Steps to Become a Veterinary Technician in Iowa

Employment of veterinary technologists andiowa technicians is expected to grow significantly in the next decade, faster than most other occupations. A veterinary technician does not need to be registered in Iowa to be employed, but the better employment opportunities come with being registered. To be registered, one must have passed the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Examination), and to be eligible to take the VTNE, you must have attended 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 Iowa, click here.


What Does an Iowa Veterinary Technician Do?

A veterinary technician performs the job of nurse to the animals in the facility, and assistant to the veterinarian. Your education will prepare you to assist in surgery, administer medications and anesthesia, take x-rays, perform dental cleaning, and perform laboratory tests such as urinalysis and blood counts.

Most veterinary technicians work in private practice, but employment opportunities exist in many other fields: zoos and wildlife facilities, veterinary supply sales, private and public research, military service, humane societies and rescue organizations, diagnostic laboratories, and veterinary teaching hospitals.

Veterinary technologists and technicians can also specialize in these disciplines:

  • Dental Technician
  • Anesthetist
  • Internal Medicine
  • Emergency and Critical Care
  • Behavior Technician
  • Zoological Medicine
  • Equine
  • Surgery
  • Clinical Practice
  • Nutrition
  • Clinical Pathology

(Click here for more information on these academic specialties.)

Application Process to Become a Veterinary Technician in Iowa

The application processes for most schools are similar. Deadlines vary, so check each school’s website for important dates in the application process. You must be a high school graduate, have a GED or the equivalent to apply. ACT, SAT, or COMPASS scores are usually required. Interviews or placement tests may be required. Some schools require that you have at least 24 hours of observation of a veterinary technician or veterinarian. One school requires you to have rabies, influenza and tetanus vaccinations.

There is one program that focuses primarily on large animal veterinary technician education, though training for working with other animals is included.

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What You Should Expect to Study

One of the admission requirements of many schools is a C average or better in high school. Most require some general education courses after high school, such as biology, chemistry, English and math before you may begin the core curriculum of the program. Average scores of C or better in these courses are also required.

The majority of the course work is science-based. You will study anatomy, physiology, terminology, practice management, basic animal care including restraint, pharmacology, radiology, anesthesiology, nutrition, microbiology, and behavior. Most schools require a few electives to be chosen from the social sciences, humanities, biology, computer skills, or psychology.

Labs accompany many courses, in which you will gain hands-on experience with a variety of animals from farm animals to lab animals to exotics, and in which you will practice the skills taught in the classroom.

The final semester or quarter focuses on an internship, where you will be in a clinical setting to learn new skills, refine your acquired skills, and observe veterinarians and veterinary technicians in practice.

Iowa Veterinary Technician Tuition and Financial Aid

Iowa’s tuition rates are very affordable. Most programs can be completed in two years for under $20,000 including associated fees (lower than many other states). Tuition for out of state residents is higher, but usually less than twice as high per credit hour. Each school’s website has tuition and financial aid information.

All the traditional types of financial aid available to college students around the country are available to students in veterinary technician programs. Nearly all financial aid applications begin with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website, where you can learn what types of aid are available and for which you qualify. Many websites have a handy cost estimator, an online tool into which you enter basic information such as your age, your parents’ ability to pay out of pocket, your living arrangements, and some financial aid information. In a few simple steps, your estimated tuition, costs and fees will be presented for your financial planning.

Iowa has some state aid. Visit the Iowa College Student Aid Commission for more information on state financial aid packages.

Many military benefits are available as well. Each school’s website has information on these programs. Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to learn more about the types of aid and what might be best for you. These include programs for dependents and family members of a veteran.

After you Graduate

You will be graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Veterinary Technology (also called an Associate of Applied Science, depending on the school). You will be eligible to take the VTNE required to become a registered veterinary technician in Iowa. Only graduates from an accredited program are allowed to take the VTNE, which is why it is important you select an accredited school for your education.

Remember, you do not have to be registered in Iowa to practice as a veterinary technician. But, after you have been graduated from an accredited school and pass the VTNE, your employability, and your potential pay, will be better if you register. In other words, your career will get off to a much better start. In order to register with the state of Iowa, you must pass the Iowa written exam. Click here for details on the Iowa exam and continuing education requirements (which are 30 hours every three years).

Job Prospects and Potential Pay

Job prospects for veterinary technologists and technicians in Iowa are good. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to grow 30% per year through 2022. Per May 2013 BLS data, the average pay throughout the state was $31,140.

Regional average pay (click the radio button for One occupation for multiple geographical areas, then find Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, 292056):

Cedar Rapids$32,200
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island (IL)$28,370
Des Moines-West Des Moines$32,230
Omaha-Council Bluffs NE-IA$30,320
Northwest Iowa non-metro area$36,160
Southwest Iowa non-metro area$29,950
Southeast Iowa non-metro area$27,500

Finding a Job as a Veterinary Technician in Iowa

Your contacts made in any previous experience, your clinical and lab experience, and internship are your initial job leads. The websites listed below are very good resources with job postings and means of keeping your current.

Iowa Veterinary Medical Association

Central Iowa Veterinary Technician Association

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)

Veterinary Career Network

Vet Tech Life, an online journal for veterinary technicians

Vetcetera, a listing of national, state and specialty veterinary technician associations