Veterinary Majors and Undergraduate Degree Programs

Undergraduate programs prepare individuals to work as veterinary technicians or technologists, as well as for entry to veterinary school, where they can earn the doctoral degree needed to become a veterinarian.

Essential Information

Students interested in learning how to care for animals can pursue several types of undergraduate degrees and majors. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in veterinary technology provide training as a veterinary technologist or technician. Graduates of these programs are usually prepared for professional certification. Prospective veterinarians can enroll in 4-year veterinary science programs, which include all the necessary prerequisites for veterinary school admission.

  • Prerequisites: Both associate's and bachelor's degrees: high school diploma or GED, background in biology and math; some bachelor's programs require an associate's degree in veterinary technology
  • Program Length: 2 years for an associate's degree; 4 years for bachelor's degree
  • Experiential Learning: Practical experience in veterinary hospitals or other veterinary facilities is typical

Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology

Associate degree programs in veterinary technology can take up to five semesters to complete. Program requirements include clinical and lab sessions in addition to internships. Students learn to perform physical exams on animals, administer medication, draw blood samples and care for wounds. They can also learn how to prepare animals for surgery and provide postoperative care. Courses usually include chemistry and biology, as well as the following:

  • Veterinary anatomy
  • Animal anesthesia
  • Small and large animal medicine
  • Veterinary radiology and surgery
  • Clinical pathology
  • Animal nutrition

Bachelor's Degree in Veterinary Technology

A veterinary technology bachelor's degree program is similar to that of associate degree programs; students take lecture and lab courses to gain hands-on experience working with animals. However, bachelor's students can also take advanced courses in veterinary practice management, emergency medicine or equine medicine. Some programs even offer clerkships in a specialty area like surgery or animal anesthesia. Students take required courses like biology, math, marketing, and supervision, along with electives such as aquarium science, neuroscience and histology. Other common course topics are:

  • Small and large animal nursing
  • Veterinary medical terminology
  • Animal behavior
  • Veterinary dentistry
  • Animal diseases

Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Science

Veterinary science bachelor's degree programs are typically for students who are preparing for veterinary school. Some schools also offer microbiology or biomedical options to students interested in pursuing research careers. Regardless of the degree track, students spend much of their time in these programs studying biology and chemistry. Veterinary science programs feature science courses rather than the small and large animal medicine courses found in veterinary technology programs, although students may be able to take electives in topics such as livestock and beef cattle management. Common courses are:

  • Organic chemistry
  • Animal genetics
  • Veterinary anatomy and physiology
  • Cellular biology
  • Animal pathology
  • Biochemistry

Popular Career Options

An associate's or bachelor's degree in veterinary technology is applicable for veterinary technician and technologist jobs. Grads may also be eligible for research careers with labs and food manufacturers. Other potential employers include veterinary equipment suppliers, pharmaceutical companies, and veterinary specialty hospitals. In addition to preparing graduates for veterinary school, a 4-year degree in veterinary science can provide the training needed for research careers with biomedical and hospital laboratories. Careers in the agricultural and food processing industries are also available. Job titles might include clinical laboratory technician, animal scientist, animal nutritionist, and health inspector.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 93,300 veterinary technologists and technicians - between which the BLS does not differentiate in salary information - worked in the United States as of May 2014 ( Their average salary was about $32,350. The BLS projected that employment opportunities for these professionals would increase 30% between 2012 and 2022.

Continuing Education and Licensing Information

The practice of veterinary technologists and technicians is regulated in most states, according to the BLS. While certification, licensure or registration requirements vary from one jurisdiction to the next, this process typically involves passing the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Students must complete an educational program approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association before sitting for this exam.

Graduates of veterinary science bachelor's programs can pursue a 4-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. Students complete rotations in such areas as veterinary surgery, radiology and anesthesia. These programs also prepare graduates to meet state licensing requirements for veterinarians, which include passing scores on the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination.

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