Veterinary technicians (also referred to as vet techs) are trained and licensed individuals who provide support and assistance to veterinarians in the care and treatment of animals. The work a vet tech does for a veterinarian is similar to the work a nurse does in support of a doctor. Vet techs are distinguishable from veterinary assistants by the fact that it requires an advanced amount of education to become a vet tech and consequently vet techs are licensed by their state to perform specific procedures, whereas vet assistants are not.
Veterinary Technician Schools
Vet techs are distinguishable from veterinary assistants by the fact that it requires an advanced amount of education to become a vet tech, usually an associate degree or sometimes a bachelor's degree is required. The following five schools offer associate degree programs for veterinary technicians:
- Cedar Valley College: This community college located just outside Dallas, Texas offers a veterinary technology program that prepares students to take their state board examinations.
- Northern Virginia Community College: The Associate of Applied Science in veterinary technology offered by this community college prepares students for vet tech careers in a variety of settings.
- Penn Foster College: This online school offers an associate degree program for students wanting to train to become a vet tech in a flexible format.
- Purdue University: This university in West Lafayette, Indiana offers on-campus and distance learning associate degree programs in veterinary technology.
- St. Petersburg College: This college in Florida offers both online and on-campus associate degree programs that provide students with the skills to enter the workforce.
Veterinary Technician Education Requirements
Preparing for veterinary technician school should include a strong background in math and sciences, especially natural sciences. Biology, anatomy and courses that give you practical laboratory skills are a good way to prepare for the rigors of a veterinary technician degree program. Most of the programs lead to a two-year associate degree, while some might lead to a four-year bachelor's degree.
Programs should be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and should include both clinical and laboratory elements with the use of live animals. Graduation from an AVMA-accredited veterinary technology program will pave the way for candidates to take a credentialing exam in any state in the nation. Schools offering accredited veterinary technology programs include junior colleges, community colleges, vocational schools, and distance learning facilities.
Clinical experience is required for all veterinary technicians. Those who choose distance learning can complete their clinical experience requirement by working under their local veterinarian while still taking all of the classes for their degree online.
Veterinary Technician Licensing
Requirements to become licensed vary by state; however, in addition to obtaining the necessary education, all states require candidates to take and pass some kind of certification exam regulated by the State Board of Veterinary Examiners or some other state agency. The exam will usually include a combination of oral, written, and practical sections. For most states, this exam is the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) test. States will generally accept transfer of passing scores from exams taken in a different state, provided the two states use the same exam.
In addition to state licensing, advanced credentials are always useful in this profession, and in some cases, necessary. Those seeking employment in a research facility should pursue an American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) certification. The AALAS certification focuses on three specific areas of expertise: animal health and welfare, animal husbandry, and facility administration and management. In order to earn an AALAS certification, individuals must satisfy a combination of education and experience requirements before taking the AALAS exam. Work experience must be in a laboratory animal facility and must be directly related to the maintenance, health, and well-being of laboratory animals. The AALAS exam consists of multiple-choice questions whose quantity and difficulty depends upon the level of certification being sought.
Resources for Veterinary Technicians
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America
- Canadian Association of Animal Health Technologists and Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Technician Anesthetists
- Academy of Internal Medicine for Veterinary Technicians
- American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm
- Cedar Valley College, http://www.cedarvalleycollege.edu/FutureStudents/DegreesandCertificatePrograms/TechnicalDisciplines/VeterinaryTechnology/default.aspx
- Northern Virginia Community College, http://www.nvcc.edu/catalog/cat2014/academics/programs/programdetail.aspx?prog_id=4400&subprog_id=0
- Penn Foster College, http://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/veterinary-studies/veterinary-technician-associate-degree
- Purdue University, http://www.vet.purdue.edu/vettech/
St. Petersburg College, http://www.spcollege.edu/vt/