Veterinary Technician: Overview of Becoming a Vet Technician

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a veterinary technician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties, and certifications to find out if this is the career for you.

There are a few necessary steps to becoming a veterinary technician, or a person who assists a veterinarian. These steps include completing an undergraduate education program and on-the-job training as well as securing state registration, certification or licensure.

Essential Information

Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians, similar to the way nurses assist doctors. They conduct medical examinations, diagnose illnesses and provide healthcare to animals. Becoming a veterinary technician entails completion of a formal veterinary technology degree program and obtaining certification or licensure.

Required Education Associate's degree in veterinary technology
Other Requirements Licensure or certification required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% for vet technologists and technicians*
Mean Annual Wage (2015) $33,280 for vet technologists and technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Veterinary Technician Education Requirements

Aspiring veterinary technicians can earn either an associate's degree or bachelor's degree from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). As of September 2016, there were 228 AVMA-accredited veterinary technology programs, of which 24 offered bachelor's degrees and nine offered distance-learning options.

Associate's Degree

Veterinary technicians usually enter the occupation with an associate's degree in veterinary technology. These 2-year programs are available at community colleges and vocational schools. Students gain classroom and laboratory instruction in veterinary medicine and animal care. Courses may include veterinary radiology, pathology, pharmacology, anesthesia and surgery. During the final semester, students are typically required to complete internships or externships in veterinary clinics.

Bachelor's Degree

Some aspiring veterinary technicians pursue a 4-year degree in veterinary technology at a college or university. These programs provide students with more expansive, advanced animal medicine education in classroom, lab and clinical settings. Along with general education, courses may include:

  • Veterinary anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Clinical methods
  • Animal disease
  • Veterinary management
  • Surgical nursing
  • Parasitology
  • Medical terminology
  • Veterinary practicum

On-The-Job Training

After completing formal education, entry-level veterinary technicians typically continue training on the job. They often train under the direction of licensed veterinarians. Those with advanced technical education who demonstrate proficiency in veterinary equipment and diagnostics generally require less training.

Licensure for Veterinary Technicians

All veterinary technicians are required to become licensed, registered or certified. Specific requirements vary by state, but most veterinary technicians are required to pass a competency exam comprised of written, oral and demonstrative sections. Most states use the American Association of Veterinary State Boards' Veterinary Technician National Examination to assess licensure eligibility.

Veterinary Technician Certification

Veterinary technicians may demonstrate animal care aptitude by earning voluntary professional certification. The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science offers three levels of certification for veterinary technicians. The first is Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician, followed by Laboratory Animal Technician and Laboratory Animal Technologist. Candidates must have a combination of education and experience, in addition to passing a multiple-choice exam geared toward the level of certification.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 19% employment increase for vet technologists and technicians between 2014 and 2024, which is much higher than average. In 2015, the BLS listed the mean annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians at $33,280.

An associate's degree in veterinary technology is a typical requirement for veterinary technician, although a bachelor's degree is also an option. Entry-level techs usually continue with on-the-job training and then pursue licensure or certification. According to the BLS, a much faster-than-average job outlook is expected for vet technicians and technologists during 2014-2024.

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