How to Become a Veterinary Technician
The Definitive Career Guide


Avg. Salary
$48,630

Education Duration
2-3 Years

Job Outlook
16%

If you are the type of person that loves working with animals and has always dreamed of having a career in the medical field, then working as a Veterinary Technician might be just the job you are looking for.

A Veterinary Technician has an important role in every Veterinary office, providing care to animals and their owners.

Some of the time, a Veterinary Technician may work in the office, and other times they may perform simple procedures on animal patients.

In order to have a successful career as a Veterinary Technician, you should be a compassionate person who loves helping others.


What is a Veterinary Technician?

As a Veterinary Technician, your role in the office is crucial.

Most Veterinary Technicians spend time checking in patients and talking with owners to make sure all of their pet’s information is correct.

They will likely weigh the pets and help them into the exam room as well.

Once there, the Veterinary Technician will check the animals’ vitals and do any other procedures before the Veterinarian comes into the room.

As a Veterinary Technician, you’ll be allowed to do almost any task that a Veterinarian can do aside from surgeries and administering medications.

Duties

There are many tasks involved in the role of a Veterinary Technician.

Luckily, there are also some very cute animals to work with as well.

Some of the types of responsibilities that a Veterinary Technician must do in a day include:

  • Perform diagnostic tests and x-rays
  • Prepare animals for surgery
  • Sanitize instruments
  • Restrain animals
  • Take all information down about the animal
  • Assist with any research
  • Educate animal owners

Salary

Most Veterinary Technicians in the United States will make about $48,000 a year.

This is average for those with qualified education and several years of experience.

If you are a Veterinary Technician who is just beginning your career, you should expect a salary closer to $23,000 to begin.

After many years of experience, certification, and specializations, a Veterinary Technician can make up to $77,000 a year or more in some areas.

Those who work in states with large populations like California or Texas will make more money, closer to the $77,000 mark than states like Idaho and Indiana.

Having credentials and hands-on experience in the field will also allow for higher salaries and promotions.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $48,630

$23K
$29K
$48K
$63K
$77K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is , where the average salary is $0.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

* Salary information based on May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, OCC Code 31-2020, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Veterinary Technician

Step 1 Earn an Associates Degree

There are many important things to learn as a Veterinary Technician, and that is why most people who work in this position have an Associate’s degree from an accredited school.

It’s possible to find Veterinary Technician degrees online and on campuses at local community colleges and universities.

The average Associate’s degree should take around two years to finish.

Most programs that are accredited in the United States are Veterinary Technology programs.

These Veterinary Technology programs will consist of classes that include:

  • Animal Care Skills
  • Critical and Evaluative Reading
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy
  • Large Animal Medicine
  • Biochemical Research
  • Veterinary Medicine

Once you graduate with at least a 2.5 GPA from a Veterinary Technology program, you will be eligible to take the certification exam.

Other aspects that may affect your program include externships, internships, and clinical lab work.

These can be requirements for graduation if your school offers them, and it’s most important to do those activities in person rather than online.

Step 2 Take the VTN Exam

Having a degree in Veterinary Technology is half the battle.

Now, you must take the Veterinary Technician National Exam.

In order to be eligible for the VTN exam, you will need to have graduated from an accredited program with at least a 2.5 GPA, or have required work experience as a Veterinary Technician.

The exam costs $330, and is a pass/fail test, which means you will not be scored on every question- you will only know if you passed or failed the exam.

There are several areas to study for on this exam, which may include topics like:

  • Pharmacology
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Medical Terminology
  • Abbreviations
  • Ethics and Principles

Not every state requires the VTN examination in order to become a Veterinary Technician, so check with your local board to find out if you need to become certified.

Even if your state doesn’t require it, certification can be a great way to set you apart from other Veterinary Technicians.

Step 3 Gain Experience

If you finished an Associate’s degree program that allowed for an externship or hands-on experience, you may be a step ahead of the game.

However, for those who are just entering the workforce, the experience is key to gaining recognition, promotions, and raises in this field.

Some of the areas in which you can find the experience as a Veterinary Technician include:

  • Humane society
  • Animal shelters
  • Military
  • Emergency and specialty practices
  • Large veterinary clinics
  • Small veterinary offices

Most Veterinary offices like to see Veterinary Technicians with at least two years of experience before allowing the employee to have more responsibilities.

It’s possible to volunteer and gain further education in order to maintain knowledge in this field as well.

