People who want a career working with animals have many choices. One career worth considering has a promising employment future, requires less than three years of college education (two if you plan well), is very affordable, pays well, trains you to work with a variety of animals from mice to horses, and presents you with daily challenges and rewarding work. That career is a veterinary technician.
What Does a Veterinary Technician Do?
The above all sounds good, but first you must know what a veterinary technician (vet tech) does. A vet tech fills a critical role in a veterinary practice or animal facility. The tech is nurse to the animals and para-professional to the veterinarian. The vet tech education prepares you to assist the veterinarian in surgery and emergency care, perform dental and laboratory procedures, take x-rays, administer anesthesia and medications, keep records, and participate in client relations and practice management. The work is rewarding, interesting, and sometimes physically demanding.
To provide for the best possible future for your career as a North Dakota veterinary technician, you should attend a school with a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). The benefits of taking this step are described below.
The field of veterinary technology has two degree levels. A veterinary technologist attends college a minimum of four years and is graduated with a B.S. in Veterinary Technology. A veterinary technician attends school a minimum of two years and is graduated with an Associate’s degree in Applied Science in Veterinary Technology. Obviously, a more advanced degree affords a graduate with better employment opportunities with a higher salary. The advantages of becoming a vet tech versus a veterinary technologist are the shorter education period and less tuition costs, and if you want to pursue a more advanced degree you have a solid foundation with an Associate’s degree to do so.
Most states have colleges with programs to award an Associate’s degree, allowing for students to pay the lowest tuition based on in-state rates. North Dakota has only one school with a veterinary technology department, and that school awards only a B.S. degree but not an Associate’s degree. Click here to learn about that program.
There are three ways a North Dakotan can get an Associate’s degree. One is to study under a “distance education” (DE) program. In a DE program, you must still attend college classes, many of which can be done on your schedule online or through computer modules. Though most of your studies can be done at home, some travel to a local campus is required. You participate much more in the planning of your education, including arranging the hands-on laboratory experience you need to accompany some classes, and a final internship in which you spend hundreds of hours at a veterinary facility to observe, learn, and get more hands-on experience. These DE programs are accredited as any other program. For a list of distance education programs, click here.
The second way to get an Associate’s degree is to attend a school with an accredited program in a neighboring state. North Dakota has reciprocity agreements with neighboring states that allow for reduced out-of-state tuition rates in specified programs. There is one reciprocity agreement between Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota, and another between several states including North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. You must attend college in the reciprocal state, then apply for licensure in North Dakota. To be sure that your education in a nearby state will be accepted for licensure in North Dakota, check with the North Dakota Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
A third, more complicated way for a North Dakotan to get an Associate’s degree is to take as many classes as you can at a North Dakota college, then transfer those credits to an accredited school in another state. At least some of your education credits can be taken at North Dakota in-state rates. If you then attend school in a neighboring state with a reciprocity agreement, your tuition costs can be kept as low as possible.
You must dedicate a great deal of individual research to obtain a vet tech degree under any of these three options. You must visit the websites of the North Dakota regulating bodies, the school in North Dakota you wish to attend for preliminary classes, the school you wish to attend in a nearby state, and be sure you are studying under the guidelines of the reciprocity agreements of all states involved. Fortunately, every school has excellent website resources and departments you can contact to arrange your educational program.
What You Will Study on Your Path to Become a North Dakota Vet-Tech
Regardless of the education path you choose, your studies will be similar. To apply to any program, you must have a high school diploma, GED, or the equivalent. Depending on the program, general education prerequisite classes are usually required in English, basic math, sciences such as biology or chemistry, humanities, computer skills, or communications.
The core curriculum is heavily science-based in any program, beginning with anatomy, physiology and terminology, and lots of other “ology” classes to give you the scientific education you need. Finally, an internship in the final semester places you on-site in a veterinary facility to give you hands-on, practical experience.
Tuition and Financial Aid in North Dakota
Because the options for becoming a vet tech in North Dakota are more complicated than for states with an in-state program, tuition costs are difficult to estimate. So too are financial aid options, but nearly every college in the country has the traditional complement of aid available, including military and veterans benefits.
All applications for financial aid begin with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website. Every school’s website has excellent information and resources regarding these topics. Time spent research costs and financial is time well spent, and will be one of the best investments you can make in your educational planning.
After You Graduate
You will be graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Veterinary Technology, and will be eligible to take the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Examination) required to become a North Dakota veterinary technician. Only graduates from an accredited veterinary technician program may take the VTNE, which is why it is important that you attend an accredited school. Once you graduate and pass the VTNE, you will be required to get the endorsement of a licensed veterinarian in order to apply for licensure from the North Dakota Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
The Job and It’s Pay For a Veterinary Technician
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of vet techs is expected to increase 30% a year through 2022. Per the 2013 BLS data, the average annual salary for North Dakota veterinary technologists and technicians was $30,840.
Regional average pay for North Dakota (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):
|West Central North Dakota nonmetropolitan area||$32,120|
Below are resources for prospective vet tech students and vet techs who have North Dakota licensure. These resources help you find a job, keep you current in your continuing education, and keep you in contact with your vet tech peers.
Vet Tech Life, an online journal for veterinary technicians
Vetcetera, a listing of national, state and specialty veterinary technician associations
Where Techs Connect, a job source connecting veterinary technicians with employers