Labor market characteristics of veterinary technician specialists in 2007

Christopher L. Norkus School of Veterinary Medicine, Ross University, Basseterre, St Kitts, West Indies.

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Abstract

Objective—To determine labor market characteristics of veterinary technician specialists (VTSs) during 2007 and identify characteristics significantly related to pay.

Design—Survey.

Sample Population—163 VTSs.

Procedures—A 21-question, multiple-choice survey was sent in early May 2008 to all individuals (n = 345) who had been certified as VTSs and for whom an e-mail address could be identified.

Results—Weighted mean pay rate for respondents was $23.48/h. Pay rate was significantly associated with practice type, whether the respondent had a supervisory or management position, duration of experience as a VTS, duration of experience as a veterinary technician, and duration of employment with the current employer. Pay rate was not significantly associated with age, gender, highest academic degree, geographic region, area of practice (ie, urban vs suburban vs rural), or academy of which the respondent was a member.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Traditional human capital variables such as work experience and job tenure were significantly related to pay rate for VTSs.

Abstract

Objective—To determine labor market characteristics of veterinary technician specialists (VTSs) during 2007 and identify characteristics significantly related to pay.

Design—Survey.

Sample Population—163 VTSs.

Procedures—A 21-question, multiple-choice survey was sent in early May 2008 to all individuals (n = 345) who had been certified as VTSs and for whom an e-mail address could be identified.

Results—Weighted mean pay rate for respondents was $23.48/h. Pay rate was significantly associated with practice type, whether the respondent had a supervisory or management position, duration of experience as a VTS, duration of experience as a veterinary technician, and duration of employment with the current employer. Pay rate was not significantly associated with age, gender, highest academic degree, geographic region, area of practice (ie, urban vs suburban vs rural), or academy of which the respondent was a member.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Traditional human capital variables such as work experience and job tenure were significantly related to pay rate for VTSs.

In 1994, the NAVTA created the Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties to respond to a perceived need for the development of veterinary technician specialty organizations. Since that time, the NAVTA has developed guidelines to assist groups petitioning for recognition as veterinary technician specialty academies and been recognized by the AVMA as the body that oversees the development of veterinary technician academies. The AVECCT was the first recognized veterinary technician academy and administered its first VTS certifying examination to 26 candidates in September 1998. Since that time, 3 other veterinary technician academies have been recognized. The AVTA was officially recognized by the NAVTA in January 1999 and held its first examination in 2002, the AVDT was granted provisional recognition by the NAVTA in November 2002 and held its first examination in June 2006, and the AIMVT was granted provisional recognition in March 2006 and held its first examination in June 2008. Recognized subspecialties of the AIMVT currently include small animal medicine, large animal medicine, cardiology, neurology, and oncology. Individuals completing the certification process for any of the 4 veterinary technician academies receive the designation of VTS.

Although the specific qualifications required to obtain the VTS designation are well-defined by each of the academies, little information exists on additional pay or employment benefits individuals receive as a result of obtaining the VTS designation or on employment characteristics of VTSs. The purpose of the study reported here, therefore, was to determine labor market characteristics of VTSs during 2007 and identify characteristics significantly related to pay.

Materials and Methods

Study design—In early May 2008, a 5-page, 21-question, multiple-choice surveya was sent to all individuals (n = 345) who had been certified as VTSs and for whom an e-mail address could be identified. Surveys were e-mailed from each VTS academy and included a letter from the academy president requesting membership participation. Recipients were informed of the purpose of the study, but were blinded to the researcher's identity. In the body of the e-mail, survey recipients were instructed to consider their primary form of employment as a VTS when answering each question, to select the most appropriate answer for each question, and to answer all 21 questions. Additionally, they were instructed that individual responses and contact information would remain confidential. Participants were requested to complete the survey by May 31, 2008, and forward the completed survey to an anonymous e-mail address maintained by the author.

Statistical analysis—Descriptive statistics were calculated for all respondents as a whole and for respondents grouped on the basis of veterinary technician academy. The χ2 test was used to test for associations between wage rate category (ie, $10 to $20/h, $21 to $25/h, $26 to $30/h, and ≥ $31/h) and various demographic and employment attributes, including age (ie, 26 to 35 years, 36 to 45 years, and 46 to 55 years), gender (male vs female), duration of employment (0 to 5 years, 6 to 10 years, and ≥ 11 years), degree (associate's, bachelor's, master's, or none of the preceding), practice group (academic, private, or other), management or supervisor position (yes vs no), duration of experience as a veterinary technician (0 to 10 years, 11 to 15 years, 16 to 20 years, 21 to 25 years, and ≥ 26 years), duration of experience as a VTS (0 to 1 year, 2 to 3 years, 4 to 5 years, 6 to 10 years, and ≥ 11 years), region (Midwest, northeast, south, west, and outside the United States), and area (city, rural, and suburbia). Multivariate analyses were not performed because of the small sample size. All analyses were performed with standard software.b Values of P < 0.05 were considered significant.

Results

A total of 163 surveys were returned by the May 31, 2008, deadline, representing a response rate of 47% (163/345). Of the 163 respondents, 12 (7.4%) were members of the ADVT, 10 (6.1%) were members of the AIMVT, 91 (55.8%) were members of the AVECCT, 36 (22.1%) were members of the AVTA, and 14 (8.6%) were members of both the AVECCT and the AVTA (3.7%; n = 6) or both the AVECCT and the AIMVT (4.9%; 8). Overall, 6.8% (12/177) of the respondents were members of the ADVT, 10.2% (18/177) were members of the AIMVT, 59.3% (105/177) were members of the AVECCT, and 23.7% (42/177) were members of the AVTA (for these calculations, the 14 individuals who were members of 2 academies were counted twice).

Of the 163 respondents, 153 (93.9%) were female and 10 (6.1%) were male. Most respondents were between 26 and 35 years old (65/163 [39.9%]) or between 36 and 45 years old (64/163 [39.3%]). Thirty-nine of the 163 (23.9%) respondents were from the Midwest, 48 (29.4%) were from the northeastern United States, 21 (12.9%) were from the southern United States, 38 (23.3%) were from the western United States, and 17 (10.4%) were from outside the United States. Most respondents (87/163 [53.4%]) indicated that they worked in a city, whereas 62 (38%) indicated they worked in a suburban location, and 14 (8.6%) indicated they worked in a rural location.

When asked to indicate the highest academic degree they had earned, most respondents (87/163 [53.4%]) indicated an associate's degree, whereas 54 (33.1%) reported having a bachelor's degree, and 7 (4.3%) reported having a master's degree. Fifteen (9.2%) respondents reported that they had not earned an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree; 9 of these 15 individuals worked outside the United States. When asked to describe their place of employment, most respondents (73/163 [44.8%]) reported working for a private referral or specialty practice or at an academic or university-based teaching hospital (66/163 [40.5%]). In addition, 10 (6.1%) reported working in a private general practice, 3 (1.8%) reported working for a pharmaceutical company, and 1 (0.6%) reported working for a research company. The remaining 10 (6.1%) respondents selected a response of other.

Forty-nine of 162 (30.2%) respondents reported having been a veterinary technician for 6 to 10 years, 41 (25.3%) reported having been a veterinary technician for 11 to 15 years, and 69 (42.6%) reported having been a veterinary technician for ≥ 16 years. Only 3 (1.9%) reported having been a veterinary technician for ≤ 5 years. When asked how long they had been a VTS, 41 of the 163 (25.2%) respondents reported ≤ 1 year, 55 (33.7%) reported 2 to 3 years, 23 (14.1%) reported 4 to 5 years, 34 (20.9%) reported 6 to 10 years, and 10 (6.1%) reported ≥ 11 years. Most (77/162 [47.5%]) respondents reported working 41 to 50 h/wk, on average, or 31 to 40 h/wk (67/162 [41.4%]). Seventy-nine of 162 (48.8%) respondents indicated that their position was that of a manager or supervisor.

