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How to become a Veterinary Technician

A veterinary technician is an individual who has completed 2-4 years of school at an American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) approved school. These schools offer Associates or Bachelors degree, which allow the graduate to take the National Veterinary Technician Examination. Upon completion of the exam, the graduate is awarded the title Registered Veterinary Technician, Certified Veterinary Technician or Licensed Veterinary Technician (dependent upon state title).

Veterinary Technician - Degree Program

Veterinary technicians must be a graduate of an AVMA-approved program. This means, at minimum, a 2-year Associate's degree in veterinary technology or animal science. Hands-on training is a mandatory part of degree programs of this type. Veterinary technician students must work a specific number of hours at a veterinary hospital, learning how to execute a variety of tasks, including obtaining blood samples, taking X-rays, assisting in surgery, client education and more. Hands-on training not only provides realistic insight to the daily operations of a working clinic, it also teaches students how to calmly and professionally handle stressful situations that occur in veterinary hospitals. After successfully completing the program, the graduate is eligible to take a state or national board examination to become a registered or certified veterinary technician. Graduates are also well positioned to continue their schooling and enroll in 4-year Bachelor of Science program in animal science or pre-veterinary studies. Some veterinary technicians continue on to become veterinarians.

Veterinary Technician - Continuing Education

Many states mandate that veterinary technicians must complete Continuing Education (CE) for a total of 20 hours of study every 2 years, and show documentation of completed AVMA-approved classes in order to maintain their license. If the technician does not complete this necessary task, then the license in question will be suspended until proof of further education is garnished. This policy is to ensure that all veterinary technicians are able to provide the most up-to-date care and treatment to all patients under the care of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), allowing prevention of malpractice and negligence.

Veterinary Technician - Responsibilities

Veterinary technicians hold multiple roles while working in a veterinary hospital/clinic, which include: anaesthetist, surgical assistant, radiograth technician, laboratory technician, pharmacist, dental technician and much more. Additional to the role that a technician must play, the technician is also the eyes, ears and hands of the veterinarian. While the DVM is responsible for diagnosing and selecting the care necessary for the patient, the technician must then perform the selected treatment plan on the patient. This can include wound care (including suturing in some states), surgical prep and nursing, vaccinations, ear cleaning, collecting laboratory samples and preparing medications. As well as monitor all in-hospital patients (those staying with the hospital for a prolonged period of time), by making sure all veterinary assistants are following treatment plans correctly and punctually. 

How to know if being a Veterinary Technician is for me?

Becoming a veterinary technician is a long and a somewhat difficult process, as it requires long hours of school work and hundreds of hours spent at externship locations learning the more difficult aspects of working at a veterinary hospital. Before branching into the world of veterinary medicine, you need to first determine if you have the mental fortitude to work in this industry. While many hospitals staff get to enjoy spending time with puppies and kittens and checking in on the basic well-being of a patient, there are also the negative experiences staff must account for. A veterinary technician must be able to assist with a patient's end of life plan, assist with animal abuse cases and in emergency situations with dire outcomes.

In order to determine if this is the field for you, potential students should first attempt to volunteer at a veterinary location to see if this endeavor is a possibility. If you feel that you will be able to work in a somewhat stressful, but rewarding environment, you may then want to take the next step to completing the basic school requirements to enter into a veterinary technician program.

Veterinary Technician - Starting at an AVMA - Accredited School

Depending on the school you have selected, programs first require a potential student to complete general education studies: math, English, biology, chemistry, etc. If you do not need to complete this before starting your core classes, these will need to be completed prior to allowing you to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Additionally, as each AVMA- Accredited program is priced differently, you will need to determine how you would like to pay the tuition for your school of choice. Prices may vary and could range anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 depending on school and degree path taken.

What is the best way to determine if veterinary technician school is for me?

It can be quite challenging entering into the veterinary world at a student level! Students who choose to become a veterinary technician often times will first take a job at a veterinary hospital or clinic as a kennel technician or receptionist, to learn the basics. Other potential students may decide to enroll in a National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) approved Veterinary Assistant Program, which is structured similar to a technician program. Getting started as a veterinary assistant allows students to determine if an AVMA-approved technician program is ultimately the right choice.

When completing a NAVTA - approved veterinary assistant program, students are able to complete studies that inform them of the various tasks, procedures and challenges they may face at a veterinary hospital. In addition, all students must complete a mandatory 100 hour externship experience at a veterinary hospital or clinic.

Due to course structuring, you will be able to see a sneak peak into what a veterinary technician program entails and if this is a goal that you wish to pursue. Additionally, once you have completed your studies with a NAVTA - approved school, you will have a distinct advantage while in technician school, as you will have first-hand experience and will better understand the topics discussed with your future professors.