Let’s begin with an obvious truth: Veterinary Technicians are a vital part of the veterinary healthcare industry. Just ask any Roo vet:
I literally couldn’t do my job without technicians. They are indispensable.”Dr. Eileen Hellickson, DVM
Behind every good veterinarian is a great vet tech!”Dr. Sajini Guntur, DVM
This National Veterinary Technician Week, we want to ask the hard question: are we appreciating our veterinary technicians enough? This is a complicated question with so much to explore. So today, we’re just going to focus on one key aspect: vet tech salary.
Are we paying vet techs enough?
Sure, no one goes into vet med for the money, but money can make a big difference when it comes to quality of life and one’s ability to buy a home, build a family, or achieve other financial goals.
Money can also become a source of anxiety as one’s income approaches the cost of living, which is the case for many veterinary technicians. Too many veterinary technicians are living paycheck to paycheck, and this is all the proof we need that we could be doing more as an industry.
So, let’s start by answering the big question:
How much does a veterinary technician make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, the average vet tech salary was $40,770 per year, which breaks down to an average hourly wage of $19.60 per hour.
If these numbers are a little bit shocking to you, they should be. Veterinary Technicians are medical professionals with two to four years of specialized education, who are performing medical procedures. And when you put these numbers next to the Living Wage, you get some serious context that should come as a wake up call.
Vet Tech Salary vs. Living Wage by State
Keep in mind with all the following data, the living wages (which come from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator) are for a family of one: the veterinary technician themself. If you throw a partner and children into the mix, these numbers start to get more dire.
The top three states for vet tech salary are Washington, California, and New York. In Washington, vet techs earn on average $24.85 an hour, which is $5 more than the $19.85 living wage for a family of one. Great! Veterinary technicians in California and New York are also relatively well compensated with hourly wages of $24.02 and $23.98 respectively. However, both states have a higher cost of living, which negates some of this benefit.
Remember, this data is all relative and based on averages, it doesn’t necessarily reflect personal experience. I know firsthand how expensive home prices are in California; it may not feel like you’re in the #2 state for tech wages if you’re struggling to save for your first home or start a family. For two working adults with one child, the California living wage jumps to $23.81, which is basically level with the average tech wage for that state. Thinking of having two children? Now, that living wage leaps to $30.06!
Still, some states don’t have it nearly as good as the West Coast, and tech salaries in Texas are particularly troubling. The average hourly rate for a vet tech in Texas is $16.18, but the living wage for a single adult in that same state is $16.79. This means technicians in Texas are not making a living wage, and this is despite the fact that vet techs in Texas are title protected and must be licensed. Furthermore, more veterinary technicians are employed in Texas than any other state, estimated at 13,230. This is more than 3,000 more vet techs than the next closest state, California.
Vet Tech Salary vs. Living Wage by City
Statewide comparisons give the big picture, but the reality is most of us live in cities, where the living wage can differ greatly from city to city and the more rural areas of the state. So let’s take a more granular look at the cities we live in.
Again, the Pacific Northwest continues to offer the highest tech wages. This is not surprising given how averages work.
If you’re a vet tech living in San Jose, congratulations! Techs in San Jose make an average of $29.38, which is the highest average hourly rate in the country, though cost of living is also very high at $26.20. San Francisco is not far behind with techs earning around $27.76 hourly, about $4 per hour over the living wage. Seattle is up there too at $25.88/hour, also about $4 over the living wage. All of these wages, you’ll notice, are much higher than the average for the state they’re in, which means vet techs living outside these major metro areas may be making substantially less.
For the two largest cities in the US, New York City and Los Angeles, vet tech earnings are still very high at $24.20 and $23.34, but the living wage is much higher here, which is where people can start to feel squeezed.
Veterinary technicians in Texas may find themselves in even more dire situations at the city level. Vet techs in Dallas make $16.65 an hour on average versus a $17.78 cost of living, which is a staggering gap in the wrong direction. Houston has some of the lowest paid Licensed Veterinary Technicians in the country with an average salary of $16.36 an hour, well under the Houston living wage of $17.06.
Boston techs find themselves in a unique position: Here, vet techs can expect to earn $21.62 per hour, which is above the national average, but the cost of living is exceptionally high at $22.59. Techs here may feel like they’re struggling to get by despite having a salary on the higher end of the vet tech spectrum.
In fact, Boston techs are actually further away from their local living wage than Houston techs.
Boston serves as a crucial example showing how everyone’s experience is unique. This story would be completely lost looking at vet tech wages without context, which it’s why it’s important to not just look at averages. Numbers don’t tell the whole story. We need to be thinking in terms of people: Every veterinary technician is a passionate, educated professional critical to animal healthcare in the cities they live in, and when they hang up their scrubs at the end of a shift, they need to make a life for themselves in those cities.
What does it all mean?
These living wages include things like food, healthcare, housing, transportation, taxes, and basic needs. For vet techs in Houston, Dallas, Boston, and other cities across the country, it may feel like you’re just scraping by or even struggling to stay afloat. This could manifest in ways such as struggling to pay rent, having to get creative to keep down food costs, and being unable to afford medical bills for your own pets despite being a vet med professional.
Let us loudly proclaim: no medical professional should have to resort to the Cup o’ Noodles college diet. And for the love of cats and dogs, vet techs at least deserve to be able to afford the very services they provide to their own clients.
Don’t forget, many technicians, much like veterinarians, have student loans they have to pay off month after month. In states where technicians are required to be registered/licensed/certified, they have to meet CE requirements, which can also be an added annual expense unless you stick to free events offered by Roo and other organizations.
These financial pressures can take a toll on people, both in terms of mental health and in the way their actual lives play out. If someone’s struggling to afford basic needs, they may put off major life events like getting married, buying a home, or starting a family.
So what’s the solution?
How much does a relief vet tech make?
One way to make more money as a veterinary technician is to try relief work. Vet techs can supplement their income by working relief shifts when they have time. We’re usually banging the work-life balance drum, but if you find yourself struggling to make a living wage, doing what you do best one extra shift a month may be a good option.
Roo keeps it flexible with no monthly minimum shift requirements and no fees to stay on our platform, so every tech is free to use Roo as much or as little as they like. That’s the whole point: Roo’s there when you need us, and relief work is what you make of it.
Wages informed by the cities techs live in
So how much does a RELIEF vet tech make? We can’t speak for other relief services, but at Roo, we use Dynamic Pricing that specifically takes into account your home city, so you can expect shift rates to go up if you’re living in one of the more expensive cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York City.
In fact, you can often find above average hourly rates on our platform. Relief technicians are in high demand so hospitals will often pay higher hourly rates. Take a look at the Roo shift map and see what’s out there in your area. As of the writing of this article, NYC, Los Angeles, and Chicago, Roo’s currently offering shifts paying hourly rates well above the city-wide average (*Please note: Due to the dynamic nature of our pricing, rates are always changing and can’t be guaranteed).
Looking to raise your vet tech salary? Look no further than relief work, where you can get paid more to work whenever you want.
Let’s show our Vet Tech appreciation!
So how can we show our appreciation for our techs this National Veterinary Technician Week? Let’s pay them more. Seriously, it’s a no-brainer. No one would ever doubt how important veterinary technicians are, so why should even just one tech have to live paycheck to paycheck? They went to college for this and are performing medical procedures daily.
Let’s fix this. Give your techs a raise.