The Role of Aquatic Vet Techs
April 14, 2015
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If you are interested in working with animals that live in the water, the wide range of species you can work with as a veterinary assistant, or vet tech, is astonishing.
Aquatic vet techs work in settings you might expect, including privately owned aquariums such as SeaWorld, zoos and zoological gardens. However, they are also employed in fish hatcheries, aquatic research facilities, movie sets and in the military. Beyond a two-year veterinary training program, most of an aquatic vet tech's training is on the job.
Aquatic Vet Tech Job Description
Working as an aquatic vet tech is similar in most ways to working as a vet tech in other fields. In fact, the basic tasks are essentially the same. Instead of furry feet and feathers, these specialized professionals work with flippers and fins. The following are some tasks aquatic vet techs share with colleagues in other fields:
- Operating imaging equipment such as X-ray machines;
- Keeping animal quarters clean and neat;
- Assisting the veterinary physicians during examinations and surgery;
- Conducting interviews and gathering patient histories;
- Collecting specimens for laboratory analysis and performing various analyses on them;
- Giving animals medications, whether in oral, injection or suppository form.
Even though the daily tasks performed by an aquatic vet tech are similar to those performed by vet techs elsewhere, working with marine and other aquatic animals presents a variety of unique challenges. For example, imagine trying to give a shark, whale or manta ray any type of medicine. Nevertheless, aquatic vet techs do this kind of work every day.
Becoming an Aquatic Vet Tech
If you opt to pursue a career working with creatures that live in water, the pathway is similar to that of other vet tech specialties. It begins with finding a program that best serves your needs. According to the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine, as of 2013, there is no veterinary program specifically designed for aquatic veterinary medicine at any level — from vet techs to physicians.
Because of this, going on to obtain a degree in marine biology expands your educational base. You can become a certified diver and take extra courses in aquatic subjects to further enhance your education and prospects.
In school, you will learn universal techniques. Much of your training will focus on traditional veterinary care, spent primarily caring for dogs, cats and farm animals. However, the story changes after graduation.
Another occupational pathway would be to work as a vet tech in a traditional practice after you earn your degree. Strengthen your resume by working hard and making favorable impressions. In the meantime, try to find opportunities for volunteer work in an aquatic veterinary setting. Becoming certified through such organizations as the American Association of Veterinary State Boards or the American Fisheries Society is excellent resume material.
Vet tech careers in general are expected to grow rapidly. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 2012 and 2022, the number of vet tech jobs will increase by 30 percent — nearly three times the national average. If you want to work in a medical field but not with human patients; if you don't want to work in a traditional veterinary practice and if you love the water, this could be a great career option to explore.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons