How to Become a Vet Tech

What Does a Veterinary Technician Do?

vet tech and large dog

Veterinary technicians (sometimes informally called vet techs) provide the front-line care animal patients need to recover from illness and injury and maintain good health. Working under the direction and supervision of a licensed veterinarian, veterinary technicians improve the welfare of dogs, cats, exotic pets, lab animals, farm animals and zoo animals by assisting in their healthcare and making them as comfortable as possible during medical procedures.

The role of a veterinary technician combines elements of many disciplines such as nursing, imaging, lab work, and customer service.

Typical duties of a vet tech include:

  • Providing first aid and nursing care
  • Assisting veterinarians during examinations and procedures
  • Phlebotomy and intravenous catheter placement
  • Performing or assisting with diagnostic tests such as radiographs, urinalysis, fecal exams and blood tests
  • Conducting routine procedures like dental cleanings and immunizations
  • Preparing animals for surgery, inducing anesthesia, assisting in surgery and post-anesthetic recovery
  • Monitoring the condition of patients and documenting medical charts
  • Dispensing prescription medications under the direction of a veterinarian
  • Educating pet owners on animal care and welfare, disease prevention, disease treatment and behavior concerns
  • Ensuring that lab animals receive humane treatment

For animal lovers with a passion for science, a career as a veterinary technician is extremely rewarding. Technicians often see the same patients throughout their entire lives and develop close, caring relationships with the animals and their owners. The care and education technicians provide make an immense difference in an animal’s quality of life, both in the medical setting and in the animal’s home environment.

Workplace Details

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 91% of veterinary technicians work in the veterinary services industry at:

  • Private clinics
  • Animal hospitals (general, specialty, or emergency practice)
  • Boarding facilities
  • Animal shelters
  • Rescue leagues
  • Zoos

Veterinary technicians are also employed in non-traditional settings such as livestock facilities, wildlife control services, research laboratories, government agencies, pharmaceutical sales, veterinary medical equipment sales, and the military.

A veterinary technician’s work schedule depends on the type and place of employment. For instance, those working at 24-hour facilities may work evenings, weekends and/or holidays. In private clinics, technicians are more likely to have regular business hours, although they may occasionally need to stay late or through lunch to work on a sick patient; come in some evenings and/or weekends to feed and care for hospitalized patients; or come in early to admit early-morning hospital or surgery patients.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
Texas
$29750
California
$39410
Florida
$31800
Pennsylvania
$34210
New York
$43760

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

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ALABAMA
Median Salary: 
$28,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$20,220$31,890$44,210
Huntsville$20,410$23,660$37,700

ALASKA
Median Salary: 
$43,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$35,890$43,520$48,830

ARIZONA
Median Salary: 
$28,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 39%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$22,800$31,770$44,480
Tuscon$19,830$23,280$35,690

ARKANSAS
Median Salary: 
$24,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$25,640$29,300$38,250

CALIFORNIA
Median Salary: 
$37,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $56,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 370

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$26,260$36,720$58,210
San Francisco Bay$29,120$41,270$58,140
San Diego$28,540$44,140$58,720
Sacramento$20,280$30,150$55,110

COLORADO
Median Salary: 
$29,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 44%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 170

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$22,640$31,630$39,400
Colorado Springs$23,070$30,190$39,440

CONNECTICUT
Median Salary: 
$36,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $52,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$24,630$34,700$50,370
Bridgeport$27,020$38,690$58,990
New Haven$26,230$35,060$46,530

DELAWARE
Median Salary: 
$29,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$21,540$28,470$43,890

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Median Salary: 
$32,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,700

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$28,000$37,370$55,060

FLORIDA
Median Salary: 
$30,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 35%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 380

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$24,530$33,590$45,180
Orlando$21,890$28,560$37,230
Tampa$20,740$28,250$37,440
Jacksonville$21,530$28,940$37,530

GEORGIA
Median Salary: 
$28,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$20,400$28,590$39,650
Augusta$18,880$27,060$38,880

HAWAII
Median Salary: 
$30,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $41,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$21,740$30,170$41,600

IDAHO
Median Salary: 
$27,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $36,400

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$21,320$29,070$36,980
Idaho Falls$20,820$25,500$30,400

ILLINOIS
Median Salary: 
$30,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$25,800$30,000$44,340
Rockford$21,150$27,830$36,770

INDIANA
Median Salary: 
$28,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$19,600$29,410$43,960
South Bend$20,390$27,040$37,510
Fort Wayne$26,490$35,140$46,810

IOWA
Median Salary: 
$29,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $40,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$21,740$29,920$38,200
Cedar Rapids$25,480$29,370$37,000

KANSAS
Median Salary: 
$28,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$25,300$28,720$36,950
Kansas City$27,000$34,920$40,630

KENTUCKY
Median Salary: 
$27,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$19,740$25,400$36,600
Lexington$20,450$31,480$54,900

LOUISIANA
Median Salary: 
$27,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $36,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$22,060$28,710$37,500
Baton Rouge$19,370$22,780$30,310
Lafayette$17,100$23,750$37,260

MAINE
Median Salary: 
$33,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$21,540$33,950$44,160
Lewiston$28,240$35,810$46,120

MARYLAND
Median Salary: 
$34,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 34%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$21,950$31,000$48,440
Frederick$32,130$37,440$49,660

MASSACHUSETTS
Median Salary: 
$40,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$32,500$46,220$61,750
Worcester$31,890$38,830$55,860
Springfield$25,940$35,800$47,910

MICHIGAN
Median Salary: 
$30,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$18,100$30,800$43,900
Grand Rapids$23,730$30,140$39,070

MINNESOTA
Median Salary: 
$32,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$26,420$33,960$45,570
Rochester$24,730$30,520$59,620

MISSISSIPPI
Median Salary: 
$28,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $53,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$18,630$29,100$48,430
Gulfport$20,780$25,000$31,160

MISSOURI
Median Salary: 
$35,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$25,280$35,590$50,140
Kansas City$27,000$34,920$40,630

MONTANA
Median Salary: 
$28,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 37%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$24,520$34,760$47,920
Missoula$20,460$24,790$34,610

NEBRASKA
Median Salary: 
$29,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$25,090$33,040$44,620
Lincoln$25,460$31,590$39,170

NEVADA
Median Salary: 
$33,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$21,960$33,770$46,040
Reno$24,560$31,360$39,320

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Median Salary: 
$33,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$26,420$33,270$45,610
Nashua$25,780$34,830$47,460

NEW JERSEY
Median Salary: 
$33,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$22,330$36,340$57,800
Trenton$19,530$32,600$44,470

NEW MEXICO
Median Salary: 
$33,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$19,450$33,100$45,790
Las Cruces$20,680$28,320$37,260

NEW YORK
Median Salary: 
$38,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $59,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$26,840$37,810$61,800
Buffalo$22,970$36,100$53,820
Rochester$30,420$35,210$39,450
Albany$31,670$38,820$51,840

NORTH CAROLINA
Median Salary: 
$30,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 33%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$23,940$33,510$41,620
Raleigh$24,420$32,230$40,060
Greensboro$22,630$30,670$45,850
Winston - Salem$21,260$28,380$38,010

NORTH DAKOTA
Median Salary: 
$29,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $53,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$25,400$29,470$38,720

OHIO
Median Salary: 
$31,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$23,340$30,740$44,510
Columbus$26,130$32,190$60,630
Cincinnati$23,870$30,970$44,030
Dayton$23,080$30,880$45,600

OKLAHOMA
Median Salary: 
$32,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$22,590$33,920$43,140
Tulsa$22,420$30,540$37,770

OREGON
Median Salary: 
$33,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$24,990$34,550$44,440
Salem$21,980$34,060$44,180

PENNSYLVANIA
Median Salary: 
$33,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$24,930$33,780$48,820
Pittsburgh$21,160$30,590$41,900
Harrisburg$26,540$32,940$42,400
Allentown$21,350$28,560$43,280

RHODE ISLAND
Median Salary: 
$35,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$26,440$34,800$45,800

SOUTH CAROLINA
Median Salary: 
$29,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $40,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$21,060$31,100$46,940
Columbia$18,770$27,660$36,100
Charleston$22,060$32,140$38,920

SOUTH DAKOTA
Median Salary: 
$28,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Sioux Falls$25,180$32,810$39,440
Rapid City$21,940$27,900$36,150

TENNESSEE
Median Salary: 
$29,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 38%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$22,510$29,570$72,020
Memphis$24,880$33,720$45,820
Knoxville$23,060$32,570$46,690
Chattanooga$21,280$29,450$39,070

TEXAS
Median Salary: 
$28,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $40,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 350

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$23,480$31,200$44,500
Houston$18,860$28,650$42,000
San Antonio$20,420$28,230$36,790
Austin$21,410$27,660$36,460

UTAH
Median Salary: 
$26,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 79%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$19,170$25,470$36,840
Ogden$20,140$30,790$39,110

VERMONT
Median Salary: 
$33,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Burlington$24,550$32,610$40,140

VIRGINIA
Median Salary: 
$34,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $52,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$21,970$30,640$39,280
Richmond$24,530$33,470$44,710

WASHINGTON
Median Salary: 
$35,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 35%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$27,410$35,800$49,300
Spokane$28,740$34,650$38,780

WEST VIRGINIA
Median Salary: 
$26,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $33,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$22,150$29,310$38,920
Charleston$17,580$25,460$37,390

WISCONSIN
Median Salary: 
$30,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$26,620$36,980$48,010
Madison$21,230$31,070$48,740

WYOMING
Median Salary: 
$28,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $40,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$21,360$27,900$36,690

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary for veterinary technicians is $31,800. The middle 80% earn between $21,890 and $47,410. According to the 2015 Firstline Career Path Survey, the average hourly wage for a credentialed veterinary technician is $17.40 (an average of $2-4 more per hour than a non-credentialed veterinary assistant).

