Pursuing a career as a veterinary technician can offer both challenges and rewards for those interested in working with animals. The right educational background and qualifications can go a long way toward ensuring success for aspiring veterinary technicians. Completing the Veterinary Technician National Examination, often referred to as the VTNE, can be an important step in the process to become a licensed vet tech. Here are some key facts about the VTNE process for prospective veterinary technicians.
What Is the VTNE?
The VTNE is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards and is designed to test the skills and knowledge of veterinary technicians prior to licensure in the industry. Most state veterinary boards accept the VTNE as part of the qualification process for licensing vet techs, making this a valuable credential for new graduates about to enter the job market. The VTNE consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, 20 of which are used for test development purposes and do not count toward the final score. The time limit for the test is three hours. Prior to 2013, the examination included more questions and took considerably longer to complete.
Who Is Eligible to Take the VTNE?
Some states, provinces and territories have not established requirements for eligibility for the VTNE. Most of those that do enforce eligibility guidelines, however, require that students submit an official transcript indicating that they have successfully graduated from an accredited veterinary technology program in the U.S. or Canada. Alaska, Washington, California and Wisconsin are among the states that offer an alternative pathway to eligibility through on-the-job training programs that can be used in lieu of educational credentials.
Scheduling the VTNE
The American Association of Veterinary State Boards has established three windows for the VTNE examination each year:
- March 15 to April 15
- July 15 to August 15
- November 15 to December 15
The deadline for online application is the 15th day of the month immediately preceding the first month in the test windows. For example, February 15 is the last day to apply for the March 15 to April 15 test window. Requests for special accommodations and retake requests must be received even earlier:
- Deadline for the first test window is January 1.
- For the second test window, the deadline for these requests is May 1.
- September 1 is the deadline for the third test window.
Most students are not required to request retake permission unless they have already taken the test more than five times or if they are testing in Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana or in the country of Canada.
Costs and Refund Policies
A fee of $310 must be paid using a major credit card at the time the student applies online to take the VTNE. Students who fail to provide valid identification or who arrive late to the testing center are usually not eligible for refunds of this fee. Additionally, a strict time limit is enforced for requesting refunds prior to the testing date. Test-takers who miss one date must usually register and pay for another; rescheduling of test dates is only possible within the established testing window for the original date.
What Subjects Does the VTNE Cover?
The American Association of Veterinary State Boards and the testing experts at Professional Examination Services have constructed an examination blueprint that outlines the various topics to be covered by the VTNE, which include the following:
- Animal care and nursing
- Laboratory procedures
- Pharmacy and pharmacology
- Surgical nursing
- Pain management and analgesia
- Diagnostic imaging
- Critical care and emergency medicine
These subjects are among the most important for veterinary technicians practicing their skills in clinical environments.
What to Expect
Test-takers should arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the VTNE. Valid identification is required to be admitted to the test; students who fail to provide acceptable identification will typically be denied access to the test and must pay an additional fee to schedule a second sitting for the VTNE. An online calculator will be provided for those taking the exam. A dry-erase board, marker and eraser will usually also be provided for use in figuring mathematical computations and managing other analytical tasks. The test features a strict three-hour time limit; while test-takers may take breaks as necessary, that time is taken out of the three hours allotted for the VTNE.
Practicing for the VTNE
A number of practice tests are available online from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards and from other tutoring or educational websites. These tests can provide a clear idea of what to expect during the formal exam and can build confidence among veterinary technicians seeking licensure in their states. Because these tests are administered via computer, the practice tests available online can provide a fair approximation of the actual examination experience for aspiring vet techs. It is also worth noting that there is no penalty for providing wrong answers. Therefore, it is to the student’s advantage to make an educated guess on questions to which he or she does not know the answer.
A Required Component of State Licensure
While the VTNE cannot serve as a credential on its own, it is required by many states as part of the veterinary technician licensing process. Vet techs can arrange to have their test scores sent to the state in which they wish to practice, allowing them to qualify for licensing as a veterinary technician more easily. Some states require that vet techs retake the VTNE to become certified in a new location; others will accept scores earned years or decades ago as qualifications for state licensure. Contacting the state veterinary board governing the area in which the student wishes to practice is the most efficient and effective way to determine the requirements for licensure in a particular state or province.
Achieving licensure as a vet tech can provide added employment opportunities and pathways to greater responsibility in the veterinary field. The VTNE can provide the evidence needed to demonstrate competency and skill in this field, allowing recent graduates to enjoy a higher degree of success throughout their careers.