Step 4 Maintain Certification

Lastly, to stay safe and legal in the world of Veterinary medicine, it may be necessary to keep your certification up to date.

Through the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, you can ensure that your Veterinary Technician certification and any other certifications available are properly accredited and authorized.

The Veterinary Technician certification from the AAVSB is required to be renewed every 3 years.

Most renewals require that you take the exam again or provide proof of further education.

There are several ways to gain further education as a Veterinary Technician.

Some of the most popular activities include:

  • Webinars
  • Online courses (sometimes for free!)
  • Volunteering
  • Conferences
  • 4-H

Education

Getting the proper education is essential in finding success as a Veterinary Technician.

Most Veterinary Technicians opt to earn an Associate’s degree, which can be done at community colleges and universities across the United States.

There are even programs that can be done online, but make sure that all internships and externships are done in-person to gain the proper knowledge.

All programs must be accredited through the American Association of Veterinary State Board, which is also the board that certifies Veterinary Technicians.

The average Associate’s degree program for Veterinary Technicians will have courses in math and science, as well as classes like:

  • Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Large Animal Care
  • Small Animal Care
  • Medical Terminology
  • Psychology
  • Patient Care

You should expect your Associate’s degree program to have an externship that is mandatory for graduation.

These types of experiences can provide hands-on opportunities to learn the tricks of the trade.

If you do not have one of these offered in your program, ask your local veterinary office if you can shadow them or volunteer.

Having an Associate’s degree will open many doors for you as a Veterinary Technician.

This type of degree can allow you to enter entry-level roles in the veterinary field.

In order to gain more responsibility and promotions as a Veterinary Technician, it is likely that you will need to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

These degrees can take anywhere from 2-4 years, depending on if you have an Associate’s degree already.

Once you gain a Bachelors degree, you can expect to have a career in areas like:

  • Exotic medicine
  • Emergency medicine
  • Equine medicine
  • Pharmaceutical sales
  • Teaching programs
  • Private business ownership

You must have an Associate’s degree in order to gain certification as a Veterinary Technician unless you already have two years of experience in the field.

Video About The Career


Certification and Licensing

Along with earning a solid education, you will need to take the Veterinary Technician Exam given by the American Association of Veterinary Technicians State Board.

In order to be eligible for this credential, you will need to have an Associate’s degree or two years of experience as a Veterinary Technician.

Passing the exam is essential to gaining this credential, and there are some important things to know before taking it.

There are only three chances to take the exam per year, and some of them are available online.

It costs around $330 to apply for this exam, which is about 200 questions

Once you are accepted, you will able to take the exam on your scheduled exam day.

The exam covers many topics, including areas like:

  • Abbreviations
  • Veterinary Terminology
  • Patient Assessment Skills
  • Radiography
  • Ultrasounds
  • Surgical Prep
  • Anesthesia

There are some practice tests available on the AAVTSB website that cost around $45 and can help with studying for the exam.

After finishing the exam, you won’t know a specific score, just whether you passed or failed.

If you fail the exam, you will be eligible to retake the exam up to five times in one year.

Passing the exam means that you are a certified Veterinary Technician.

This credential is good for three years, after which you will need to retake the exam or show proof of further education.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in American has many resources for certifications.

Certifications for Veterinary Technicians are hard to find accredited programs, so this website will help to alleviate any worries.

Some of the types of specialty certifications that may be found on the NAVTA website are:

  • Emergency and Critical Care
  • Veterinary Dental Technician
  • Veterinary Zoological Medicine
  • Anesthesia
  • Veterinary Behavior Technician
  • Equine Veterinary Nursing

Each of these has its own requirements, and they can change at any time, so check out the NAVTA website for more information.

Certification Example:

veterinary technician certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 2-3 Years

The average program for Veterinary Technicians is around two years.

There may be some that you can find online that don’t take as long, but they may not be accredited.

These types of programs can hinder your career, as you could be working illegally.

However, with accredited programs, you can gain great knowledge and hands-on experience.

The typical Veterinary Technician program takes anywhere from 21 months to two years to complete.


Job Outlook

If you are looking to start a career as a Veterinary Technician, now would be a great time to get your foot in the door.

It seems that over the next ten years, the job opportunities for Veterinary Technicians will grow around 16 percent.

The reason for the growth is that many more Americans are welcoming pets into their homes, and many more apartments and townhomes are allowing pets in their communities.

More pets mean more medical attention for them, which is great for Veterinary Technicians.