Salaries are generally highest for veterinary technicians working in colleges, research laboratories and government agencies. Those in specialties such as dentistry, anesthesia, animal behavior or surgery also command above-average salaries. Earnings generally rise commensurate with education and experience.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of veterinary technicians is expected to increase by 19% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is due to many factors, including the rise in status of pets as family members, novel medical advances in diagnostics and procedures, and the availability of specialized care within the veterinary profession (i.e. veterinary dentists, veterinary orthopedic surgeons, and veterinary cardiologists, to name a few). The result of the changing veterinary climate is a pet-owning population that seeks more complex procedures and specialized, personalized care for their animals. This, in turn, increases the demand for credentialed veterinary technicians and veterinary technician specialists to achieve the highest quality healthcare available. Now is an exciting time to become a credentialed veterinary technician!

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$37810 Per Year

$18.17 Per Hour

Chicago IL Median Pay

$30000 Per Year

$14.42 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Vet Tech

1

Get your high school diploma or GED.

This is the first step that you must do before pursuing your higher education degree.

2

Earn an associate degree.

The most accepted way to become a veterinary technician is to complete a two-year veterinary technician program that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), culminating in an associate degree. Only three states – Alaska, California and Wisconsin – allow on-the-job training (OJT) as an alternate pathway to becoming a credentialed veterinary technician.

Show Me Schools »

There are over 160 of these two-year associate degree programs across the United States at community colleges, colleges or universities. If it is inconvenient to physically attend an accredited campus, there are also currently nine distance learning programs that are accredited by the AVMA.

Alternatively, you can enter a four-year AVMA-accredited degree program to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Currently, twenty-three universities award four-year bachelor’s degrees in veterinary technology. This pathway is especially desirable for candidates who wish to work in research laboratories or eventually pursue veterinary school.

3

Obtain your credential as a veterinary technician.

Credentialing of veterinary technicians is becoming mandatory in the majority of states. Depending on the state, the credentialed veterinary technician may be:

  • “Licensed” (LVT) by a given authority such as the state veterinary medical board
  • “Certified” (CVT) by a private or professional program
  • “Registered” (RVT) by a governmental agency

In all but three states (currently Alaska, California and Wisconsin), a credentialed veterinary technician must complete a state-approved training program (all AVMA-accredited programs are state-approved) and pass an exam. The state test is often waived for those who have passed the Veterinary Technician National Exam.

4

Consider the possibilities for career advancement.

Experienced veterinary technicians are often promoted to supervisory roles in which they train and/or direct the work of junior technicians and veterinary assistants. During their career, veterinary technicians are given many opportunities for continuing education (by attending events/conventions or participating in online education). This empowers the veterinary technician to take on new skills and perhaps choose an area of specialty within their practice or organization.

Today, there are many opportunities to pursue advanced specialization and certification beyond the credentialed veterinary technician. Becoming a veterinary technician specialist not only allows technicians to pursue and perform advanced skills they have mastered through their specialty training and education, but this advanced training allows veterinarians to focus their time and expertise on skills only they are licensed to perform. The outcome is a more efficient veterinary team, the best care for the patient, and a happier pet owner.

Finally, it is not uncommon for a veterinary technician to go on to become a veterinarian. Their certification and work experience are significant advantages during the highly competitive vet school admissions process.

Explore Degree Paths

Do you need a degree to become a vet tech? The answer is usually yes, but a few states have an alternate route to credentialing. For example, vet techs in Alaska, Wisconsin, and California can sit for the credentialing exam after training on the job and attending classes and conferences.

It’s also worth noting that some states don’t mandate the licensure of vet techs. In those states, it’s possible to train on the job and practice without a degree or license. However, licensure is usually preferred by employers — especially by those that pay well. Licensure may also be necessary to work in certain settings like research labs, government agencies, academic veterinary medicine, or pharmaceutical sales.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE IN VETERINARY TECHNOLOGY

2 years

The most common pathway to becoming a veterinary technician is to earn an AS or AAS degree in veterinary technology. If your goal is to work in a private clinic, this is a great place to start.

