Certified Vet Tech programs

Potential students wishing to become veterinary technicians (vet techs) can choose one of two levels of certified vet tech programs to achieve the relevant qualification.  The first level is a two year course in an accredited school leading to an associate of science degree in veterinary technology and the other is a 4 year course leading to a bachelor degree in veterinary technology.

Those who complete the 4 year course are often called veterinary technologists instead of veterinary technicians but in practice, in the vast majority of work environments vet technicians and vet technologists do much the same work.

Accredited vet tech schools

The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) accredits around 160 schools, mostly community colleges, in the US to provide the relevant training for the 2 year Associate degree.

Pre-course requirements

Many vet tech schools require applicants to provide proof of passing at college exams in biology, sometimes chemistry and math, usually at C grade before they can start their training.

Certified vet tech programs

The vet tech programs offered in the various schools may be structured differently but they end up covering much the same ground.  A two year course typically covers 5 semesters and the subjects covered in different modules are something like this:

  • General Biology
  • Introduction to Chemistry
  • Applied Math Topics
  • Clinical Technology*
  • Professional Communication
  • Animal Anatomy and Physiology
  • Clinical Pathology
  • Lab Animal Medicine
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Veterinary Work Experience
  • Veterinary Pharmacology
  • Surgical Nursing
  • Veterinary Anesthesiology
  • Large Animal Nursing
  • Vet Tech Internship

The last on the list is one of the most important parts of the training program offered by a vet tech school.  Students are required to do voluntary work at a local hospital or clinic.  For example at the Muscatine College in Iowa students “will be required to log 246 hours in the 8 week session of their fifth semester. The student needs to split up their time (as equally as possible) in the following areas: surgery, treatment and emergency, exam room, radiology, laboratory, pharmacy, and reception.”

*Clinical Technology in this case means understanding the basics of what a vet tech does, such as general animal welfare and restraint, as well as essential administrative procedures such as record keeping and the use of computers.

Licensure and certification

States license and regulate veterinary technicians in different ways.  Most states require them to pass an exam following graduation from their vet tech program. Passing the state exam provides an assurance that the technician has sufficient knowledge and skills to work in a veterinary clinic or hospital. The exam tests competency through oral, written, and practical tests.  Exam contents and standards are defined by a state board of veterinary examiners, although the title of the board is different from state to state.  The majority of states use the National Veterinary Technician Exam (NVTE) although some states require candidates to pass both the national exam and a state exam.

In most cases certified vet tech programs and licensing in one state usually enables vet techs to be licensed afresh if they move to another state, although some states may require an additional exam.

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