What Does a Veterinary Tech Career Entail?
A veterinary technician assists veterinarians in their care of animals. Veterinary technicians perform many essential services such as caring for sick, wounded, or injured animals, preparing them for examination and treatment, and working with pet owners to explain the medical care that the animal needs. Veterinary technicians perform laboratory work like taking blood samples, urinalysis, and other contributions to veterinary diagnosis. They also perform important record keeping functions and prepare animals for treatment and diagnosis.
Veterinary technicians work in all phases of veterinary care. They assist during surgery, help with anesthesia, and help give medications and other types of care and first aid. They do not prescribe medicines, perform surgeries, or make diagnoses but they do assist the veterinarians in all these tasks.
Vocational Trade School & Career Paths
Components of A Successful Veterinary Tech Career
A veterinary technician should have a passion for working with animals. While concern for animals is not the only factor, it is one that will have a great impact on the student and work-life experience.
- Science aptitudes form the basis of veterinary work. Students and practicing technicians will work in scientific settings. The care and treatment of sick, diseased, and injured animals requires a strong foundation in the natural sciences like biology, chemistry, and veterinary science.
- Communications are also important, and this includes both verbal and written communications. Technicians must often interact with other professionals and clients. They must be able to get their ideas across to those without their training and write medical records in a readable and useful way.
- Interpersonal relations skills help technicians work efficiently with professionals and the public.
- Time management is an essential part of a successful veterinary technician career. In an office, clinic, or hospital setting, technicians may have to balance many demands.
Flexibility is a trait that contributes to success as a technician. Students and practitioners may have to learn more than one area of veterinary care. Versatility and flexibility improve career prospects and add interest to the profession.
How to Become a Veterinary Tech
- Complete high school or a GED and take courses in science, biology, and computer basics.
- Graduate from an accredited veterinary technology training program with laboratory and internship work, with hands-on training
- Pass a national exam to demonstrate knowledge.
- In states that require Licensed Veterinary Technicians, pass state exams and licensing requirements such as background checks.
What Does A Veterinary Tech Do?
The veterinary technician does as the name suggests: they handle the technical matters of the clinic or practice and allow the veterinarian to practice veterinary medicine. Veterinary diagnosis and treatment require information, tests, and observations. Technicians can make x-rays, perform laboratory analysis, and conduct specific and/or general examinations. A veterinary technician performs a role similar to a nurse or physician assistant in a human medical practice.
While most techs work with companion type pets, like cats and dogs, many technicians work with large animals like cattle and horses. Some technicians provide long-term care in outside settings. Technicians also provide valuable support services in research facilities and programs. These are all different specialties that can add to your employability or give you flexibility in the field.
What is the Difference Between Veterinary Tech Programs and Veterinary Schools?
Veterinary technician programs prepare graduates for assistance and support roles for veterinarians. They do not have training in veterinary medicines sufficient for diagnosis, surgery, and prescribing medications. Veterinary schools prepare graduates for careers as Doctors of Veterinary Medicine.
Typical Veterinary Tech Trade School Requirements
Veterinary trade schools usually ask for a high school diploma and some background in math, science, and chemistry. Students should be in good standing at the time of application and have background records that will not interfere with them being in a position of trust. Licensing states and registration states use background checks to qualify applicants.
Typical Veterinary Tech Certifications Needed
The states determine the requirements for veterinary practice in their jurisdictions, and they regulate the practice to protect the public. States tend to fall into one of three categories: licensing states, certification states, and registration states. The most demanding level is the license. Technicians must take and pass a national standard exam that tests knowledge and preparedness. The mid-level is the certification type. These states do not require a license but ask the applicant to prove their knowledge by passing a certification. The certification agencies rate and test applicants by national standards. The basic level is the registration state model. These states maintain a ledger of qualified and registered veterinary technicians.
In nearly all states, licensed, certified, and registered veterinarian technicians must maintain continuing education. Fields such as veterinary medicine change rapidly due to discovery, research, and innovation.
Academic Standards for a Veterinary Tech Degree/Certification
Veterinary technician degrees require two to four years of attendance either on campus, online, or in a program with both types of attendance. All veterinary degrees require hands-on experiences such as internships, laboratory courses, and internships. Students must have real-world exposure to working with animals.
Exam/Experience Needed for a Veterinary Tech Degree/Certification
Experience is a requirement for work and examinations in the veterinary technician field. Certification/licensing can require hundreds of hours of work experience.
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn a Veterinary Tech Degree or Certification?
Veterinary degrees require two years (Associate of Science) or four years (Bachelor of Science). Certificate programs can run from 6-18 months. Specialty certifications can take up to 24 months because they require thousands of hours of experience in the specialized field.
