The path to becoming a veterinary technician is a bit different than becoming a veterinarian. In order to become a veterinary technician, you need to complete a two-year degree program at a vocational school, community college, or university.
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In order to become a licensed veterinary technician, you will need to earn a two-year Associate’s degree in veterinary technology from an accredited institution. Although not required, many students choose to complete a four-year Bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology.
What is a Vet Tech?
A veterinary technician is a medical professional who works alongside veterinarians to provide care for animals. Vet techs typically have an associate degree in veterinary technology, which takes about two years to complete. During their training, vet techs learn how to perform many of the same tasks as vets, including diagnostic testing, wound care, and animal dentistry.
The Role of a Vet Tech
A veterinary technician is a medical professional who works alongside veterinarians to provide animal care. Techs are sometimes referred to as veterinary nurses, but this is not an accurate depiction of their role. Nurses in the human medical field have significantly more responsibilities and greater autonomy than techs. The job of a vet tech is more akin to that of a physician’s assistant or nurse’s aide.
Vet techs typically have an associate’s degree from an accredited institution, although some may have a bachelor’s degree. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredits more than 200 programs across the United States. Most states require vet techs to be licensed or registered, and some states require both. The requirements for licensure or registration vary by state but generally include passing an exam administered by the state veterinary board.
What Education is Needed to Become a Vet Tech?
To become a vet tech, you need to complete a two-year accredited veterinary technology program. Many vet tech programs are offered at community colleges and technical schools. Some universities also offer four-year bachelor’s degree programs in veterinary technology.
Veterinary Technician Associate’s Degree
At a minimum, most employers require that veterinary technicians have an associate’s degree from an accredited community college or technical school. Many veterinary technicians choose to pursue a four-year degree in animal science or a related field, such as biology or zoology, to make themselves more marketable to employers. coursework in these programs generally includes classes in chemistry, mathematics and animal body systems.
Veterinary Technician Bachelor’s Degree
A Veterinary Technician Bachelor’s Degree is the minimum education required to become a vet tech. This four-year degree can be obtained at many colleges and universities, and takes about two years to complete if you attend full time.
What is the Difference Between a Vet Tech and a Vet Assistant?
Vet techs and vet assistants are both important members of the animal health care team, but they have different roles. Vet techs are trained to provide clinical care to animals, while vet assistants generally handle clerical and administrative tasks. Both positions may require some basic medical knowledge, but vet techs receive more formal training in animal care and treatment.
Vet assistants typically work in veterinary clinics or hospitals, providing support to the veterinarians and other staff members. They may be responsible for scheduling appointments, maintaining medical records, handling incoming calls, greeting clients, and caring for animals before and after surgery. Vet assistants do not typically administer medical care themselves, but they may assist with basic procedures such as taking x-rays or drawing blood.
Vet techs are expected to have a more in-depth knowledge of animal health care than vet assistants. In addition to completing a two- or four-year veterinary technology program, vet techs must pass a state-level exam to earn their license. Once licensed, they may perform a variety of tasks such as taking patient histories, performing lab tests, administering vaccinations and medications, assisting with surgeries, and providing client education.
The duties of vet techs and vet assistants can overlap, but most veterinary clinics will require at least one licensed vet tech on staff. If you’re interested in working with animals but don’t want to pursue a veterinary degree, becoming a vet tech or assistant may be a good option for you.
How to Become a Vet Tech
Vet techs are an important part of the veterinary team, providing support to veterinarians and animal caretakers. Many vet techs have at least an associate’s degree in veterinary technology, which typically takes two years to complete. Some programs may allow students to complete their studies in as little as 18 months.
The Future of Vet Techs
For those looking for a career in veterinary technology, there has never been a better time to enter the field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of vet techs will grow 19 percent from 2016 to 2026—much faster than the average for all occupations.1 According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), there were more than 100,000 vet techs employed in the United States in 2016.2
The demand for vet techs is being driven by a number of factors. First, as baby boomers age, they are increasingly likely to have pets. In fact, according to the American Pet Products Association, millennials—those born between 1982 and 2000—now account for the largest share of pet ownership (32 percent), eclipsing baby boomers (31 percent).3 And these young pet owners are not only willing to spend more money on their animals than previous generations but they are also more likely to take their pets to the veterinarian for preventive care and early detection and treatment of diseases.
A second factor driving demand for vet techs is the increasing complexity of veterinary medicine. As new technologies and treatments are developed for animals,vet techs are needed to help veterinarians implement them. For example, Vet Tech Institute of Houston says that “veterinary technicians play an important role in animal dentistry.”4 According to the American Veterinary Dental College, “veterinary technicians are often used as dental hygienists in general practice where they scale teeth, polish teeth and perform other routine procedures under direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian.”5
Finally, as more people adopt pets from shelters and rescues, there is an increased need for vet techs who can provide basic care and treatment for these animals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. shelters each year—3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats—and that 1.6 million shelter animals are adopted each year.6 Foster programs also provide homes for millions of additional animals each year until they can be adopt