Veterinary Behavior Tech Certification and Salary Data


The field of veterinary medicine is a highly diversified discipline that offers substantial employment opportunities. Veterinary technicians provide essential skills in the discipline of veterinary medicine. The immense variety of animals veterinarians care for necessitates diverse veterinary technicians to assist them. One important type of veterinary technician is the veterinary technician specialist in behavior.

Veterinary technician specialists (VTS) in behavior are technicians specifically trained to observe, manage and modify animal behavior. A well-trained VTS holds expertise in subjects including behavior health, problem prevention, training, management, and behavior modification. Duties common to a VTS may include performing animal triage, conducting companion animal socialization classes, working with trainers to assist animal owners with behavioral concerns, and educating people on how to effectively implement behavior modification programs prescribed by their pet’s veterinarian.

A VTS tends to focus on behavioral treatment rather than prevention and often will work with animals with severe behavioral issues whose needs are beyond the scope of skills and experience held by general practitioners.

In addition to traditional practice settings, a VTS may also work in non-practice settings. Examples of such settings include zoos, research facilities, animal shelters, and animal welfare organizations. In such settings, a VTS may hold a variety of responsibilities, including essential daily care, animal welfare oversight, design of research studies, and creation and implementation of training programs designed to reduce behavioral disturbances and thereby increase the likelihood that animals can continue to live with their owners or be adopted rather than ultimately euthanized.

Behavioral care is an important part of the field of veterinary medicine. Behavioral issues are the most common reason dogs are given to animal shelters and the second most common reason for cats. Behavioral treatment is thus not just valuable to pet owners but also increases the odds that a variety of animals, including companion animals, can enjoy long and healthy lives.

This article provides information on career outlook and earning potential, educational and experience requirements, and the path to becoming a veterinary technician specialist in behavior.

Career Outlook for Behavioral Vet Techs (VTS)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) predicts that nationwide job opportunities for veterinary technologists and technicians will grow 20 percent between 2021 and 2031. An average of approximately 15,500 openings for this job category are projected each year within that time period. Many of these openings will emerge due to existing workers transferring to different occupations and attrition due to retirement.

The entire field of veterinary medicine is also projected to grow substantially in the next ten years. Such demand will undoubtedly sustain the demand specific to the field of veterinarian technicians and technologists. The particular skills a VTS can offer will thus be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

Behavioral Vet Tech Salary Data

The following chart from ZipRecruiter (Feb. 2023) demonstrates how the compensation of veterinary behavior techs in the United States varies across various earning percentiles:

10th percentile $29,000
25th percentile $33,500
50th percentile (median) $42,442
75th percentile $47,000
90th percentile $56,000

Salary data for veterinary behavior technicians does not reveal an especially strong correlation between high salaries and a certain type of location where high salaries are frequently offered. Of the ten cities ZipRecruiter notes as having the highest salary for vet behavior techs, many of these communities feature small populations in a sparsely populated region where the cost of living will be relatively low. Other cities in this ranking are large population centers with notoriously high living costs, such as San Francisco, California and Seattle, Washington.

Considering what may appear to be an appealing job opportunity, it thus makes sense for interested individuals to review the location’s cost of living as one important factor in their decision-making process.

Higher salaries can indicate a profession requiring extensive training and a job market whose geography has a higher cost of living than the national average. Individuals interested in reviewing the cost of living can find helpful information on the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center website. This site offers a ranked list of how much it costs to live in every region in the United States.

Education & Certification Requirements for Behavioral Vet Techs

As is true for other veterinarian technician specializations and the field of veterinary medicine, the requirements to work as a veterinary behavior technician can often vary depending on the state in which a tech works.

Currently, most states require a vet tech to obtain veterinary technician licensing, registration, or certification to practice legally. In these states, the minimum educational attainment is an associate’s degree from an accredited program. As many vet tech programs are generalist programs, those seeking to specialize as behavioral vet techs may encounter additional education and practice hour requirements and find fewer educational providers suitable to their ultimate career goal.

The Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (AVBT) is responsible for credentialing veterinary behavior technicians. Upon satisfactory completion of requirements, individuals are awarded the title of Veterinary Technician Specialist (Behavior), also known as VTS (Behavior), by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).

Becoming a VTS (Behavior) may lead to higher pay, enhanced responsibilities in a current position, and more opportunities for career advancement. Individuals must fulfill several requirements to become a VTS (Behavior). They must first secure admission to AVBT. Admission requires a substantial application package that consists of the following:

  • Signed application agreement
  • Cover letter
  • Candidate’s CV
  • Two letters of recommendation from a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, a supporting veterinarian, and/or a VTS (Behavior)
  • Proof of graduation from an AVMA-approved veterinary technician program and/or credentialed to practice as a veterinary technician in some state or province of the United States, Canada, or another country
  • Proof of membership within both NAVTA and the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (SVBT)
  • Proof of at least 4,000 hours (three years) of work experience in clinical or research-based animal behavior over the five-year period immediately preceding the date of application.
  • Five detailed and completed case reports
  • A clinical case log, maintained for one year within the three years immediately preceding the submission of the application, that contains at least fifty clinical cases; the cases must detail the management of the behavior patient and mastery of advanced veterinary behavior skills
  • 40 CE hours of veterinary behavior in the five years preceding application
  • A completed skills assessment which was done under the supervision of a veterinarian or a credentialed veterinary technician. There are two separate skills assessments available; one is for vet techs in a clinical setting, and the other is for vet techs working in behavior research
  • At least one written, published (or pending publication) of a peer-reviewed journal article on a topic in veterinary behavior

Upon a positive admission decision by AVBT, candidates advance to the final step necessary for professional recognition. This final step is sitting for the AVBT examination.

The candidate receives formal recognition as a VTS (Behavior) upon passing this exam. More precise details about the application materials necessary for admission to AVBT can be found on its website.

Bernd Geels (Writer)

Bernd Geels is a Berlin, Germany-based freelance writer and artist. He holds an undergraduate degree in atmospheric science and two graduate degrees. He completed his most recent graduate degree in international environmental studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2011. He is interested in healthcare, climate change, marine conservation, indigenous science and refugee issues. You can reach him directly at [email protected]