Wherever there is a veterinary clinic, there is at least one veterinary technician at work. Veterinarians absolutely need qualified, licensed professionals to help them handle large animals, execute surgeries, and even manage administrative tasks. Thus, it's clear to see that this is a career that can be found in nearly every city and town across the nation. On top of this, veterinary technicians are needed in zoos, on farms, and horse racetracks.
Veterinary technicians most often spend their days working with animals. However, they must also work with the humans that own those animals. This is an important part of animal care, since owners need to be educated as to how to ensure the best rehabilitation for their beloved pet. On top of this, veterinary technicians need to have excellent communication skills when it comes to end-of-life care for a beloved animal.
This page is dedicated to those animal lovers who wish to turn their affinity for animals into a fruitful and fulfilling career path.
What Programs Are Available for Veterinary Technology?
There are many different quality education programs available for veterinary technology. Most vet tech degree programs are found in community colleges, which offer associate degrees. There are also bachelor’s veterinary technician degree programs. Both sorts of degree programs can be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities.
Students should seek out these AVMA-accredited programs. This is because they need to be prepared to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). In fact, since the vet tech examination is so important to licensure and career success, students should only enroll in fully accredited vet tech programs.
While both bachelor’s and associate veterinary technology degree programs can be accredited and lead to licensure, students should still weigh the differences. A licensed veterinary technician with a bachelor’s degree may have an edge in the job market. During the course of their four-year degree, they could also take on a minor specialty that adds depth and breadth to their education. A veterinary technician with a bachelor’s degree can also easily apply for a master's degree and take their career to new heights.
However, an associate degree is still a terrific way to launch a career in veterinary medicine. The lower cost of tuition means that students can become licensed without breaking the bank. In fact, many states are starting to offer heavily subsidized and even free community college educations. Once licensed with a two-year degree, vet techs can gain experience and make a well-informed decision about whether to return for a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine or some other field.
What Will You Learn in Veterinary Technology?
A veterinary technology program essentially teaches students to care for animals who are suffering or otherwise in need of attention. They assist licensed veterinarians with all sorts of procedures as well as administrative tasks around the office. Thus, a vet technology degree covers a lot of ground and may be why it's preferred to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
For instance, a veterinary technology degree program will cover topics such as clinical laboratory procedures, veterinary microbiology, animal behavior, anesthesiology, surgical nursing, veterinary pharmacology, diseases, and more. Since the animal kingdom is so vast, students can potentially spend years and years studying various types of animals. However, such specialization can come later.
To launch a career in veterinary technology, students should focus on passing the VTNE and landing their first job. Those who wish to specialize in specific sorts of animal should seek out internships that provide the experience needed to start down such a specialized path. For instance, they might work under a veterinarian who makes their practice working with farm animals. On the other hand, an internship with a local zoo could expose them to work with lions, elephants, or hippos, among many other possibilities.
A standard two-year or four-year veterinary technician degree will prepare student to get their feet wet in their first entry-level position. They will understand how to operate radiology equipment, handle animals in a safe and effective manner, and conduct a range of procedures including administering vaccines, consulting pet owners on animal nutrition, and more.
While a love of animals is paramount when pursuing a career in veterinary services, certain skill sets are necessary. The job is often stressful, and that includes dealing with worried or frightened pet owners as well as the animal patients.
Flexibility is key for a vet tech. An emergency or an unexpected diagnosis can change a situation rapidly. Vet techs adapt and do what is needed.
- Attention to detail:
Organizational skills are paramount. Vet techs must keep track of clients’ treatment plan, medications, follow-up visits and other aspects of care.
Pet owners worry about their animal’s health and may have to make hard decisions. A vet tech recognizes the difficulties the owners face. In emotional situations, vet techs must remain compassionate yet calm and professional.
- Good communication skills:
Vet techs must communicate well with veterinarians and coworkers, as well as clients. Vet techs are often the ones discussing the veterinarian’s recommendations with the client and must prove able to answer questions within their capability.
