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How to Become a Veterinary Technician

Veterinary technicians offer assistance to veterinarians and their offices. Vet techs enjoy a variety of responsibilities, including assisting veterinarians with animal care during sick visits or handling samples or labs in more research or clinical settings. It’s a rewarding career for those who love animals.

This article provides an overview of the job outlook, projected veterinary technician salary, certification requirements and educational pathways for an aspiring veterinary technician.

What Does a Veterinary Technician Do?

A veterinarian technician works under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. They typically work in practices that care for cats and dogs but may also work with mice, cattle, primates or other animals. Some veterinary technicians specialize in a discipline such as anesthesia, emergency care, dentistry or zoological medicine. 

Vet tech responsibilities may include performing tests, analyzing samples and preparing vaccines in a lab environment to diagnose and treat disease in animals. Other times they work in a private clinical practice where they take on some responsibility of talking to and educating pet owners. They may assist veterinarians with surgical procedures or projects like biomedical research. They are responsible for the human treatment of animals in research-related jobs. 

Veterinary technician’s are responsible for the hands-on care of animals under the supervision of a licensed vet. Some of these tasks include observing sick animals, providing emergency first aid, administering anesthesia, vaccines and medication, taking x-rays and collecting blood and urinalysis samples, and preparing surgery stations and instruments. 

Veterinary technicians write down their observations, updates to a pet’s care plan and notes on their progress in an animal’s medical file. They should be comfortable observing, notating, transcribing and maintaining both written and electronic records. They should be able to communicate their findings to important people including their managing veterinarian. They may also be asked to help maintain an office’s records, drug inventory and laboratory equipment. 

In general, these are some core traits that may be in a vet tech job description: 

  • Communication skills: you need to be able to talk to supervisors and animal owners.
  • Compassion: for both animals and pet owners who may be experiencing hardship due to illness or death.
  • Attention to detail: it’s crucial vet techs are precise when documenting information, performing tests or giving pets medicine.
  • Manual dexterity: it’s important vet techs have a steady hand for crucial tasks like giving vaccines or taking x rays.
  • Physical strength: vet techs may need to lift or restrain larger animals. 

Benefits of Being a Vet Tech 

If you love animals and want to work with them professionally, a career as a veterinary technician offers you the chance to help animals in both in-person or research settings. You also have the chance to work with pet owners and ease their fears or educate them about their pets. It’s an opportunity to be a part of a high-demand field without having to become a veterinarian. You can finish school in under two years and can usually be in the field as a certified veterinary technician shortly after completing an exam.

Vet Tech vs Vet Assistant

While they both work in veterinarian’s offices, veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants have different job functions. Both titles assist in bathing and caring for animals and maintaining clean office equipment. The biggest difference is that vet techs are allowed to do more complex procedures. 

Some examples include:

  • Monitoring an animal after surgery
  • Performing emergency first aid
  • Administering anesthesia
  • Taking x-rays or samples and performing lab tests

Vet techs typically have an associate degree and certification. Because of this, they earn a higher salary than vet assistants. Learn more about how to become a vet assistant.

Why Become a Vet Tech?

Vet technicians are in demand. Jobs are projected to grow 16% between 2019 and 2029, much higher than the average expected growth of all U.S. jobs at 4%.1 The biggest factor contributing to this demand is increased spending on pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, pet spending reached 95.7 billion in 2019, compared with 69.51 billion in 2017.2 This increased spending could be used in part on preventative care.

Vet Tech Salary

We know they are in demand, but how much do vet technicians make? The median salary for veterinary technologists and technicians in May 2019 was $35,320 with the lowest 10% earning around $24,530 and the highest 10% earning $51,230. Typically, those working in research settings make more. The highest paid vet techs worked in colleges or universities (average salary $40,990) followed by veterinary services ($34,990), then social advocacy organizations ($34,980).

Best States to Work as a Vet Tech

Some states offer vet techs higher pay and greater job prospects than others. These tables break down the details.

Top pay by state as of May 2019, according to the BLS:3

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State Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
District of Columbia $28.98 $60,290
Connecticut $23.99 $49,900
Nevada $23.71 $49,320
Virgina $21.07 $43,820
New York $21.01 $43,700

State with highest level of employment as of May 2019, according to the BLS:4

State Employment Employment per thousand jobs
Texas 12,280 0.99
California 9,750 0.56
Florida 8,660 0.98
Pennsylvania 5,250 0.89
New York 5,020 0.53

Start Your Career in Veterinary Technician

Carrington College focuses on small class sizes and hands-on training. Here you’re more than a face in a room. Take the first step on your way to a new career in Veterinary Technician.

Veterinary Technician Jobs

Licensed veterinary technicians work in a variety of environments. Both part-time and full-time jobs exist for aspiring vet techs. The following gives you an idea of different vet tech jobs. 

Veterinary Laboratory Technician: Vet techs in this role work primarily in a lab setting. They assist researchers with biomedical projects. They also prepare samples and may be asked to do a variety of tasks around a lab including maintaining lab equipment or recording the results of an experiment.

Veterinary Nurse: With an additional certificate in veterinary nursing, vet techs can take on more complex roles like administering anesthesia. In general, this role works closely with veterinarians and is responsible for clearly communicating the state of the animal and their treatment to their supervising veterinarian.