How much does a Veterinary Tech Trade School Degree cost?
The costs of a technical school degree will typically fall in a range of about $30,000 or less. Some will be less than $5,000. Experts compare the average costs of a four-year degree at about $160,000.
How many students graduate “on time”?
According to the NCES, the overall graduation rate for an associate degree was 30% at the three-year mark. The overall trend is towards longer attendance at every level from certificate through bachelor’s degrees. However, much of this is based on the fact that so many students now complete degrees by attending part-time, either because the are working while attending school or so they can take care of some other responsibility. If you are attending school full time and take a full course load each semester, you’ll have a better chance of graduating within the expected time frame.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) is the widely accepted accreditation agency of the field of veterinary technician. This accreditation works for further education and for federal financial student aid, loans, grants, and scholarships. Be careful of programs that claim regional or national accreditation but do not have this program-specific accreditation. Many credentialing/licensing agencies have requirements for accreditation necessary to sit for their exams. Be sure to check with the licensing agency in the state in which you plan to work before committing to a school without AVMA accreditation.
Software, Technology & Skills Needed
Depending on the specialty, veterinary technicians may require some training, education, and familiarity with computers and computerized devices. You should receive all necessary training in your veterinary program.
There’s always the possibility that the practice you work for gets a new software program or starts using mobile tech to keep track of their records while on the go, so expect to learn a new system or two, or many more, during your career.
Veterinary Tech Degree & Certification Options
Veterinary technician education has three levels; they are the certificate, the associate, and the bachelor’s degree levels. The certificate has two meanings. The entry-level document is an approximately one-year course of study that may also require a specific number of supervised practices. Another reference to certification involves specialties after completion of an associate or bachelor’s degree. These certifications can add valuable depth and versatility to the veterinary technician’s career. For example, there are certifications for emergency veterinary technicians. Emergency veterinary technology is a relatively new accreditation field.
Certificate in Veterinary Technology
This entry-level program equips graduates to work in clinical, hospital, and practice settings. The degree includes about 60 credit hours, plus an important period of hands-on experiences such as an internship or another type of workplace situation. Most students can complete an associate degree in 24 months. The below-listed items are examples coursework that may appear in one of these programs.
- Pharmacy and Pharmacology
- Surgical Preparation and Assisting
- Dentistry Procedures
- Laboratory Procedures
- Animal Nursing
- Radiography, Ultrasound, etc.
Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology
The Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology is the most common career path for veterinary technicians. Students can complete the degree in 16 to 24 months.
- Basic Animal Nursing Care
- Anesthesia Training
- Vet Anatomy and Physiology
Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Technology
The BS in Veterinary Technology is a four-year degree. It can add valuable opportunities at higher levels of pay than an associate degree. Students must weigh the costs and time required when contrasted with a two-year associate degree.
- Surgical Nursing for Animals
- Animal Diseases
- Vet Pathology
- Pharmaceutical Training
Primary Types of Veterinary Technician programs:
- Clinical Pathology Veterinary Technicians work with analysis of animal fluids to diagnose diseases and conditions.
- Clinical Practice Veterinary Technicians have specialized education and training to specialize in one or more animal species.
- Emergency & Critical Care Veterinary Technicians are part of the emerging field of emergency pet care. They apply principles of first aid and emergency veterinary medicine.
- Equine Veterinary Technicians are specially trained to work with horses and large animals.
- Internal Medicine Veterinary Technicians have specialized training to work with veterinarian specialists in internal veterinary medicine.
- Veterinary Behavior Technicians work with veterinarian specialists on a wide range of animals to help manage behavioral disorders.
- Veterinary Surgical Technicians have specialized training to work in a wide range of surgical situations to assist veterinary surgeons.
- Veterinary Technician Anesthetists help prepare animals for surgery or other invasive procedures.
- Veterinary Dental Technicians are trained in dental care for pets and animals. This is an essential part of pet care.
- Veterinary Nutrition Technicians have a specialized degree or certificate in animal nutrition. These professionals play vital roles in animal health and disease prevention.
- Zoo Veterinary Technicians must have certification by the specialized Academy of Veterinary Zoological Medicine Technicians.
Associates & Certification Cost with Range for Each
Associate degree costs are in the range of $3,500 to $7,500 per year for two years. The range is wide, and prices could be as low as $1,500 and as high as $30,000.
Typical certificate courses range from $1,500 to $3,500. Variations based on state law and varying requirements can add substantially to the costs such as in heavily regulated states like California.