- Physical stamina:
Vet tech work requires lifting and restraining animals. It’s a job where a person is on their feet much of the time and constantly busy.
Financing and Scholarships
Paying for an education is not easy. Even though some states help students with their community college education, expenses still remain. Thus, veterinary technology students have several scholarships available that will help them reduce costs and launch a career with as much financial freedom as possible.
Doyle L. Shugart Scholarship Program
This scholarship program is for students who are enrolled in an accredited veterinary technician program. In order to win the award, students need to submit an essay that describes how to assist human clients with the death of a pet. For context, this scholarship program is administered by the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematoriums.
Walkin’ Pets Veterinarian & Rehab/Vet Tech Scholarships
This scholarship fund awards $500 to veterinary technicians who are currently enrolled as full-time students in accredited programs. The application includes an essay that must respond to a series of questions that pertain to the treatment and care of disabled animals.
Washington State Association of Veterinary Technicians Scholarship
This scholarship is available to student members of WSAVT who are residents of Washington State and who are enrolled in accredited degree programs for veterinary technology. Applications require two letters of recommendation and that student have already completed one year of their education. WSAVT awards three annual scholarships of $1,000 each.
Choosing A Veterinary Technology Program
Online vs. On-Campus
There are many online and traditional on-campus degree opportunities available for students of veterinary technology. The online option might be particularly appealing to many students since they can continue working while studying in their off-hours. An ideal situation would be to work in a veterinary clinic while learning more online.
Some students may feel that a 100% online degree program is not for them, yet they still need flexibility to balance work, life, and school. These students should look for a hybrid option. While many schools don't use that specific language, most will offer a significant number of courses through their online portal. A community college, for instance, might offer courses such as college algebra, composition, or other core courses online, while still providing your major courses in-person and with all the hands-on training you need.
Whether students choose a 100% online program or a fully traditional veterinary technology program, they should all seek to engage with the material every day. This way they will remain focused and will get the maximum benefit from their education.
Job Placement Assistance
Most accredited veterinary technology programs are aimed at helping their students launch careers in veterinary medicine. Their curriculum is geared towards success on the licensing exam, the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). These accredited degree programs may also provide job placement assistance.
However, all students should ask about this prior to enrolling in a program. They should also ask whether the program offers an internship option, though this might not be available. But a job placement program could help students land entry-level, part-time jobs in veterinary offices whether they get into an internship program or not. On the other hand, some programs are intensive, and it may be more advantageous to focus on academics prior to diving into the field in those cases.
Another key question to ask pertains to the pass rate for the VTNE. Students who become licensed are far more likely to land the best jobs. Furthermore, a high pass rate on the professional examination indicates that students are learning the vital information they need to provide animals with the best care possible.
How long does it take to complete a veterinary technology program?
A veterinary technology program can take anywhere between two and four years to complete. This is because there are both associate and bachelor’s degree programs in the field. Students should seek the program that is the most comprehensive, accredited, and affordable.
Some students may take longer to complete their education. These students can take longer because they are not only learning veterinary technology in the classroom but are also working in veterinarian's offices, applying their growing knowledge in the field.
How much does a veterinary technology program cost?
The cost of a degree in veterinary technology depends on the school students choose. It also depends on whether they pursue an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. An associate degree in veterinary technology can accrue a gross cost around $13,000 and a bachelor’s degree in vet tech will likely cost approximately $30,000 from a state college or university. These figures don't include personal expenses such as housing and creature comforts, including food.
Is there specific accreditation for veterinary technology?
Yes, and this is very important. While the school should have minimum accreditation credentials from a CHEA-approved regional accreditation agency, the veterinary technology program should be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (AVMA-CVTEA).
This accreditation means that the program is geared toward preparing students for their best success in the field. These accredited programs are sure to help students pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) the first time.