Advancements in technology have made some medical procedures easier to do as well, which can cause a rise in career opportunities.

Having a career as a Veterinary Technician will be most rewarding for those with an Associate’s degree and certification.

Employment Growth Projection: 16%

112,900
2018
131,200
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 18,300


Should You Become a Veterinary Technician?

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Overall Satisfaction

Don’t just start working as a Veterinary Technician because you love animals, this career can be stressful throughout the day.

You’ll need to have thick skin and stamina to be a Veterinary Technician, especially because there is little upward mobility without education or certification.

Restraining animals and helping with procedures can make Veterinary Technicians anxious, so you’ll need to be able to handle stress and large animals at the same time.

The hours are good for those looking to have a well-balanced home/work life, but for those working in emergency veterinary care, the hours can be long.

If you plan to work as a Veterinarian one day, then starting a career as a Veterinary Technician should be on your list.

Average Salary: High

Average Salary

Having a career as a Veterinary Technician means that you could have a salary close to $50,000 in some areas.

Those who have a couple of years of experience, proper education, and credentials can expect to make closer to $79,000 a year as a Veterinary Technician.

If you think that you will start out making that much, you are mistaken, as the average newly hired Veterinary Technician will make about $23,000 a year.

Having certification and specializations in specific areas of veterinary medicine can also provide higher salaries and even promotions.

Job Growth Outlook: High

Job Growth Outlook

It seems that more people are getting pets over the last decade, and this trend will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Since there are so many new pets in households, that means the career opportunities for Veterinary Technicians will grow around16 percent.

That is quite a lot more than other careers in the medical field, but right on track for veterinary science.

Job prospects will be best for those with an Associate’s degree or higher, as well as any certifications or specialized credentials.

Education Duration: 2-3 Years

Education Duration

It’s important to understand veterinary medicine and animal anatomy before becoming a Veterinary Technician.

That is why most employers require at least a two-year Associates degree for their Veterinary Technicians.

This degree can offer entry-level education in Veterinary science and can lead to other careers in the same field.

For those looking to become Veterinarians, it’s possible to earn a Bachelor’s degree and then move up to a Master’s degree in this field.

A Bachelor’s degree can take another 2-4 years, and a Master’s degree can take up to two years.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

It’s important to have a love for animals to work as a Veterinary Technician, but it’s also essential to have other skills as well.

Some of the types of skills that you should obtain before entering a career as a Veterinary Technician include:

  • Communication skills
  • Empathy for others
  • Ability to see the fine details
  • Physical stamina
  • Medical terminology knowledge
  • Technical skills
  • Knowledge of computers
  • Ability to handle stressful situations
  • A love of learning
  • A sense of urgency
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to work as a team


Frequently Asked Questions

Q.

How much does a Veterinary Technician make?

On average, a Veterinary Technician makes about $48,000 a year.

With education and certification, many top-tier Veterinary Technicians make almost $80,000 a year in some areas.

Having hands-on experience and education is the key to this career.

Those who have little experience and education will typically start out making about $25,000 or less.

Q.

How long does it take to become a Veterinary Technician?

In order to gain the proper education, most Veterinary Technicians earn an Associate’s degree.

These degrees typically take anywhere from 21 months to 2 years to complete.

Most will require an externship or some sort of clinical lab work in order to graduate.

If you plan to explore careers beyond a Veterinary Technician, you may want to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

This type of degree takes around two to four years to finish.

Q.

What does a Veterinary Technician do?

There are many things that a Veterinary Technician will need to do throughout their workday.

Most of them involve animals and their owners.

A Veterinary Technician will often take the vitals of the animal and assess the animal for treatment.

It’s possible they will need to help hold the animal while the Veterinarian examines it as well.

Often, a Veterinary Technician will work on the computer to enter patient data and treatment information.

Q.

What is the demand for Veterinary Technicians?

More people are getting pets nowadays, which means that there will be an increased need for Veterinary Technicians over the next several years.

With an average growth of around 16 percent, this career will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

This is true for all careers in the veterinary medicine field.

Veterinary Technicians with certifications and experience will likely find the most job opportunities.

Q.

How much does it cost to become a Veterinary Technician?

In order to become a Veterinary Technician, you will need to earn at least an Associate’s degree.

Most often, an Associate’s degree in the United States is earned at a community college or university.

Depending on where you plan to gain your education, an Associate’s degree can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000.

Those who earn a Bachelor’s degree can expect to pay over $35,000 in some areas.


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