What is dog flu?

Want to be a veterinary nurse? Here's what you need to know

From your childhood Halloween costume all the way to the day you decide on a college major, plenty of people seesaw between nurse and veterinarian. But what if you could incorporate both into a single career path?

» Not just for patients: Nurses and the healing power of pet therapy

Veterinary nursing has some perks, particularly if you love animals and also want to be in the medical field. But like any job that includes "nurse" in the title, it also has its drawbacks. If combining nursing and caring for animals seems like a good fit, consider these pluses and minuses:

You get to work with pets and other animals.

Vet nurses help licensed veterinarians treat sick and injured animals in clinics and animal hospitals, especially by performing injections, administering anesthesia and assisting with surgery. You may help with a certain amount of preventive care, too. Some veterinary nurses work at large animal hospitals and visit outlying farms to help treat horses, cows and other farm animals. If you love animals and are dedicated to serving them, this could be a good career choice. 

You'll interact with lots of humans, too.

If you're an introvert seeking a veterinary nursing career as a means of practicing medicine without encountering humans, beware. A large portion of any veterinary career is spent dealing with human pet owners and co-workers, from discussing potential treatments to calming them during pet emergencies to greeting and waving goodbye. There's a fair percentage of tending dogs and cats, but the soothing and interactions are just as likely to involve humans, not cuddly animals. And your duties may involve far more cleaning and assisting in surgery on unconscious animals than petting and chatting up perfectly groomed Golden Doodles.

All veterinary fields are experiencing rapid growth.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinary jobs are having a moment. It projects all veterinary occupations growing by 19 percent from 2016 to 2026, almost three times faster than other occupations. So, like most nursing positions, you'll be able to find work and maybe even have your choice of jobs. The reasons driving the increased employment opportunities include more people owning pets, the aging of the pet population and an increase in technology geared to treating animals.

The income for vet nurses is just so-so.

Veterinary nursing is never going to rank among the top-paying nursing jobs, though it can provide a living wage. According to PayScale, the average hourly pay for a veterinary nurse is $15.42

Some vet nurses start as young as age 18.

If you're wanting to jump right into a nursing profession, know that some vet nurses start right out of high school in states that don't require formal credentials. 

Distance learning is one way to get certified as a veterinary nurse.

According to Career Trend, the requirements for becoming a veterinary nurse vary from state to state but usually require some formal training. "Complete a two-year associate degree in veterinary technology from a community college with a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA," it advised. "Graduating from an accredited program allows you to take the exam to become a credentialed veterinary technician." The great news: the AVMA lists five accredited schools that offer distance learning for veterinary technology.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.