Most respondents (126/163 [77.3%]) reported not receiving a 1-time bonus when they achieved VTS certification. Of the 37 (22.7%) that did receive a bonus, 14 (37.8%) received ≤ $500, 9 (24.3%) received between $501 and $1,000, and 7 (18.9%) received ≥ $3,000, with the remaining 7 (18.9%) receiving between $1,001 and $3,000. Eighty-seven of the 163 (53.4%) respondents indicated that their pay rate was not increased as a direct result of achieving VTS certification.

A total of 162 respondents indicated their pay rate, with 65 (40.1%) reporting that they earned between $21 and $25/h, 52 (32.1%) reporting that they earned between $16 and $20/h, 41 (25.4%) reporting that they earned between $26 and $45/h, 3 (1.9%) reporting that they earned between $10 and $15/h, and 1 (0.6%) reporting earning ≥ $46/h. Weighting the midpoint of each wage range by the proportion of respondents in that category, mean ± SD pay rate was calculated as $23.48 ± $6.13/h.

To test for associations between pay rate and various demographic and employment attributes, it was necessary to recategorize pay rate data into fewer groups to ensure adequate cell sizes. Categories used for analyses consisted of $10 to $20/h (55/162 [34.0%]), $21 to $25/h (65/162 [40.1%]), $26 to $30/h (24/162 [14.8%]), and ≥ $31/h (18/162 [11.1%]). Age (P = 0.257), gender (P = 0.212), highest academic degree (P = 0.394), geographic region (P = 0.077), area of practice (ie, urban vs suburban vs rural; P = 0.984), and academy of which the respondent was a member (P = 0.072) were not significantly associated with pay rate.

When duration of employment with the current employer was recategorized as ≤ 5 years (68/154 [44.2%]), 6 to 10 years (45/154 [29.2%]), and ≥ 11 years (41/154 [26.6%]) for individuals who reported both duration of employment and pay rate, there was a significant (P = 0.025) association between duration of employment with the current employer and pay rate. Mean pay rate was $22.68/h for individuals who had been with the same employer for ≤ 5 years, $22.36/h for individuals who had been with the same employer for 6 to 10 years, and $26.42/h for individuals who had been with the same employer for ≥ 11 years.

Pay rate was also significantly (P = 0.006) associated with practice type. Weighted mean pay rate was $27.59/h for individuals who worked for a pharmaceutical company or indicated other type of employment, $23.98/h for individuals who reported working at an academic or university-based teaching hospital, and $22.45/h for individuals who reported working for a private referral or specialty practice or private general practice.

There was a significant (P < 0.001) association between pay rate and whether respondents had a supervisory or management position (yes vs no). Weighted mean pay rate was $25.40/h for individuals who had supervisory or management duties and $21.64/h for those without.

Pay rate was significantly (P = 0.012) associated with duration of experience as a veterinary technician, with pay rate increasing as duration of experience as a veterinary technician increased. Similarly, pay rate was also significantly (P < 0.001) associated with duration of experience as a VTS, with pay rate increasing as duration of experience as a VTS increased (Figure 1).

Figure 1—
Figure 1—

Weighted mean hourly pay rate for VTSs (n = 162) grouped on the basis of duration of experience as a VTS. Error bars represent SD. Pay rate increased significantly (P < 0.001) as duration of experience as a VTS increased.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 235, 11; 10.2460/javma.235.11.1303

Of the 158 respondents who provided information on vacation time, most (111/158 [70.3%]) reported receiving ≥ 3 weeks of paid time off yearly, with 41 (25.9%) reporting receiving 2 weeks of paid time off yearly and 6 (3.8%) reporting receiving 1 week of paid time off yearly. Vacation time was significantly (P < 0.001) associated with duration of employment.

Overall, 162 respondents provided information on amount of money they received each year for continuing education. The largest portion of respondents (43/162 [26.5%]) reported receiving between $250 and $500/y from their employer for continuing education (Figure 2). Amount of support for continuing education was significantly (P = 0.022) associated with duration of employment. Mean yearly continuing education allowance was $829 for individuals who had been with the same employer for ≤ 5 years, $650 for individuals who had been with the same employer for 6 to 10 years, and $909 for individuals who had been with the same employer for ≥ 11 years.

Figure 2—
Figure 2—

Percentages of VTSs (n = 162) that reported receiving various amounts each year for continuing education and cumulative percentage that received monetary support for continuing education.

