Vet Tech Requirements
Veterinary technicians are often confused with veterinary technologists. While these occupations share some of the same job responsibilities and they work under a veterinarian to test animals and diagnose illnesses and injuries, a veterinary technician requires less education. A typical degree program completed by a veterinary technician lasts for two years and is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Vet tech certification, licensing, and registration requirements vary by state.
|Degree Level||Associate degree|
|Degree Field(s)||Veterinary technology or animal science|
|License/Certification||Varies by state|
|Key Skills||Communication and animal handling skills; ability to work in stressful situations; love of animals|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||20% growth (for veterinary technologists and technicians)|
|Median Annual Salary (2018)||$34,420 (for veterinary technologists and technicians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Become a Vet Tech
How long does it take to become a vet tech? A two-year associate's degree in veterinary technology equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to work as veterinary technicians. Alternatively, an associate's degree program in animal science may offer veterinary technology as an area of emphasis.
Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology
Some community colleges require that applicants have at least 16-20 hours of observation in a veterinary hospital in addition to a high school diploma before they enroll in an associate's degree program for veterinary technology. Students then complete a majority of courses in the core field of study. Veterinary technology topics include animal pharmacology, animal behavior, clinical practices, animal diseases, and veterinary hospital management.
Communication skills are often emphasized so that prospective veterinary technicians can connect with pet owners and work efficiently with veterinarians. However, some classes are needed to satisfy general education requirements in the humanities as well as the basic sciences. Once students have earned their associate's degree, they might be ready to sit for national and state examinations administered by the state veterinary medical board.
Practical experience in a veterinary hospital is also often part of the curriculum in an associate's degree program for aspiring veterinary technicians. An externship can be completed during a student's last semester of an associate's degree program for veterinary technology or animal science. However, if there is a high hourly requirement to fulfill this externship, then it may need to be completed during the summer between the first and second years of enrollment. Externship participants assist veterinarians by taking blood samples, weighing animals, and sterilizing surgical instruments. Students learn to handle stressful situations, such as working with difficult animals, and to manage their emotions while completing work in a professional manner.
Graduates are prepared to move directly into assistant positions at animal hospitals, veterinary practices, and similar settings. They are also qualified to enroll in an advanced four-year bachelor's degree program for animal science or pre-veterinary studies.
Vet Tech Salary and Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median salary for veterinary technologists and technicians in May of 2018 was $34,420. The projected job growth from 2016-2026 was 20%.