Animal Health Technician: Overview of Veterinary Technician Education

Sep 26, 2019

Working as an animal health technician requires some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

A veterinary, or animal, technician typically must complete an associate's degree and pass a credentialing exam before they can become registered, licensed or certified in their state. Vet technologists will need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field in addition to taking exams for certification or licensure.

Essential Information

Animal health technicians, also known as veterinary technologists or technicians, assist veterinarians in providing medical care to animals. Veterinary technology programs are designed to prepare students for immediate employment in veterinary offices, animal hospitals, research facilities or animal shelters. Vet technicians must hold a 2-year degree in the field, while technologists are generally required to hold a baccalaureate degree. Both types of animal health workers must be licensed by most states.

Required Education Vet technicians: associate's degree in veterinary medicine
Vet technologists: bachelor's degree in veterinary medicine
Other Requirements State licensing by passing the National Veterinary Technician Examination or a state-administered test; voluntary certification available through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 19% for veterinary technicians and technologists*
Median Salary (May 2018) $34,420 for veterinary technicians and technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Overview for Animal Health Technicians

Although many animal care workers receive on-the-job training, formal training is usually required to become a veterinary technician or technologist. Individuals interested in becoming veterinary technicians typically complete 2-year programs, while programs that prepare students to become veterinary technologists require four years of study. Some schools offer courses through distance learning. In addition to coursework, students may be required to complete field experiences or internships.

Courses for Veterinary Technology Programs

Veterinary technology programs include a combination of coursework, lab studies and clinical education using live animals. Students learn to prepare animals for medical procedures, safely transport animals, administer medications, prepare billing for customers and assist veterinarians in clinical procedures. Students enrolled in animal health technician programs can expect to take courses in small animal care, veterinary office procedures, parasitology, clinical lab techniques, diagnostic imaging and large animal procedures.

Certification for Animal Health Technicians

Upon completion of an approved program, most states require graduates to successfully pass a state exam. Most states use the National Veterinary Technician Examination (NVTE), which is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). This exam requires students to pass written, oral and practical skills portions. After successfully passing the required exam, applicants may become licensed, registered or certified depending on the state. Optional certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) is also available for technicians who wish to work in research facilities.

Employment Outlook Expected for Veterinary Technicians

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for veterinary technicians and technologists was projected to grow much faster-than-average by 19% between 2018 and 2028. This expected growth was attributed to an increase in pet ownership and the willingness of pet owners to provide better medical care to their pets. The BLS also stated that the median salary for veterinary technologists and technicians were $34,420 in 2018.

The level of education for an animal health technician will depend on one's career goals since this field can begin with an associate's or expand to a bachelor's degree. Places of employment are abundant as they perform duties like preparing animals for medical procedures, administering medications or collecting laboratory samples. Program graduates should check with their state regarding required credentials.

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