Veterinary technicians and technologists assist veterinarians in routine, critical and emergency animal care. Students who complete an associate's degree program can pursue a career as a veterinary technician, while those who finish bachelor's degree programs can work as veterinary technologists. Licensure or certification is required for either position in every state, and applicants usually need to complete an accredited program and pass an exam in order to qualify.
There are extensive clinical requirements during which students gain hands-on experience in a variety of procedures with many types of animals. Applicants to associate's programs may need to take prerequisite courses in math and the sciences; observation hours at a vet hospital may be required prior to admission as well. Admission to a bachelor's program in veterinary technology usually requires past experience in a veterinary facility and completion of pre-vet technology coursework.
Associate's Degree in Veterinary Technology
Associate's degree programs in veterinary technology prepare students for careers as veterinary technicians. The 2-year curriculum covers the basics of veterinary science and the technical aspects of animal care and surgery. Veterinary tech students gain hands-on experience with large and small domestic animals through a practicum, which is completed in the summer following the first year of the program.
Students studying veterinary technology gain a solid animal science background. Typical coursework includes:
- Animal anatomy and physiology
- Veterinary laboratory techniques
- Veterinary medical terminology
- Small animal behavior
- Animal diseases
- Veterinary pharmacology
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Veterinary Technology
Classes in Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology programs are taught by experienced veterinarians, licensed veterinary technicians and other experts in the field. The coursework provides a broad science base, in addition to specialized and professional veterinary science courses. Veterinary tech majors get extensive clinical experience through externships that are offered at local animal hospitals, zoos and veterinary offices. Graduates of 4-year programs become veterinary technologists.
Veterinary tech majors take many of the same courses that are offered in the associate's degree program, if they do not already have an associate's degree. The following courses are common in 4-year veterinary tech curricula:
- Veterinary hematology and immunology
- Veterinary biochemistry
- Clinical pathology
- Veterinary radiography
- Veterinary surgical nursing
Popular Career Options
Many B.S. in Veterinary Technology graduates decide to continue on to veterinary school. Veterinary tech graduates are qualified for careers in the following fields.
- Animal nutrition
- Equine medicine
- Marine animal medicine
- Exotic animal medicine
- Animal behavior
- Biomedical research
- Pharmaceutical marketing and sales
Career Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) projects an almost 19% increase in job opportunities for veterinary technicians and technologists between 2014 and 2024. The median annual wage in 2015 for these workers was $31,800. Veterinary technicians can work in a variety of environments, such as veterinary offices, animal hospitals, research or diagnostic laboratories, zoos and wildlife rehabilitation centers.
Continuing Education & Licensure Information
Many associate's degree programs in veterinary technology transition easily into bachelor's degree programs in animal science, veterinary technology or related majors. Certificate programs in specific animal care disciplines, such as equine dentistry, are available to vet tech graduates once they are licensed.
Vet techs must gain licensure (or certification or registration depending on the state) in order to practice. Requirements are dependent on the state. A state may use a state exam, the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) or both. The VTNE is a credentialing exam administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (www.aavsb.org). VTNE evaluates the skills and knowledge of an entry-level vet tech.
Veterinary technicians can obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree in veterinary technology. It is important to note that students must pass the licensure exam upon completion of education.