Potential Careers & Salaries for Veterinary Tech Graduates
The Associate of Science Degree is the entry-level educational achievement for the field of veterinary technician.
Veterinary Tech Median Salaries by Occupation
Annual Median Salary by Occupation
|Laboratory Animal Caretakers||$26,100||$33,600||$38,300|
Veterinary Tech Trade School Scholarships
Ron Brown Scholars Program
Amount: $40,000 ($10,000 per year)
The Ron Brown Scholar program supports high-achieving students pursuing undergraduate studies at an accredited institution. The selections award high-achieving scholars that are African American or of African American descent. Their annual awards may renew in subsequent years up to a total of $40,000. The program supports applicants that demonstrate financial need and high academic achievement. The Ron Brown Scholars program emphasizes community involvement and recognition of everyone’s role in global citizenship. Eligible applicants must be high school seniors, US citizens, or have legal resident status. The award-winning students may use their four-year awards at any accredited US school, college, or university.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Deadline: February 15
Eligible applicants include high school seniors, undergraduate students at any level, and graduate students. The scholarship program focuses on Hispanic and Hispanic Heritage students. The program is competitive and uses merit-based selections. To maximize their awards, winners must demonstrate financial need. Winning graduate applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA; the requirement for undergraduates is a 2.5 GPA. Students must enroll in an accredited two-year or four-year institution.
Ora Lee Sanders – PUSH scholarship
Deadline: May 1
The Ora Lee Sanders award can go to students seeking a degree at an accredited college or university. Applicants may be eligible with any major course of study, and that can include veterinary technology. Eligible students will have a GPA of 2.5 or higher and maintain that level during the scholarship period. Winning students may apply for an additional four years of scholarship support. The Ora Lee Sanders criteria seek to award well-rounded students that demonstrate serious educational purpose along with substantial community involvement.
Professional Veterinary Tech Trade School Organizations
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America
NAVTA is a membership organization that advocates for the role of the veterinary technician. Technicians perform important roles in delivering safe and effective care for animals and working with pet owners to provide home care. NAVTA works with other veterinary medicine groups to promote education, professional standards, and better working conditions for veterinary technicians.
American Veterinary Medicine Association
AVMA is a membership and advocacy organization that serves veterinarians and veterinary medical professionals. The AVMA concerns itself with public policy on animal and human health. They maintain advocacy on national issues with congress and the national government. Students will benefit from networking and opportunities for internship and volunteer positions available from the organization. Veterinarians, veterinary professionals, and students can participate in association benefit programs including liability, life, and disability insurance.
Academy of Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Technicians and Nurses
This organization promotes the specialization of animal emergency care for technicians. The association represents technicians and nurses in the veterinary medicine fields. AVECCT certifies veterinary technicians as Veterinary Technician Specialists in Emergency and Critical Care. This valuable credential supports the technician’s education, experience, and specialized skills.
Choosing an Accredited Veterinary Tech Vocational School
Accreditation, along with practical experience, is a vital part of a complete training program. The most widely accepted accreditation is from the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA). The group’s committee on Veterinary Education and Activities sets standards for veterinary technician education all over the US; the committee reviews school curriculum to ensure complete coverage of the knowledge needed to perform as expected in real-world settings of clinics and veterinary practices. Accreditation is also essential for funding an education. US Department of Education financial aid can only go to accredited schools and colleges. Accreditation may be the key to student financing of this valuable veterinary technician degree.
Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid
Today’s education is costly whether received in a college, community college, or vocational setting; post-secondary education comes at a substantial price. When students look for ways to save on education, they often consider a community college for lower rates than a college or university. Students can also consider attending a two or four-year program fully or partially online. The types of education available are the traditional on-campus learning, the fully online type, and a mix of on-campus and online work called a hybrid program.
Online learning increases access to education for people that prefer not to leave home. Except for the need to carry out an internship, practicum, or other type of hands-on experience, students can pursue a veterinary technician degree entirely online. Online schools can often arrange for an internship or other type of work placement near the student’s home.
Does the Vocational School Have Post Graduate Job Placement Assistance?
University Headquarters strongly recommends that students look carefully at the type and amount of resources that schools provide to help student careers. The student’s school or college is in an ideal position to prepare the student for the first job with counseling, resume assistance, and employer outreach. When schools provide effective resources, students get exposure to a wider range of opportunities and higher salary opportunities.
Why Do You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the School and The Effects on Your Career or Salary?
School rankings rely upon factors that interest employers, such as the graduation rate, average salary of graduates, and retention rate. The presence of these factors suggests that the school selects top students, prepares them well, and promotes their careers. Highly ranked schools have reputations that many employers consider favorably when making selections between job candidates.