Associate and bachelor degree programs in veterinary technology can prepare graduates to assist in veterinarian's offices or research labs. It takes two years to complete an associate's degree and four years to complete a bachelor's degree, but sometimes these programs are offered as 2+2 programs, where the final two years leading to a bachelor's degree build on the credits earned through an associate degree program. A high school diploma or equivalent, as well as prerequisite coursework may be required for an associate's and bachelor's degree, and some programs may require externships.
Students wishing to become veterinarians continue their studies to earn a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Doctoral programs require relevant experience and approximately 60 credit hours of college-level coursework. Most programs require four years of study, though some colleges offer joint programs that combine undergraduate coursework with the traditional graduate curriculum.
Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology
These programs can introduce students to animal physiology and pathology, clinical procedures and medical terminology. Students in these programs are typically required to complete clinical rotations in veterinary practices. Prior to enrollment, some programs require that individuals complete classes in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer concepts, or show competency through testing.
Students in veterinary technology associate degree programs learn about the veterinary profession, including animal care, identification and bonding techniques. Required courses could include:
- Animal anatomy and physiology
- Clinical pathology
- Surgical nursing
- Radiology techniques
Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology
While an associate degree is sufficient for individuals interested in becoming veterinary technicians, aspiring technologists are typically required to complete a bachelor's degree. These programs can combine life science courses with agricultural and animal management courses. Students can learn how to identify biological processes of animals and provide animals with basic care.
In addition to general education courses in mathematics, English and science, students in veterinary technology bachelor's degree programs take courses that focus on animals and their treatment. Common courses include:
- Veterinary medical terminology
- Large animal care
- Animal welfare
- Animal health and nutrition
- Small animal care
- Radiography for veterinary professionals
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
As of 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredits 28 colleges in the United States to offer DVM degree programs (www.avma.org). To enter these programs, a bachelor's degree may not necessarily be required, but a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject, like biology, veterinary science, animal science or pre-veterinary studies could satisfy most admission requirements.
Courses in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program teach students to diagnose and treat a variety of injuries and ailments in domestic and farm animals. Popular courses include:
- Microscopic and gross anatomy
- Clinical diagnosis of animals
- Animal immunology
- Animal husbandry
- Veterinary embryology and parasitology
- Animal pharmacology
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment rates for veterinary technicians and technologists were expected to rise by 19% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). This above-average growth can be attributed to advancement in veterinary services, an expansive pet population and a growing emphasis on pet care. In 2015, the BLS reported that technicians and technologists earned a median annual salary of $31,800.
According to the BLS, veterinarians are expected to see a 9% growth in employment from 2014-2024. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $88,490 in 2015, according to the BLS.
Regulation of these professionals varies between states, but certification, registration or certification of some form is commonly required to work as a veterinary technician. Many states require these professionals to successfully complete the Veterinary Technician National Examination. Additional certification can be earned through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science for individuals interested in research.
To become licensed, veterinarians must obtain DVM degrees and receive passing grades on the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Additionally, veterinarians must pass an exam on federal rules and regulations regarding animal health care and treatment. Additional requirements may exist for specific states.
Veterinary careers are becoming increasingly popular, and the demand for these careers are creating more opportunities for veterinary assistants, veterinary technologists, and veterinarians.