Veterinary Majors and Undergraduate Degree Programs

While becoming a veterinarian requires a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine, undergraduate degree programs can prepare individuals to work as technicians or technologists. Find out about what's taught in associate and bachelor's degree programs in veterinary technology or science. Get information on licensure and salary information.

Essential Information

Students interested in learning how to care for animals can pursue several types of undergraduate degrees and majors. Associate (2-year) and bachelor's (4-year) degree programs in veterinary technology are available to those students interested in pursuing jobs as veterinary technologists or technicians. In addition to lecture-based classes, students typically complete hands-on practical experiences in veterinary hospitals or school-based veterinary facilities. 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.

Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology

Associate degree programs in veterinary technology can take up to five semesters to complete. Program requirements often include clinical and laboratory sessions in addition to internships. Over the course of these programs, 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.

Education Prerequisites

Admission to these programs can be highly competitive. Students typically need a high school diploma or GED. They must also meet minimum GPA requirements in prerequisite biology and animal health courses. Some schools require applicants to also pass an exam that measures their aptitude for health care careers, while others prefer applicants who have some experience in the veterinary field.

Course Topics

Students in veterinary technology associate degree programs usually take a handful of chemistry and biology courses. The remaining curricula focus on the care of small and large animals. Topics of discussion can include the following:

  • Veterinary anatomy
  • Animal anesthesia
  • Small animal medicine
  • Veterinary radiology
  • Clinical pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Large animal nursing
  • Veterinary surgery
  • Animal nutrition

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 79,870 veterinary technologists and technicians - between which the BLS does not differentiate in salary information - worked in the United States as of May 2010 ( Most of these individuals earned between $9.85 and $21.17 per hour or $20,500-$44,030 annually. The BLS projected that employment opportunities for these professionals would increase 36% between 2008 and 2018.

Professional Licensure 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 will need to complete an educational program approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association before sitting for this exam.

Bachelor's Degree in Veterinary Technology

Much of the curricula for veterinary technology bachelor's degree programs is similar to that of associate degree programs; students take lecture and laboratory courses to gain hands-on experience working with animals. However, students enrolled in these 4-year degree programs can also take advanced coursework to explore such topics as veterinary practice management, emergency medicine or equine medicine. Some programs even offer clerkships in a specialty area like surgery or animal anesthesia.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants will need at least a GED or high school diploma. They might also need to complete prerequisite general education courses that include topics in math and biology. An associate degree in veterinary technology is required for admission to some bachelor's degree programs.

Program Coursework

Bachelor's degree programs in veterinary technology usually include quite a few biology and math courses. Managerial courses that cover marketing and supervision can also be included alongside electives in aquarium science, neuroscience and histology. Some common course topics are listed below:

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

Popular Career Options

Students with a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology can find jobs as veterinary technologists in private practices. Their training can also prepare them for research careers with labs and food manufacturers. Some other potential employers include the following:

  • Veterinary equipment suppliers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Veterinary specialty hospitals

Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Science

Veterinary science bachelor's degree programs are typically for students who would like to prepare 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. Applicants will need a high school diploma or GED for admission.

Course Topics

These programs usually include science courses rather than the small and large animal medicine courses found in veterinary technology programs, though students might be able to take electives in topics such as livestock and beef cattle management. Common courses are listed below:

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

Popular Careers

A 4-year degree in veterinary science can prepare students for research careers with biomedical and hospital laboratories. Careers in the agricultural and food processing industries are also available. Sample job titles include the following:

  • Clinical laboratory technician
  • Animal scientist
  • Animal nutritionist
  • Health inspector

Continuing Education and Licensing Information

Graduates of veterinary science bachelor's degree programs can pursue a 4-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). 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, according to the BLS.

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