The career of veterinary technician has a promising future because employment is expected to grow steadily through 2022. The career has advantages for people who enjoy working with animals and people alike, in that the education can be completed in three years or less and can begin right after graduating high school, it is very affordable, pays a good hourly wage, and has job opportunities in a wide variety of fields.
The best path to becoming a veterinary technician (vet tech) is 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 in Oklahoma, click here.
A veterinary technologist attends school for four to five years and earns a B.S. degree in Veterinary Technology. A veterinary technician attends school two to three years and is graduated with an Associate’s in Applied Science degree in Veterinary Technology.
WHAT DOES A VET TECH DO?
Working with animals is the primary factor in choosing the career of a vet tech, but knowing what one does every day is helpful. The vet tech education prepares you to fill the role of nurse to the animals in the facility. Daily duties might include assisting in or preparing animals for surgery, drawing blood, performing laboratory tests, taking x-rays, doing dental procedures, animal restraint, and animal intake and discharge. You will also participate in record keeping and veterinary practice/facility management.
Most vet techs work in private practice, but jobs can be found in private and public research facilities, veterinary teaching hospitals, livestock production, veterinary supply and sales, zoos/exotic animal care, rescue and humane organizations, and military service.
WHAT YOU WILL STUDY TO BECOME A VET TECH
Oklahoma’s four accredited programs require some general education courses before the core curriculum of the program may begin. These take one to two semesters and include English, humanities, computer skills, basic math, biology, chemistry, or social sciences. If you have taken these already in Oklahoma or elsewhere, they probably are transferable.
The core curriculum is heavily science-based. You will study anatomy and physiology, terminology, hematology, pathology, animal diseases and restraint, pharmacology, nutrition, behavior, and parasitology. Classes prepare you to prepare animals for and assist in surgery, take x-rays or perform dental procedures, help treat wounds, and administer medications. Hands-on labs accompany some classes. The final semester places you in a preceptorship (aka internship) in a practice or facility where animals require veterinary care. During this you will learn how to apply your education to the care and treatment of animals in a real-life veterinary setting.
All this takes two to three years, depending on your general education classes and pace of study.
Veterinary technologists and technicians can also specialize in these disciplines:
- Dental Technician
- Internal Medicine
- Emergency and Critical Care
- Behavior Technician
- Zoological Medicine
- Clinical Practice
- Clinical Pathology
Click here for more information on these academic specialties.
HOW TO APPLY
The application process varies from school to school. There might be one application process for the school in general and the vet tech program, or a separate application might be required for each. All require that you have a high school diploma, GED, or the equivalent. Test scores such as ACT or SAT may be required.
Every school’s website has detailed information about the application process and required documents and procedures. It is important that you visit the website of Oklahoma’s four accredited programs to choose the program best suited for you, and to meet the deadlines for application, some of which are very early in the year for the beginning of the fall program.
TUITION AND FINANCIAL AID FOR POTENTIAL VET TECHS
Oklahoma’s schools are all very affordable, with tuition for the entire program averaging less than $12,000. Out of state tuition is two to three times higher. This does not include additional fees, supplies, or living expenses.
Most students require some financial aid, and most traditional types of financial aid are available. However, not all programs accept all forms of financial aid, so check the websites for details. All financial aid applications begin with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website, where you can learn what types are aid are available and for which you qualify. Some schools’ website have an online cost estimator to estimate the cost of your education. In a few minutes, after inputting some basic financial information (i.e., expected financial aid and your ability to pay out of pocket), a very close approximation of costs can be obtained.
The website for the Oklahoma College Assistance Program provides information on other state-sponsored financial aid programs for college students.
Veterans benefits are also available. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website has all the information about the types of aid and what might be best for you. These include programs for dependents and family members of a veteran. Some of Oklahoma’s schools have special veterans centers to assist you in understanding the many types of aid available.
AFTER YOU GRADUATE
You will be graduated with an Associate’s in Applied Science degree in Veterinary Technology. This qualifies you to take the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Examination) and the Oklahoma state board exam required to become a licensed veterinary technician. Only graduates from an accredited program are allowed to take the VTNE, then the state board exam, which is why it is important you select an accredited school for your education. Licensure makes you a good candidate for the best jobs available.
The Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has information on licensure and continuing education requirements.
JOBS AND POTENTIAL PAY FOR VET TECHS
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 Oklahoma vet techs is $26,350.
Regional average pay for Oklahoma (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):
|Northeastern Oklahoma nonmetropolitan area||$20,060|
|Northwestern Oklahoma nonmetropolitan area||$23,150|
|Southwestern Oklahoma nonmetropolitan area||$24,520|
|Southeastern Oklahoma nonmetropolitan area||$29,870|
JOB SEARCH AS A VETERINARY TECHNICIAN
Below is a list of some excellent resources for finding a vet tech job in Oklahoma. However, your job search can be ongoing from the time you begin your education. All the contacts you make or have made in your previous experience and during your education (labs and preceptorship) are useful in searching for a job. An internet search for “veterinary technician jobs in Oklahoma” will give you many leads.
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