Veterinary Technologists and Technicians: What Training is Required?

By Elizabeth Quinn

For people who love animals a career as a veterinary technologist or technician can be rewarding. An associate’s degree is required to become a veterinary technician, while a bachelor’s degree is needed to be considered a veterinary technologist. People holding either degree perform similar functions, but a veterinary technologist may be involved in research which can benefit both pets and people. Both the two-year and the four-year degrees require solid grounding in the life sciences.

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform tests and care for animals undergoing treatment at a veterinary clinic. They may draw blood and take x-rays or ultrasounds. Basically, they are nurses for animals. Technicians may counsel pet owners, and provide specialized nursing care to animals. At times, this work may be emotionally draining; a technician may have to euthanize an animal, see abused animals, or deal with distraught pet owners. Technicians may also have to clean animal cages and lift heavy objects. Technicians work mainly in veterinary clinics; technologists may work in research labs or wildlife management centers. In some cases, research work with animals contributes to findings which save human lives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to be far greater than average; jobs for veterinary technologists and technicians are expected to increase by 36 percent between the years 2008-2018.

Numerous colleges around the country offer the two-year, associate degree needed to become a veterinary technician; some colleges even offer the program online. About 20 schools in the U.S. offer the four-year, bachelor’s degree needed to become a veterinary technologist.

Earnings

In 2008, the median annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians was $28,900. The middle 50 percent made between $23,580 and $34,960. The top ten percent earned more than $41,490, while the bottom 10 percent earned under $19,770.

Certification and Licensure

Every state requires veterinary technologists and technicians to pass a credentialing examination after they complete their coursework. This exam is regulated by the State Board of Veterinary Examiners or another State agency. The National Veterinary Technician exam is used by most states as the credentialing exam; this test includes written, oral, and practical portions.

If you would like to work in the research field, certification by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science is recommended. Three levels of certification are offered by the AALAS: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician, Laboratory Animal Technician, and Laboratory Animal Technologist.

How to find a Program

The AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities lists AVMA accredited programs at their website.

AVMA accredited programs are available in every state except: Alaska, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, and Rhode Island.

Nine schools, including esteemed Purdue University offer online veterinary technology programs.

Some schools offering programs in Veterinary Technology

California State Polytechnic University in Pomona offers the Bachelor of Science in animal health science which equips students to be certified as a veterinary technologist. Cal Poly is one of only six polytechnic universities in the United States.

Purdue University offers an Associate of Science and a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology on campus, plus an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology online. Students in the online program take preparatory courses online and then enter a clinical mentorship working with a veterinarian near their home.

Cedar Valley College, part of the Dallas Community College District, offers the Associate’s of Science degree through the Distance Education Veterinary Technology Program . Students take online courses and work in a veterinary clinic under the supervision of a voluntary preceptor. This program is also approved by the American Association of Animal Hospitals .

Midland College , also in Texas, offers an associate’s of applied science in veterinary technology.

Preparation for Entering a Veterinary Technology Program

If you are a high school student considering a career in veterinary technology, you should take advanced courses in biology, chemistry, and mathematics, as well as courses which develop strong communications skills. If you are not sure if this career is for you, you might “try it out” by doing volunteer work at an animal shelter.

Paying for a Program

Federal financial aid is available for most veterinary technology programs. Scholarships are offered by the American Kennel Club and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America .


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