Veterinary Technologist: These individuals typically work in research-related jobs. This role is conducted primarily in a lab where an individual might prepare tissue samples or conduct research on specific animals. Depending on the state, a four year degree may be required. 

Emergency Veterinary Technician: These individuals help veterinarians with emergency surgery. They can administer anesthesia and do other first aid activities. Additional certification may be required. 

Internal Medicine Veterinary Technician: These individuals receive additional training and typically work with other specialties including oncology and neurology. They may draw blood and conduct other tests to get to the root cause of illness in animals. 

How to Become a Veterinary Technician

Are you wondering how to become a vet tech? Nearly all veterinary technicians are required to have an associate degree while veterinary technologists may need a four year bachelor’s degree, depending on the state. Most states require a credentialing exam. It’s a good idea to check local or state agencies for credentialing and other vet tech requirements.

    • Start early with science and biology classes in high school. It’s never too early to begin broadening your skills. Whether still in high school or later at a community college, consider taking biology and other science prerequisite classes. 
    • Earn an associate degree from an accredited program. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredits both bachelor’s and associate degree programs. 
    • Take the credentialing exam. Many states require successful passing of the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. 
  • Obtain licensure and certification and/or registration. Each of these routes has different meanings when it comes to vet techs. You can obtain a certificate as an acknowledgement of being capable of performing a certain task. Certificates are usually given by private parties such as educational institutions. To obtain a license, contact your state specifically to find out what is needed upon successful completion of the VTNE. Typically a state fee applies. A registered vet tech means that your name is listed with a government body as being a practicing vet tech.

Do I Need to Be Certified to Be a Vet Tech?

Most states vary when it comes to their credentialing requirements, however, in general, one must pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards to become a registered veterinary technician. The board doesn’t send a vet tech license or vet tech certification directly so individuals should work with their state authorities to obtain a physical license.

What to Look for in Veterinary Technician School

Not all vet tech schools are the same. Keep some of your personal goals in mind and consider the following to find the right school for you:

  • Hands-on experience: It’s important that you get some real-life experience working in vet offices and with animals. Make sure your program offers a blend of classroom instruction and clinical experience. 
  • Instructor quality: Research your school and find reviews on instructors. Find instructors that have specialties in an area you want to study and consider asking them to be your mentor or at least recommend externship or post-graduation opportunities. 
  • Cost: Find a program that you can afford. Talk to your school’s financial aid to determine what alternative funding options such as grants and scholarships exist for you. 

How Long is a Vet Tech Program?

Vet tech school can be completed in nineteen months. You will graduate with an associate degree. This time estimate is if you attend full-time. Some programs may offer part-time options with a longer time frame to graduation.

Can I Attend Veterinary Technology School Online?

Currently no fully online vet tech programs exist. This, in large part, is because of the need to have in-person time with animals and in vet settings.  Some vet tech schools may offer blended learning with some online vet tech courses and others in person.

Discover Your Career as a Veterinary Technician

Carrington College’s Veterinary Technician Program offers you the hands-on training you need for a job as Veterinary Technician. Take the first step on your way to a new career.

What Will I Learn in Carrington’s Veterinary Technician Courses?

The Veterinary Technology program at Carrington College prepares students with the theory, practical instruction, knowledge and skills needed for entry-level jobs at veterinary practices or in research laboratories. The program sets students up to be ready to take the credentialing exam, however it doesn’t guarantee passing it. The program specializes in companion animals but also includes large animal medicine, biomedical research and an array of topics in veterinary medicine. It is not, however, a pre-veterinary program. The program includes an externship, offering students an opportunity to get vet tech training in a real veterinary setting.

Vet Tech Classes

The following vet tech courses include both general education and theory and practice in veterinary technology: 

  • AS 110 Introduction to the Veterinary Hospital
  • AS 111 Basic Anatomy and Physiology
  • CLT 100 Computer Literacy 
  • ENG 101 English Writing and Composition
  • MAT 101 Principles of Mathematics 
  • MAT 151 College Algebra 
  • NUT 200 Principle of Nutrition
  • SPH 205 Interpersonal Communications  
  • VT 105 VT Externship 
  • VT 120 Veterinary Applied Sciences 
  • VT 121 Companion Animal Diseases 
  • VT 122 Clinical Procedures 
  • VT 123 Clinical Rotation 
  • VT 130 Surgical Assisting 
  • VT 131 Anesthesia for Veterinary Technicians 
  • VT 132 Clinical Procedures 
  • VT 133 Clinical Rotation 
  • VT 140 Large Animal Medicine 
  • VT 141 Veterinary Technology Specialties
  • VT 142 Advanced Clinical Procedures and Surgery 
  • VT 143 Clinical Rotation  
  • VT 150 Licensure Exam Comprehensive Review 

Prepare for a Career in Veterinary Medicine With Carrington College

A vet tech degree can be a rewarding way to take your passion for animals and make a career out of it. The best way to prepare for a career as a vet tech with Carrington College is to reach out to one of our representatives to learn more about the program.

Vet Tech FAQ

How long does it take to become a vet tech?

 It can take as little as nineteen months.

Do I need to be certified as a vet tech?

Most jobs require a credentialing exam. Different states have different requirements for certification.

Where can I work as a vet tech?

Vet techs work in veterinary clinics, at higher education institutions and in research facilities and labs. 

How much do vet techs make?

The median salary for veterinary technologists and technicians in May 2019 was $35,320.

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