There are many careers based on the care of animals. Few have the encouraging employment prospects of veterinary technicians. Data from the 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report on job outlooks estimates that until 2022, employment of veterinary technicians and technologists is expected to grow 30% per year.
A distinction between veterinary technician (vet tech) and veterinary technologist must be made. A veterinary technologist attends school four to five years and is graduated with a B.S. degree in veterinary technology. Because of the more advanced degree, a vet technologist has greater earning potential. The flip side is that the education costs more, usually indicating that more student loan debt must be incurred. Far fewer schools have the four-year vet technology program, while there are hundreds of schools across the country with two-year vet tech programs.
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A vet tech attends school on average of two to three years and is graduated with an Associate’s degree in Applied Science in Veterinary Technology. While a vet technologist is still in school in pursuit of a B.S. degree, the vet tech can be earning in a career for two or three years with an Associate’s degree. There are two other advantages of the vet tech vs. the vet technology career paths: student loan debt for many vet tech programs is under $20,000, not a burdensome amount to pay back with your good salary; and there are several “distance education” programs available to earn an Associate’s degree for vet techs. In the “distance education” program, you can get most of your education remotely from where you live if you don’t live in or near a city with a vet tech program.
The pursuit of an Associate’s vet tech degree can begin right out of high school. Almost all programs require a semester or two of prerequisite courses in order to make you a well-rounded student, and to provide you the ancillary skills needed in any job. These classes include basic math and sciences, English, communication skills, computer skills, speech, and writing. Some states allow you to take these in high school so that you can begin your vet tech education and finish in two years; others allow for double credit so that you get credit for a class in high school and in college.
All the papers on this website advise you to attend a school with a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). To find a school with an accredited program, click here.
Attending a school with an accredited program has an upwardly spiraling effect on your career. After you graduate from an accredited program, you will be eligible to take Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). Only graduates from an accredited veterinary technician program may take the VTNE. In most states, licensure, certification or registration with the state is required, usually preceded by having to pass a state exam after taking the VTNE. So, you see the catch: you can’t get licensed without the VTNE, and you can’t even take the VTNE without having attended an accredited program.
All this credentialing leads to a better education, better job prospects, and a much more profitable and enjoyable career.
What Will You Study
As mentioned, almost all vet tech programs require prerequisite courses before beginning the core curriculum. The core curriculum is science-based. If you don’t like the sciences and animals, this career might not be for you. You will study anatomy and physiology, terminology, parasitology, hematology, radiology, anesthesiology, animal restraint, laboratory procedures, emergency medicine, large and small animal medicine, and practice management. Programs vary in the electives they offer, some excelling in small animal, large animal, or zoo/exotic animal medicine.
Admissions and Application Procedure
Admission and application procedures vary widely. All require a high school diploma, GED, or the equivalent. Some schools require a dual application process, one for the general school and one for the vet tech program. Admission requirements vary from a high school diploma only to interviews, prior experience, essays, test scores (ACT, SAT, etc.), placement tests, vaccinations (TB, rabies), background checks, and drug tests.
Every school’s website provides all the necessary information for these processes. Visit the websites of the schools in which you are interested, because applications processes begin as early as January of the year you expect to begin classes in the fall.
Job Prospects and Potential Pay
As cited in the first paragraph, employment of vet techs is expected to increase 30% per year through 2022. According to other 2013 BLS data, the national average salary of veterinary technicians and technologists was $32,350. Click One occupation for multiple geographical areas, then find Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, 292056, and choose National, then choose average mean wage.
For regional average pay click the radio button for One occupation for multiple geographical areas, then find Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, 292056, and choose Metropolitan or Nonmetropolitan area, then Annual Mean Wage for a location in that state.
Resources for More Information
The resources below are more geared for graduated vet techs, but they can be useful for someone investigating the career.
National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)