Citation: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 235, 11; 10.2460/javma.235.11.1303

Most respondents (91/161 [56.5%]) indicated that they had not presented lectures at conferences. Seventy individuals reported that they had presented lectures at conferences and provided information on compensation. Of these, 41 (58.6%) reported being paid ≥ $101/h while lecturing. Thirty-four (48.6%) reported that their travel expenses were completely paid, and 22 (31.4%) reported that their travel expenses were partially paid. Twenty-four (34.3%) reported that their living expenses were completely paid, and 31 (44.3%) reported that their living expenses were partially paid.

Discussion

Requirements for certification as a VTS vary among the veterinary technician specialty academies. However, all academies require that candidates have credentials to practice as a veterinary technician, obtain postgraduate training through clinical training within the field of specialization (eg, 5,760 hours exclusively in the field of emergency and critical care for certification by the AVECCT), obtain continuing education within the specialty (eg, 40 hours of continuing education for certification by the AVTA), and document proficiency in advanced nursing skills. In addition, candidates typically are required to provide letters of recommendation, multiple case reports, and case logs and to document that they are in good standing with professional organizations. Only those candidates who meet these requirements are eligible to take the certifying examination, and only those who pass the certifying examination are awarded the VTS designation.

Response rate in the present study was 47% (163/345), and although we can not formally compare characteristics of respondents and nonrespondents, respondents appeared to be broadly representative of the VTS population. Most respondents were female, as is the case for most graduates of veterinary technician programs, and most were younger, suggesting that obtaining certification as a VTS is an attractive option for newer graduates. Surveys were returned by VTSs from all parts of the United States and by individuals residing outside the United States as well.

Because most AVMA-recognized veterinary technology programs lead to an associate's or bachelor's degree, it was not surprising that 87% (141/163) of respondents held one of these degrees. The 15 individuals who reported that they had not earned an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree likely had obtained their status as a credentialed technician through on the job training or held a different degree awarded by an institution outside the United States. Although 7 (4.3%) respondents reported having a master's degree, it was unclear whether these individuals had obtained this degree before or after receiving VTS certification or whether the degree pertained to their role as a VTS.

Although most respondents in the present study reported not having received a 1-time bonus when they achieved VTS certification, 76 (46.6%) indicated that their pay rate was increased as a direct result of achieving VTS certification. This suggests that there may be a financial benefit to achieving VTS status for some individuals. However, further study is needed to compare pay rates of VTSs with rates for veterinary technicians with similar experience.

In the present study, all but 2 respondents reported having been a veterinary technician for ≥ 6 years. Additional study is needed to determine whether there is a relationship between becoming a VTS and job satisfaction, although intuitively it appears there would be.

Mean ± SD pay rate for respondents in the present study was $23.48 ± $6.13/h. By contrast, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean wage for veterinary technicians during 2007 was $13.90/h and the median wage was $13.45/h.1 However, the bureau's classification of veterinary technicians likely contained both credentialed and noncredentialed veterinary technicians and, potentially, VTSs as well.

Overall, results of the present study suggested that the typical VTS was a woman between 26 and 45 years old who worked for a private practice in an urban area in the United States, had been a veterinary technician for 6 to 10 years, and had been a VTS for 2 to 3 years. Mean pay rate was $23.48/h, with most respondents working 31 to 50 h/wk. The typical VTS did not receive a 1-time bonus or pay raise for achieving VTS certification, received 3 weeks of paid time off yearly, and received between $250 and $500/y from their employer for continuing education.

ABBREVIATIONS

AIMVT

Academy of Internal Medicine Veterinary Technicians

AVDT

Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians

AVECCT

Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians

AVTA

Academy of Veterinary Technician Anesthetists

NAVTA

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

VTS

Veterinary technician specialist

a.

Copies of the survey are available from the author on request.

b.

Stata Statistical Software, release 10.0, Stata Corp, College Station, Tex.

References

1.

Occupational employment statistics, May 2007. National occupational employment and wage estimates. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site. Available at: www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#b29-0000. Accessed Feb 20, 2009.

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