Steps to Become a Veterinary Technician in Massachusetts

massachusettsAs a Licensed Veterinary Technician, your role in a veterinary hospital will mirror that of a nurse in a regular hospital in many ways.

While state licensure isn’t necessary in order to become a Veterinary Technician in Massachusetts, your chances of finding stable and permanent employment will be greatly enhanced if you are certified by the Massachusetts Veterinary Technician Association (MVTA). In order to become certified, there are a few simple steps you must follow.


Step 1. Education Requirements for a Vet-Tech in Massachusetts

In order to become a certified Veterinary Technician under the MVTA, you must first obtain the appropriate education at a veterinary college or institution that’s accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). If you complete an accredited program in Massachusetts, you’ll be able to choose between a two-year Associate of Science (A.S.) in Veterinary Technology, a two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Veterinary Technology, or a four-year Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Veterinary Technology.

The differences between the three types of degrees are as follows:

  • Generally, an A.A.S. in Veterinary Technology will directly prepare you for employment in a veterinary hospital or laboratory, providing you with the skills and experience necessary to become immediately successful in the workplace.
  • An A.S. program, on the other hand, focuses on building a foundation of knowledge and skills in a variety of course areas related to Veterinary Technology, providing you with a strong background that can be built upon post-graduation through continuing education and specialization in a chosen field
  • Finally, the B.S. represents the epitome of Veterinary Technician training, and will prepare you to work in diverse and specialized settings, such as aquariums, biotechnology companies, veterinary hospitals, vet schools, research laboratories, wildlife preserves, and zoos.

All AVMA accredited Veterinary Technology programs will include general chemistry and biology coursework, as well as more specialized courses in animal anatomy and physiology, clinical procedures, surgical procedures, diagnostic imaging, pharmacology, research methods, nutrition, anesthesiology, and more. Prerequisites to beginning your Veterinary Technician program often include having had a tetanus shot within the last 5-10 years, a rabies immunization, and proof of medical insurance.

In addition to the on-campus programs available in Massachusetts, there are nine AVMA-accredited Veterinary Technician programs available online.

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Step 2. Find an Internship

Obtaining hands-on experience is a necessary part of your education to become a Veterinary Technician, and the number of internship assignments you’re given will vary depending on the type of program you choose. A typical A.S. or A.A.S. program may only include one to two internship assignments within its entire two-year program, while a four-year B.S. program may include as many as six internship assignments in a variety of different settings.

Most institutions will include on-campus laboratories where you’ll be able to practice working with animals under the supervision of instructors, and this will serve as your basic orientation to the field of Veterinary Technology. Once you’ve gained the necessary experience through training and workshops, you’ll be prepared to begin your internship at an off-campus veterinary hospital or laboratory.

The internship periods are intended to directly prepare you to work in the field as a Veterinary Technician. It is also possible that your internship may lead to permanent employment upon completion of your Veterinary Technician program, so you should try and make a good impression with any potential future employer.

Some places to seek out an internship in Massachusetts are:

Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital

Bulger Animal Hospital

Massachusetts Animal Medical Center

Step 3. Examination to Become a Veterinary Technician

Once you’ve completed your Veterinary Technology degree, you will be eligible to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). This step is optional in Massachusetts, as there is no state licensing board for Veterinary Technicians, and is only required if you’re planning on becoming certified by the MVTA.

The VTNE is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) and costs $300.00. Before you are eligible to take the exam, you must forward your official transcript to the AAVSB as proof that you’ve completed an accredited Veterinary Technician program. After you’ve forwarded your transcript, you may register online at the AAVSB website. You can contact the AAVSB for additional information regarding taking the VTNE in Massachusetts: via phone at (877) 698-8482, or Email at [email protected].

Once you’ve forwarded your transcripts and applied online to take the VTNE, you will be sent an Authorization-to-Test letter (ATT) from the Professional Examination Service (PES) via Email. The ATT letter will include further instructions on how to choose the date and location in which to take your VTNE. If you have questions or concerns about receipt of the ATT letter, you can contact the PES: via phone at 1-866-744-4724, or Email at [email protected].

Once you’ve made a VTNE appointment through the AAVSB, Prometric Licensing and Examination Providers will conduct the exam at one of their testing facilities in Massachusetts.

You must bring government-issued ID to the prometric testing center on the date you’ve chosen. In addition, you’ll be able to confirm the date and location with Prometric: via phone at 1-800-869-1100, or on their website.

To prepare for your examination, you can download and print the VTNE Candidate Handbook from the AAVSB website. This handbook will provide you with everything you need to know about the VTNE process, including what to expect on the exam itself. The AAVSB also provides practice tests online that are designed to help you in assessing your strengths and weaknesses, and to provide you with a preview of the official VTNE. Each practice test will cost $45 per attempt, and will feature 75 multiple-choice questions with a time limit of 90 minutes (half the length of the official VTNE).

