Many people like to visit places like Orlando’s Sea World or California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, but few know that the creatures residing in these aquatic environments are cared for by veterinarians and marine vet techs, among others. In fact, vet techs can play a substantial role assisting veterinarians in such facilities and may help them work with animals as varied as fish, mammals, octopus, reptiles and even amphibians, such as the Vietnamese mossy frog.
It may help that these types of vet techs have an interest in marine biology, but it is just as essential that they have essential vet tech training, which can consist of knowledge about cytology (the study of cells), microbiology, radiology, ultrasound, and many other skills. As well, marine and aquatic vet techs will need to know, among other things, how to take stool and urine samples (no easy task with marine mammals), give injections, and keep accurate track of medical records.
Marine and aquatic vet techs may also be tasked with taking part in research projects, looking for disease or illness in animals (which may not always be as obvious in marine animals), and working closely with other team members such as marine mammal specialists and veterinarians. As well, they may need to do daily checks on equipment and help in the lab stocking medicine and other pharmaceuticals. Marine vet tech schools and programs can provide students with many of these types of real-life opportunities that can be beneficial while actually working on the job.
Marine and Aquatic Vet Tech Career Outlook
Job opportunities for all veterinary technicians are expected to grow 19 percent between 2018 and 2028, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In other words, 21,100 new vet tech positions are expected to become available nationally during that decade.
This may explain why recent classes of vet tech graduates can’t seem to fill the demand for vet tech help, according to the BLS. Unfortunately, job growth data specifically for marine and aquatic vet techs is not aggregated by the BLS, but students of marine vet tech schools and programs could certainly look to marine wildlife rehabilitation centers, educational sanctuaries, and even colleges or universities for job opportunity boards.
In general, the demand for vet techs is expected to swell in the U.S. for a number of reasons. These include new advancements being made in veterinary medicine, which require the more sophisticated skills of a vet tech as opposed to a veterinary assistant. Additionally, the pet population in the U.S. is growing, which creates an increased demand for care. Finally, as veterinarians focus on their specific responsibilities, some of their other tasks are being left to the care of trained vet techs, particularly when it comes to lab work, pet owner education, administrative duties, and other facets of regular veterinary care.
Many of the organizations needing marine vet tech care could certainly be considered remote in the sense they are away from large and dense cities. Just consider the location of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, GA; this facility needs a vet tech member on its staff to help care for sea turtles and other injured marine wildlife. Jekyll Island, though populated, is a barrier island offering 10 miles of coastal beachfront.
Marine Vet Tech Salary
Pay for various types of vet tech positions will vary across the U.S. However, existing data seems to suggest that those working as marine and aquatic vet techs could make higher-than-average salaries compared to all vet tech working nationwide. The website SimplyHired notes that marine veterinary technicians earned an annual salary of $42,247, as of October 2019. SimplyHired (2019) reported that vet techs in general (i.e., across all specialties) earned an average annual income of $32,642.
According to another source,the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) found that the average annual salary of vet techs working nationwide was $35,560. Those in the highest 10 percent earned $50,010 and higher, while those in the lowest 10 percent earned $23,490 or less. Those with advanced education and more experience could potentially earn higher wages than others.
Marine Vet Tech Job Requirements
Graduates of vet tech programs, including those wanting to specialize in aquatic or marine vet tech services, do need to become licensed, registered, or certified as vet techs, depending on their state of residence. According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), there is no society or academy which offers credentialing to marine or aquatic vet techs. Therefore, no nationwide credential exists in this subfield of the discipline.
Instead, students should be clear on understanding the general vet tech requirements in their state. Generally, graduates of an accredited vet tech program apply to take the Veterinarian Technician National Examination, a computer-based test offered through the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. A passing score is needed to be able to apply for licensing in a state. However, students may need to fulfill other licensing or credentialing requirements to be certified in their states.
Like all vet techs, graduates of marine vet tech schools will need to be excellent communicators to be able to work with various members of an animal care team. They must effectively communicate lab results or specific care procedures for recovering animals. They need to be compassionate, notes the BLS, to be able to care for weakened or sickened animals and they must be physically strong should they have to restrain an animal. (Even though many marine animals may appear small, some, like the male harbor seal, can weigh up to 375 pounds.) A vet tech employment page for Sea World confirms the need for physical strength saying that its vet techs need to assist in some procedures for injured or upset animals, which can be very difficult to handle.
Marine and aquatic vet techs may be called in to work unusual hours due to an animal emergency or because special watch or care is needed. As well, some of these vet techs will need to be available on weekends and holidays, when round-the-clock care for some injured marine animals may be necessary.
Education & Experience of Aquatic Vet Techs
Marine and aquatic vet techs generally need to complete a two-year associate of science degree to be able to seek certification and look for employment in the field. However, those wanting to work as marine or aquatic vet techs may want to look for other educational opportunities as well. For example, the Saint Petersburg College’s School of Veterinary Medicine offers a bachelor’s of science in hospital management and clinical care. After passing state requirements to become a certified vet technician (CVT), these candidates can seek employment or internships in marine or aquatic environments. These opportunities and volunteer experiences are helpful in finding work. Students of marine vet tech schools may want to look to large aquariums or marine sanctuaries for opportunities. As examples, Sea Life Park in Hawaii and the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA provide internships for students studying to be marine vet techs.