How to Become a Vet Tech

So you want to know how to become a vet tech (veterinary technician).  What are the steps you need to take to achieve that objective?  First of all though:

What is a vet tech?

A vet tech is someone who works, usually in a veterinary practice, under the supervision of a veterinarian (vet).  The vet is ultimately responsible for all that happens in a vet’s practice.  A vet tech provides technical support to the vet in the way that a nurse provides support to a doctor.  So a vet tech will restrain animals during examinations or administer injections to some animals, and so on.

Vet techs and vet assistants

A vet tech is also not a veterinary assistant.  An assistant will not have the scientific knowledge and skills of a vet tech acquired at a college or university.  A vet assistant is more involved in the routine tasks of a vet’s practice such as organizing appointments, sterilizing surgical equipment, feeding the animals when appropriate or cleaning examination rooms.

Vet tech colleges

To start on the road to becoming a vet tech, in most states you have to study for an Associate of Science degree in Veterinary Technology at an accredited college or school.  Most of these colleges require applicants for the courses to have achieved at least “C” grade in high school exams in math, biology and/or chemistry and also in many cases in English.

The colleges need to be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).  The AVMA has accredited about 160 schools, mostly community colleges across the US.

Associate degree course

The Associate degree course is normally a two year full time course.  Some colleges insist that the students study full time while others allow the students to study part time which means that the course will last more than two years.  A few colleges permit students to study by distance learning, although even they require some hands on tuition.

The degree courses involve academic study of animal anatomy and physiology, general biology and chemistry, followed by practical experience of working with animals.  An important part of the training is the internship where the trainees work in a veterinary hospital or practice for several weeks to acquire real hands on experience.

4 year course

A small number of students take a 4 year Bachelor of Science degree in Veterinary Technology which greatly extends the theoretical knowledge of the students as well as looking at the management of veterinary care services.

This higher qualification is especially useful if you are planning to work for a pet food or pharmaceutical company or in a laboratory research establishment but it does not in most cases bring about extra benefits in private veterinary practices.  The AVMA accredits about 40 colleges to teach these bachelor degrees.

Passing the licensing exam(s)

Once you have successfully completed your Associate degree course your objective is to get yourself licensed by the state you are planning to work in.  Before that you have to take and pass either one or two exams.  Most states require you to pass the National Veterinary Technician Exam (NVTE), a national exam.  Some states have their own state vet tech exam while some require you to pass both the NVTE and the state vet tech exam.

Once you have passed the necessary exam(s) you will receive a license from the veterinary state board to practice as a vet tech in that state.  If you move to another state you are likely to be able to obtain a license in the new state although some states may require you to take the state exam.

This is a summary of how to become a vet tech.  For more information it is probably best to start off making inquiries and obtaining information about training from the AVMA.