The official VTNE exam will run 3 hours and consist of 170 questions spread across nine domain areas. All of the questions are multiple choice and will be answered via computer at the Prometric testing center. 20 of the questions included will be pilot questions for future exams and will not be counted towards your final score, although you’ll have no way of knowing which questions these are.

The VTNE’s nine domain areas consist of:

  1. Animal Care and Nursing
  2. Anesthesia
  3. Laboratory Procedures
  4. Pharmacy and Pharmacology
  5. Surgical Nursing
  6. Diagnostic Imaging
  7. Pain Management/Analgesia
  8. Dentistry
  9. Emergency Medicine/Critical Care

Once you’ve completed the exam, you will receive an unofficial pass or fail grade on the final screen. However, this preliminary result is not official, and your official score report will be sent via Email notification from the AAVSB 3-4 weeks after your exam date.

Step 4. Veterinary Technician Certification

Unlike many states, Massachusetts has no state board certification for Veterinary Technicians, meaning that it is perfectly legal to work as a Veterinary Technician in Massachusetts without having completed any coursework at a postsecondary institution nor taken the VTNE. Despite this lack of state regulation, most veterinary hospitals and laboratories are unlikely to hire those who are both uneducated and inexperienced in the field of Veterinary Technology.

The Massachusetts Veterinary Technician Association (MVTA) provides third-party certification for Veterinary Technicians seeking employment in Massachusetts, and your odds of being hired will be greatly improved if you become certified as a Veterinary Technician through the MVTA.

In order to become certified by the MVTA, you must:

  1. Complete and MVTA Certified Veterinary Technician application form.
  2. Provide documentation of a passing score on the VTNE.
  3. Provide all official transcripts from your completed AVMA-accredited Veterinary Technician program.
  4. Include the $50.00 application fee.

Certification includes membership with the Massachusetts Veterinary Technician Association, and lasts from January 1st to December 31st of each calendar year, regardless of when you registered. In order to renew your certification each year, you must complete a certification renewal form, provide documentation of continuing education credits, (including online courses or seminars arranged by the MVTA), and pay a $35.00 renewal fee. MVTA membership is free for students enrolled in an AVMA-accredited Veterinary Technician program in Massachusetts.

Step 5. Specialize in a Particular Field

In order to further your qualifications as a Veterinary Technician, you may consider specializing in one specific aspect of either veterinary medicine or laboratory science. You can work towards a specialization by joining an organization that offers additional courses, training sessions, and special certification for those who follow a designated pathway.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) is an organization which represents the profession of veterinary technology in relation to the field of animal medicine. NAVTA actively promotes the career advancement of its members and works with other professional organizations in promoting the competent care and humane treatment of all animals.

NAVTA’s Committee on Veterinary Technicians Specialties designates a few distinct academies, each with their own training pathways and certification processes. If you choose to follow a certain specialization pathway, you can eventually achieve the designation of Veterinary Technician Specialist (VTS) in your chosen discipline. Membership will cost you $50 annually, or $25 annually if you’re a student.

Some of the NAVTA academies are:

Alternatively, If you’d prefer to specialize in a laboratory animal science, the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) has three levels of certification that may be obtained through a combination of courses, experience, and certification exams. Membership will cost you $35 annually. The three levels of certification and their associated fees are:

  1. Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT)

$160 for AALAS members, $235 for non-members. In order to qualify, you must have:

  • an A.S. or B.S. degree plus 5 years of lab experience.
  1. Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT)

$210 for AALAS members, $285 for non-members. In order to qualify, you must have:

  • an A.S. degree plus 2 years of lab experience.
  • or, a B.S. degree plus 1 year of lab experience.
  • or, an ALAT certification, a college degree, and 5 years of lab experience post-ALAT certification.
  1. Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG)

$260 for AALAS members, $335 for non-members. In order to qualify, you must have:

  • an A.S. degree plus 4 years of lab experience.
  • or, a B.S. degree plus 3 year of lab experience.
  • or, an LAT certification, a college degree, and 5 years of lab experience post-LAT certification.

As a certified Veterinary Technician Specialist, you’ll be considered an expert in your chosen discipline and be eligible for hire in a wide variety of different settings which require specialized knowledge above and beyond post-secondary education alone.

Step 6. Continuing Education as a Veterinary Technician

As a certified Veterinary Technician under the Massachusetts Veterinary Technician Association, you’ll need to remain current with emerging technologies and techniques related to your career as a Veterinary Technician. As part of your yearly certification renewal application with the MVTA, you’ll need to complete 12 hours of continuing education units within the past year. You can find a complete list of seminars and online courses suggested by the MVTA online here.

In addition to the continued education mandatory to your renewed MVTA certification, you should also consider becoming involved with some local veterinary organizations in Massachusetts. Some such organizations include:

Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association

163 Lakeside Avenue

Marlborough, MA 01752

Phone: 508.460.9333

Fax: 508.460.9969

Email: [email protected]

Further, you can also take additional Veterinary Technician courses at a local AVMA-accredited veterinary college, upgrade your A.S. or A.A.S. to a B.A., or even consider becoming a full-fledged veterinarian through additional schooling.