There are currently over 160 vet tech associate degree programs in the United States. These are offered by two- and four-year universities and career schools. Nine accredited programs have a distance option, which can be helpful for working students and those in rural areas.

Show Me Schools »

Most state licensing bodies require vet techs to graduate from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. (Some, like California, approve additional programs.) Credits from accredited programs are also easier to transfer if you later wish to complete your bachelor’s degree.

When choosing a vet tech school, watch out for non-accredited programs, including correspondence courses. These schools are subject to looser quality control, and the degree they award won’t qualify you for state licensure.

Associate-level vet tech coursework covers laboratory and imaging procedures, animal science and behavior, and specialty areas like anesthesiology and critical care. Here are some common courses for this level:

Veterinary anatomy and physiology

Explore organ system function and metabolism in common species.

Lab procedures

Practice processing samples in order to diagnose parasitic diseases.

Animal handling

Learn to promote patient welfare through comfort measures, humane treatment, and proper choice of equipment.

Animal nutrition

Study how the major nutrients are digested and metabolized in different animals.

As a vet tech student, you’ll also rotate through a variety of clinical settings like small animal clinics, specialty hospitals, and shelters. This is a great opportunity to practice your new skills under supervision.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN VETERINARY TECHNOLOGY

4 years

A veterinary technologist is a technician who holds a BS or BAS in veterinary technology. Technicians and technologists perform many of the same job functions, and in most states they hold the same license. However, having a bachelor’s degree can be useful if you want to work in:

  • Behavioral counseling
  • Research laboratories
  • Specialty hospitals and practices
  • Pharmaceutical and veterinary equipment sales
  • Teaching
  • Clinical leadership and management
  • Wildlife rehabilitation
  • Zoo and shelter medicine

Bachelor’s programs typically cover the same technology courses as an AAS degree. However, bachelor’s students gain additional skills in leadership and case and project management. They also have more ability to specialize in an area of interest like small animals, large animals, zoo animals, or management.

Some courses available to bachelor’s level vet tech students:

Clinical pathology

Practice analyzing blood, urine, and tissue samples for signs of disease.

Parasitology

Study the biology and lifecycle of parasites affecting pets and lab animals.

Clinic and hospital management

Learn day-to-day skills needed to run a practice, including financial management, human resources management, and regulatory compliance.

Applied animal behavior

Looks at normal and abnormal behaviors in dogs and cats and how to treat problem behaviors.

Bachelor’s degree students also rotate through a variety of clinical settings in order to gain clinical experience.

There are currently 23 AVMA-accredited veterinary technology bachelor’s programs in the United States. All are at four-year universities. Some programs offer a distance option. Others offer a shorter degree-completion track for technicians who already hold an AAS.

Keys to Success as a Veterinary Technician

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Good physical health

A career as a veterinary technician requires physical strength and stamina as these professionals spend long periods on their feet and are frequently asked lift and restrain large animals.

Proper safety technique

Because technicians have regular contact with needles, bodily fluids, radiation and other potentially hazardous substances, they must follow safety procedures carefully to avoid illness or injury. Additionally, they must have knowledge of animal body language and proper restraint techniques to avoid injury from or to an animal during handling.

Passion for the well-being of animals

Veterinary technicians should be personable, hands-on animal lovers who have a genuine passion for improving animal welfare.

Teamwork skills

Their work requires strong verbal and interpersonal skills in order to communicate ideas effectively to pet owners and other members of the veterinary team.

Maturity

Patience and emotional stability are vital in order to keep a level head during emergencies, to work effectively with challenging animals and people, and to cope with the suffering and death of patients.

Additional Credentials

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) currently recognizes 14 specialty academies. Vet techs who spend 75 percent of their working hours in one of these areas may be eligible for designation as a Veterinary Technician Specialist (VTS).

Each specialty academy sets educational, experience, training and testing requirements for its credential. Candidates must typically be licensed, submit case logs, document experience hours and continuing education, and pass an exam.

The following is a list of NAVTA-approved specialty academies. Some offer subspecialty credentials, which are listed alongside.

The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) is a professional association that offers four additional credentials for technicians and lab managers:

  • Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT)
  • Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT)
  • Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG)
  • Certified Manager of Animal Resources (CMAR)
Joey Bryant, DVM

Joey Bryant, DVM attended Texas A&M University and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science before pursuing her career in veterinary medicine. She was employed as a veterinary technician for 2.5 years before attending veterinary school at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2004, Dr. Bryant practiced high quality, small animal veterinary medicine for several years as an associate before opening her own practice, Plum Creek Veterinary Hospital, in 2010.

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