What Kinds of Veterinary Technician Degrees Exist?
There are several degrees that can lead to a career as a “vet tech,” which is short for either veterinary technician or veterinary technologist. The veterinary technician is more of a junior position and requires an associate’s degree. The associate’s degree is a two-year degree, but there are many programs that can offer a qualifying associate’s vet tech degree in as little as 18 months if the students are willing to take three semesters of classes per year instead of the traditional two. Although there are many associate’s degrees out there in vet tech, one of the most common is the Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology, or AAS VT.
Those interested in becoming a veterinary technologist should pursue a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Students are taught the fundamentals of veterinary medicine and animal care, as well as necessary business skills. Those looking to get a graduate degree in veterinary medicine can also go for a bachelor’s degree in one of the veterinary medicine disciplines before pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree in the area.
Where Can I Find Accredited Vet Tech Degrees?
There are many areas of veterinary medicine, and as a result, many agencies that accredit various educational and practicing areas of animal medicine.
- Council on Education: This agency is part of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Their specialty is accrediting DVM and equivalent educational programs. It stands for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and is intended for those who want to become actual veterinarians. This particular section of the AVMA gives an overview of their process, an FAQ, and a list of veterinary colleges that have been approved.
- Committee On Veterinary Technician Education and Activities: Also part of the AVMA, they also accredit colleges offering degrees in veterinary technology. This section outlines what the standards are, which vet tech programs have met them, and more. They currently have 191 accredited programs, 21 of which offer a four year degree, and nine of which offer distance learning.
- National Veterinary Accreditation Program: The NVAP is more for practicing veterinarians who want to be accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. They have tons of information on all kinds of veterinary practices. You can use the site to learn more, or find a local VS area office.
- AAHA: Like the above, this is another voluntary accreditation done by practicing veterinary clinics. The American Animal Hospital Association has over 3,000 approved clinics across the country and can be a good choice for vet techs seeking employment.
- VIPPS: If looking to go into the pharmaceutical side of veterinary medicine, stop here. The Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites accredits online pharmacies that dispense medicine to animals of all kinds.
Where Can I Find More Info About Being a Vet Tech?
Here are some free online resources for people interested in being a vet tech or getting involved in the veterinary community in other ways:
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Whether you’re looking for accredited schools or pertinent information on veterinary medicine, the AVMA is a good first stop. They have scientific and veterinary sections, and resources for the public. You can also use them to search for vet tech jobs and get a work blog.
- Canada Veterinary Medical Association: Get the Canadian equivalent of the AVMA here. They have a National Examination Board to help students become vet techs in Canada, as well as other resources for students. Visitors can also get tips on animal health care, animal welfare, a CVMA insurance program, and much more. You can also get the site in French.
- National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America: Whether you’re a student or practicing vet tech, there are options for you at the NAVTA. There are student chapters of the association all across the country, and you can search for one on the site. They also offer scholarships as well as several other awards for vet techs. Be sure not to miss the journal if you are a member and learn more about specialties and their assistant program.
- Veterinary State Boards: Visit here to find out how to contact your local state board of veterinary medicine. The AVMA provides this A through Z listing of boards. Clicking on your state takes you to the local state site that can give you tons of information including who to contact if you have more questions.
Do I Need a License to Be a Vet Tech?
Although each of the 50 states has its own requirements for becoming a vet tech, the short answer is yes. Most states require vet techs to pass an accredited program as selected by the AVMA. Upon completion, there is usually an exam issued by the state. After passing, the vet tech can begin looking for employment.
One of the most common exams given across the country to become a vet tech is the Veterinary Technician National Examination. The VTNE is conducted by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards and is given by computer. The test is given three times a year at testing centers throughout the country. In order to be eligible to take the exam, you must be deemed eligible by the state you are going to take it in. The cost is $300 to take the exam, and the student is usually required to score 75% or better on the questions to pass the exam.
Although no certification is necessary to become a vet tech, many opt to do it voluntarily as many employers can prefer vet techs that are both licensed and certified. One of the most common certifications is through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. They have three different certifications for vet techs including the Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG). To be eligible, you need to know which certification you are going for. The ALAT requires candidates to have an associate’s degree and at least six months of experience in lab animal work. The LAT requires a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Medicine and at least six months of experience. The LARG certification has the same requirements as the LAT. However, the exam for the LATG is more difficult than the one for the LAT.
How do I Pass a Vet Tech Program?
Each vet tech degree program has its own standards and requirements. However, many of them include courses such as animal anatomy and physiology, medical mathematics, veterinary office management, and animal nutrition. Supplemental and specialty classes can include radiology, anesthesia, nursing care, and client education. There are even programs that can specifically train you to work at humane societies, research facilities, animal control facilities, as well as offices of veterinary medicine.
If going for a bachelor’s degree, all the above courses can be required in addition to a few more. Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine students can get training in all sorts of areas including lab animal management, equine care, animal behavior, emergency care, and even dentistry. Business studies are also common in the bachelor’s degree area. A few sample courses for vet techs at the bachelor level include leadership, management, business ethics, employment law, and even marketing strategy.
Remember that a good vet tech program will not only be accredited by the right agency, it should also qualify students to meet the licensing requirements for vet techs in their state. Be sure that the school you ultimately decide on, be it online or campus based, offers the education that you are looking for.