How to Become a Veterinary Technician

LearnHowToBecome Team
AJ Dellinger
Updated July 28, 2022

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If you've ever taken your pet to the vet, whether it be for an annual checkup or an emergency, you've almost certainly interacted with a veterinary technician, often called a vet tech. Think of vet techs as nurses for animals. They help provide animals with primary care, operate machinery, and support veterinarians.

Working as a vet tech can be gratifying, especially for those who want to work in a career with animals. This is a growing field, with 16% growth expected over the next decade. The median vet tech salary is $32,260 per year, with the typical entry-level role requiring an associate degree — though it is not always necessary with the proper credentialing and experience.

What Does a Vet Tech Do?

Vet Tech Career Basics

Veterinary technicians support veterinarians and provide care for animals, including performing some medical tests and helping to diagnose animal injuries and illnesses.

5 Steps to Becoming a Vet Tech

Step 1
Complete an associate degree in veterinary technology

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredits vet tech programs and most end with an associate degree. Check with your veterinary state board for accredited programs in your home state and educational requirements for licensure.

Expect this to cost between $1,300-$30,000 depending on the school and whether you are paying in-state or out-of-state tuition.

Step 2
Pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam.

Most states use the national exam administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards to license veterinary technicians. Vet techs who pass this exam are referred to as Certified Veterinary Technicians.

The application fee is $330.

Step 3
Become a member of NAVTA.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians (NAVTA) in America is the preeminent industry group for professional veterinary technicians. Although not a prerequisite for employment or certification, membership provides many different professional and personal benefits.

This costs $60 per year.

Step 4
Find a job in a veterinary clinic.

The majority of veterinary technicians work in veterinary offices. This is the best place to begin your career search.

Step 5
Maintain certification.

Continuing education is a requirement to maintain certification. There are many different resources available to complete continuing education. In most cases, you must renew your certification every two years. Renewal will cost at least $20, depending on the certification.

Vet Tech Salary and Job Growth

State

Top 10 States With the Highest Job Growth

  1. Utah: 71.5
  2. Georgia: 43.9
  3. Colorado: 36.9
  4. Arizona: 36.1
  5. Nevada: 34.4
  6. Virginia: 34.2
  7. Wyoming: 31.8
  8. Tennessee: 30.1
  9. Alaska: 26.3
  10. Florida: 26.3

Career Paths for Vet Techs

A veterinary assistant works under a vet or vet tech's guidance to care for animals. This typically includes basic care. No formal education or training is required. On-the-job training may prove useful in seeking out work as a vet tech.

Once you get your associate degree in veterinary technology, you can start working as a vet tech. Duties include caring for animals, interacting with animal caretakers, and helping to perform some medical procedures. Vet techs can advance through certifications and continuing education.

A veterinarian is a licensed professional who can provide medical care for animals. This career requires a four-year bachelor's degree and a doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Vet Tech Training Programs

Courses in vet tech associate degree programs include:

  • Anatomy & physiology
  • Animal dentistry
  • Animal nursing
  • Anesthesia
  • Clinical toxicology
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Microbiology
  • Parasitology
  • Pathology
  • Veterinary medical calculations
  • Veterinary medical ethics

FAQ on Becoming a Veterinary Technician

Are there scholarships available for veterinary technician degree programs?

Yes. Many scholarships for veterinary technicians are tied to a geographical location, such as the Ray DeVries Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded by the Washington Farm Bureau. There are many national, regional and university-based veterinary technician scholarships as well. Professional organizations, such as the American Veterinary Medicine Association, also award scholarships to aspiring veterinary technicians.

Can I get federal financial aid for enrolling in a veterinary technician training program?

Yes. Full-time students might be eligible for federal Pell Grants, Stafford loans, and other common forms of federal student aid to pay for tuition. Students should check with the financial aid office at their college or vocational school for insight into the many different ways to pay for college.

I completed my college degree and passed the Veterinary Technician National Exam. Now what?

All that's left to do is earn licensure in your home state. Each state's veterinary board grants licensure and ensures candidates have the competency and knowledge of ethical and legal responsibilities that come with working as a veterinary technician.

Can I work while going to veterinary technician school?

Yes. However, students enrolled in veterinary technician degree programs can't work as Certified Veterinary Technicians until they complete their education, pass the VTNE, and earn licensure in their home state. You could, however, get a job as a veterinary assistant while studying to become a vet tech.

Are there any specialty vet tech certifications I can or should pursue?

Yes, and they can open additional avenues to employment and potentially lead to increased earnings. One is the Animal Hospice And Palliative Care Certificate Program offered by the American Animal Hospice Association. Other important veterinary specialty certifications include equine nursing, internal medicine, clinical pathology, anesthesia and analgesia, and dermatology. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America provides a complete list of specialty certifications.

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Become Team
AJ Dellinger
Contributing Writer

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