Veterinary Training Programs and Requirements

Veterinarians are responsible for diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries in animals. Veterinary technologists and technicians assist veterinarians in these tasks.

Essential Information

Associate and bachelor degree programs in veterinary technology can prepare graduates to assist in veterinarian's offices or research labs. Students wishing to become veterinarians continue their studies to earn a doctorate in veterinary medicine.

  • Program Levels in Veterinary Training: Associate's Degrees, bachelor's degrees, doctorate degrees
  • Prerequisites: A high school diploma or equivalent, as well as prerequisite coursework may be required for a associate's and bachelor's degree. Doctorate programs require relevant experience and approximately 60 credit hours of college-level coursework.
  • Program Length: 2 years for associate, 4 years for a bachelor's or 2 years with bachelor's+associate
  • Other Requirements: Some programs may require externships

Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology

These programs can introduce students to animal physiology and pathology, clinical procedures and medical terminology. Students in these 2-year programs are typically required to complete clinical rotations in veterinary practices. Graduates of these programs are qualified to obtain entry-level employment in veterinary offices. Prior to enrollment, some programs require that individuals complete classes in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer concepts, or show competency through testing. A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for admission.

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
  • Anesthetics
  • Microbiology

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. Sometimes, these programs are offered as 2+2 programs, where the final 2 years leading to a bachelor's degree build on the credits earned through an associate degree program. Before admission to a bachelor's degree program in veterinary technology, students must have a high school diploma or GED.

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. Students are often required to complete externships. 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 ( Most programs require four years of study, though some colleges offer joint programs that combine undergraduate coursework with the traditional DVM curriculum.

To enter these programs, applicants are expected to have experience with animals and approximately 60 credit hours of college-level coursework completed prior to entry. 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

Popular Career Options

An associate degree in veterinary technology may allow an individual to gain an entry-level position. Some popular careers include:

  • Veterinary technician
  • Lab animal care worker
  • Veterinary assistant

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 30% from 2012-2022 ( This above-average growth can be attributed to advancement in veterinary services, an expansive pet population and a growing emphasis on pet care. In 2014, the BLS reported that technicians and technologists earned a median annual salary of $31,070.

According to the BLS, veterinarians are expected to see a 12% growth in employment from 2012-2022. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $87,590 in 2014, according to the BLS.

Certification Information

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.

Search Degrees, Careers, or Schools