentile: $24,980 ($12.01/hr.)
- 50th percentile (median): $27,900 ($13.41/hr.)
- 75th percentile: $30,790 ($14.81/hr.)
- 90th percentile: $36,150 ($17.38/hr.)
Sioux Falls, SD: (60 vet techs employed): $32,370 avg. ($15.56/hr.)
- 10th percentile: $25,180 ($12.11/hr.)
- 25th percentile: $28,010 ($13.47/hr.)
- 50th percentile (median): $32,810 ($15.78/hr.)
- 75th percentile: $36,940 ($17.76/hr.)
- 90th percentile: $39,440 ($18.96/hr.)
East South Dakota Nonmetropolitan Area: (80 vet techs employed): $28,010 avg. ($13.47/hr.)
- 10th percentile: $20,810 ($10.00/hr.)
- 25th percentile: $23,250 ($11.18/hr.)
- 50th percentile (median): $27,120 ($13.04/hr.)
- 75th percentile: $30,680 ($14.75/hr.)
- 90th percentile: $37,870 ($18.20/hr.)
West South Dakota Nonmetropolitan Area: (50 vet techs employed): $28,160 avg. ($13.54/hr.)
- 10th percentile: $21,730 ($10.45/hr.)
- 25th percentile: $27,740 ($11.90/hr.)
- 50th percentile (median): $27,540 ($13.24/hr.)
- 75th percentile: $30,300 ($14.57/hr.)
- 90th percentile: $34820 ($16.74/hr.)
|Veterinary Career||South Dakota Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2015)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
South Dakota Veterinary Technician Registration
In order to become a registered veterinary technician (RVT) in SD, candidates must apply through the South Dakota Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, submitting the following:
- Completed application with signature from vet tech program
- A recent photo
- Proof of a high school diploma or GED
- Two affidavits from qualified people testifying to the candidate’s moral character
- Transcript or copy of degree from a Board-approved veterinary technician program
- Passing Veterinary Technician National Examination scores (at least 425 points)
- Application fee ($20)
RVTs in South Dakota must renew their registration every two years with a minimum of 12 hours of continuing education (CE) credits. There are various web-based resources available for online CE, including:
AVMA Accreditation for Vet Tech Schools in SD
Finally, aspiring veterinary technicians in South Dakota are encouraged to seek out programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) program-approval body: the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). This organization evaluates many factors in its process, including:
- Management of school & program finances
- Organizational effectiveness & resources for students
- Quality of facilities, faculty & curriculum
- Availability of libraries & student resources (e.g., campus groups)
- Admissions procedures
- Student outcomes (e.g., Veterinary Technician National Examination pass-rates among graduates)
For a complete breakdown of how the AVMA evaluates veterinary technician programs, check out the CVTEA accreditation standards page.
|Vet Techs Must Be Licensed to Practice||Licensed Vet Techs Are Called||Licensing Requirements||Additional Resources|
|Graduate from an AVMA-Accredited Program||Pass the VTNE||Additional Requirements|
|Yes||RVT||Yes||Yes||South Dakota also requires two personal references (“vouchers to moral character”).||South Dakota Veterinary Medical Association|