How to Become a Veterinary Technician

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5 Steps to Becoming a Vet Tech

Step 1 Complete an AS degree in veterinary technology.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are more than 230 programs accredited by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities. Nine programs are offered completely online. Students should check with their veterinary state board for accredited programs in their home state, as well as educational requirements for licensure.

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.

Step 3 Become a member of NAVTA.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians 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.

Step 4 Find a job in a veterinary clinic.

The majority of veterinary technicians work in clinical settings at veterinary offices. This is the best place to begin a career search.

Step 5 Maintain certification.

Continuing education is a requirement to maintain certification. There are many different resources available to complete continuing education.

FAQs on Becoming a Veterinary Technician

Getting an education is the first step to working as a veterinary technician. There are other major pieces of the puzzle that must fall into place prior to employment. These are some of the most common questions asked by students who want to enter the field of veterinary medicine as a vet tech.

Vet Tech Salary & Job Growth

Employment opportunities for veterinary technicians is expected to increase significantly in the coming years as more and more homeowners take on pets. This section takes an in-depth look at wage and employment expectations for veterinary technicians.

Nationally, veterinary technicians and technologists earned median annual wages of $33,400 in 2017. Wages likely are a bit more for veterinary technologists due to their higher level of educational attainment (bachelor’s degree as opposed to associate degree). The top 10 percent of veterinary technologists and technicians earned closer to $50,000 per year.

Veterinary technicians employed at community colleges, universities, career schools, or local/state agencies took home median annual wages of just over $40,000 annually. Vet techs employed at private veterinary offices earned salaries in line with the profession’s national wage average.

According to Payscale.com, entry-level veterinary technicians earned about $30,000 per year, while more experienced technicians took home average yearly wages of about $36,000. Late-career professionals with years of experience earned just over $40,000 annually. Technicians with a wide range of skills, including phlebotomy, anesthesia, radiology and other areas of experience, typically command greater pay.

The following chart provides detailed state-by-state wage and employment data for veterinary technicians.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $30,940
Currently Employed: 1,000
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22.20%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $41,160
Currently Employed: 190
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.20%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $33,600
Currently Employed: 1,580
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 39.00%
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $26,410
Currently Employed: 400
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.10%
California Mean wage annual: $39,690
Currently Employed: 9,780
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 29.80%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $34,460
Currently Employed: 3,920
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 43.50%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $43,360
Currently Employed: 1,660
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17.50%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $33,290
Currently Employed: 410
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.30%
Florida Mean wage annual: $31,930
Currently Employed: 8,070
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 35.20%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $31,340
Currently Employed: 2,940
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15.20%
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Job Outlook for Veterinary Technicians

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of both veterinary technologists and veterinary technicians is expected to grow by 20,400 new jobs, or 20 percent, through 2026. The majority of veterinary technicians – 91 percent -- are employed at private veterinary clinics. A handful work in research positions at laboratories or local/regional humane societies.

America’s love for pets will help boost employment to about 122,400 veterinary technicians and technologist by 2026. Vet techs primarily will help veterinarians with laboratory work and diagnostic imaging services.

Finding a Veterinary Technician Program

Finding the right veterinary program goes a long way to personal satisfaction during the time spent as a student. Depending on the professional network students build while in school, the right program also influence professional opportunities after graduation. Students should consider the following factors when researching their educational options.

  • Delivery method. Vet techs can choose from on-campus programs at local community colleges and career schools, fully online programs, or hybrid programs that blend on-campus instruction with learning in a digital environment. Students should determine which approach best suits their learning style before enrolling.
  • Tuition cost. Community colleges and vocational schools typical provide the most affordable options for earning an associate’s degree. Online programs may trump campus-based programs for convenience, but students might pay higher tuition rates depending upon the college in which they enroll.
  • Accreditation. Students should seek programs that have been properly accredited. The Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities is the primary accrediting body for vet tech programs in the U.S.
  • Length. Veterinary technicians typically earn a two-year associate degree, but students may want to continue their education to the baccalaureate level to increase their career options and earning potential.

Other primary factors students should consider prior to enrollment include location, school size, student-to-teacher ratio, graduation or completion rate, campus housing options, availability of federal financial aid, and alumni network.

Students can use the search tool provided below to find veterinary technician schools in their home state.

State
Degree Level
School Type
Environment

Vet Tech Associations & Groups

Membership in veterinary technician industry organizations can provide vet techs with many tangible benefits. These include professional development, local and regional networking opportunities, national conferences, and access to continuing education resources.

The following groups include many of the most widely recognized industry associations and organizations dedicated to the veterinary profession:

  • Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians

    Organization dedicated to promoting standards of excellence in veterinary nutrition. Provides a path to earn certification as a Veterinary Technician Specialist for experienced vet techs employed in the field of veterinary nutrition.

  • Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Clinical Practice

    Provides opportunities for Certified Veterinary Technicians to earn certification in clinical practice, as well as care of small animals, exotic animals and production medicine.

  • American Animal Hospital Association

    One of the oldest veterinary industry organizations, the AAHA was founded in 1933. Its main focus is to provide accreditation to veterinary companion animal hospitals. The AAHA has more than 3,700 accredited members and industry professionals.

  • American Association of Veterinary State Boards

    Provides continuing education resources and national credentialing for veterinary technicians. Also provides resources for students preparing to enter accredited veterinary technician programs.

  • National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

    NAVTA was founded in 1981 to provide a voice for veterinary technicians in national issues dealing with the veterinary sciences. The organization offers many different resources for both entry-level and late-career professionals, including a career center and discounts on both continuing education course materials and industry-related insurance services. NAVTA also provides a student-level membership for veterinary technicians enrolled in accredited associate degree programs.

  • Student American Veterinary Medical Association

    Founded in 1969, the SAVMA functions as the national organization for students enrolled in veterinary education programs. Membership benefits include job and externship opportunities, free registration to the annual ACMA conference, and subscriptions to the trade publication Journal of the AVMA and Vet Gazette, the online student journal of the SAVMA.

  • American Veterinary Medical Association

    One of the country’s leading organizations for veterinary professionals has more than 91,000 members. The AVMA provides accreditation and certification opportunities, a career center and unparalleled job board, subscription to professional trade publications, and networking opportunities at AVMA conferences and events.

Additional Resources for Vet Techs

From job boards to continuing education to smartphone apps, there are ton of resources to help veterinary technicians increase their professional acumen or perform routine tasks more efficiently. Here are five additional resources that both new and experienced veterinary techs might find useful:

  • Vet Calculator

    This app for Android-based smartphones helps veterinary technicians quickly and accurately perform daily fluid and energy calculations, infusions, and also converts many different units, such as temperature and measurements.

  • Veterinary Career Network

    Provides valuable resources such as contacts to state veterinary medical associations, national veterinary organizations, and veterinary medical schools.

  • Veterinary Continuing Education Tracking

    Continuing education is required by many veterinary state boards. Students can use this tool provided by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards to log all continuing education courses.

  • VetFolio

    A joint effort between the North American Veterinary Community and American Animal Hospital Association provides continuing education resources and other avenues for professional advancement for veterinary technicians.

  • VTNE Veterinary Technician

    This web- and smartphone-based exam prep tool was created by veterinary experts to help aspiring vet techs prepare for the Veterinary Technician National Exam.