Veterinary technicians and technologists are required to be licensed by the state, and they must hold either a 2-year associate's degree or a 4-year bachelor's degree in veterinary technology from an accredited school. While an associate's degree suffices for work as a technician, working as a technologist often requires a bachelor's degree. The accrediting agency for such programs is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Although programs usually require in-person clinical rotations, some schools allow didactic coursework to be completed online.
Here is a list of common concepts covered in veterinary tech courses:
- Animal anatomy
- Animal assessment
- Medication administration
- Diagnostic testing
- Sample collection
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Overview of Courses
Veterinary Tech Anatomy and Physiology Course
One of the first veterinary technician courses students are required to take is an animal anatomy and physiology class. This class provides a comparative overview of the gross anatomy, microscopic anatomy and physiology of large and small animals, as well as common diseases and ailments that affect specific systems and organs. Other topics include organ system functions, stages of pregnancy in different animals and the anatomy and physiology of birds and exotic animals. This class typically includes a lab component, where students may dissect animals and examine tissues under a microscope.
Pharmacology is a veterinary tech course that students typically take in their third or fourth semester of study, after obtaining an in-depth understanding of animal anatomy and common diseases. The class looks at the effects of different drugs on the animal body and their uses for combating various ailments. Future veterinary technicians and technologists learn about calculating and measuring appropriate dosages for each animal, and administering, storing and inventorying pharmaceuticals.
Small Animal Care Course
Veterinary technician coursework usually includes both companion animal and large animal nursing. In the small animal care class, vet tech students review common illnesses in pets like dogs, cats or hamsters. Prospective veterinary technicians learn to assist the veterinarian with diagnostic tests, administer medication and properly restrain an upset or aggressive animal. The course also covers monitoring and reporting the animal's condition, using catheters and communicating with the pet's owners. Some programs offer this veterinary technician course over two semesters.
Large Animal Care Course
The large animal care course looks at nursing techniques for horses, cattle, sheep and other livestock, as well as common pathologies in farm animals. Veterinary technician and veterinary technologist students learn proper security measures for working with large animals, including restraint techniques. The course also teaches prospective vet techs the procedures for administering medicines and collecting blood, urine and fecal samples. Because of the inherent risks of working with large animals, emphasis is placed on safety.
Veterinary tech students usually take the surgery and anesthesia class at the end of their program. This course introduces the safety protocols and fundamentals of anesthesia for animal dentistry and animal surgery, as well as inducing anesthesia, monitoring the animal during surgery and caring for the animal before and after the procedure. Students are also introduced to common surgical tools and equipment.