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Veterinary Technician & Vet Assistant Schools

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Summary

Veterinary assistant and vet tech schools focus on helping students gain the skills to support the health and well-being of all types of animals. This career field offers diverse responsibilities, enormous demand, and a wide array of potential specialties.

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Career Snapshot

Career Outlook*
19.2% growth from 2018 to 2028

Median Salary*
(Average Median)

Job Openings*
Average Yearly Openings

Length of Training
Most Common Length

Work Settings

Specializations

Anesthesia and analgesia, behavior, clinical pathology, dentistry, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, emergency and critical care, equine nursing, internal medicine, nutrition, ophthalmology, physical rehabilitation, surgery

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. Department of Education
  • National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

YTI Career Institute

  • York, Pennsylvania
  • Veterinary Technician

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San Joaquin Valley College

  • Bakersfield, California
  • Fresno, California
  • Veterinary Assisting

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Miller-Motte College

  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Veterinary Technology

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Carrington College

  • Mesa
  • Phoenix
  • Tucson
  • Citrus Heights
  • Ontario
  • Pleasant Hill
  • Sacramento
  • San Jose
  • San Leandro
  • Stockton
  • Portland
  • Spokane
  • Veterinary Assisting
  • Veterinary Technology

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Platt College

  • Distance Education (Online)
  • Anaheim, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Ontario, California
  • Riverside, California
  • Veterinary Technology

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Ross College

  • Canton, Ohio
  • Veterinary Assistant
  • Veterinary Technology

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Baker College

  • Cadillac
  • Clinton Township
  • Flint
  • Jackson
  • Muskegon
  • Veterinary Technology

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Southern Technical College

  • Auburndale
  • Brandon
  • Ft. Myers
  • Orlando
  • Port Charlotte
  • Sanford
  • Veterinary Assisting

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Online & Distance Learning
  • High School Diploma with Veterinary Assistant Pathway

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Penn Foster College

  • Online
  • Veterinary Assistant
  • Veterinary Technician

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Ashworth College

  • Online
  • Veterinary Assisting
  • Veterinary Technician

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Career Information

Helping to provide quality medical care to animals can be highly rewarding work. Vet techs and assistants often perform a wide range of tasks and enjoy strong demand for their services.

Earnings

According to Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program estimates, veterinary technologists and technicians earn a median yearly wage of $35,320, while veterinary assistants earn a median yearly wage of $28,590.

Based on those two figures, the average median wage for animal health care workers who aren't veterinarians is $31,955.

Median Annual Wage Comparison

Job Openings & Outlook

Veterinary workers are in great demand. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections indicate that employment of vet techs should grow by 19.3 percent between 2018 and 2028. Veterinary assistants can expect employment growth of 19.1 percent over that same time frame. So, on average, the growth rate for all non-veterinarian animal medical care workers is 19.2 percent.

The BLS also expects an average of close to 30,000 jobs to open up for vet techs and assistants each year over that decade.

Key Benefits

  1. A sense of meaning: You get to experience the joy and satisfaction of helping injured or sick animals feel better.
  2. Job security: The huge demand for people with this type of expertise means that you may not have much difficulty finding a position once you complete your training.
  3. A ton of variety: You can work in animal hospitals, private clinics, pet stores, and many other settings. Vet techs can also pursue a wide range of specialties, including areas like anesthesia, nutrition, dentistry, surgery, and more.

What a Veterinary Assistant or Vet Tech Does

Veterinary assistants and technicians play important roles in the care of ill and injured animals. Assistants carry out both clerical and clinical tasks, while techs perform more advanced medical and testing duties.

 Vet assistants' typical tasks include:

  • Taking patient histories
  • Feeding, bathing, grooming, and exercising animals
  • Helping to collect tissue, urine, and blood samples
  • Cleaning animals' teeth
  • Setting up equipment for procedures
  • Restraining animals during exams or procedures
  • Giving medication prescribed by a veterinarian
  • Passing instruments to veterinarians during surgery
  • Monitoring animals' conditions in the recovery room after surgery
  • Cleaning kennels, cages, and exam rooms
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Tracking inventory
  • Answering phones and scheduling appointments

Vet techs can perform all of the above tasks. In addition, they are often responsible for:

  • Preparing animals for surgery
  • Administering anesthesia
  • Providing emergency medical care
  • Performing lab tests
  • Developing x-rays
  • Assisting during surgeries
  • Giving injections
  • Extracting teeth
  • Placing catheters
  • Removing sutures
  • Performing euthanasia

Vet techs are not allowed to diagnose a condition, prescribe medication, or perform surgery. The specific kinds of tasks that they can legally perform vary from state to state. However, techs are generally allowed to carry out many advanced duties—often without supervision.

In a few states, there is no legal distinction between a vet assistant and a vet tech. In these states, vet assistants are allowed to perform any task so long as it happens under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Check out this state-by-state breakdown of allowable duties for veterinary assistants and vet techs from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) for further details.

Work Settings

Vet assistants, technicians, and technologists can work in a wide range of settings. This is not a comprehensive list, but common examples include:

  • Veterinary clinics
  • Animal hospitals
  • Animal boarding facilities
  • Animal shelters
  • Wildlife rehabilitation centers
  • Humane societies
  • Pet stores
  • Grooming businesses

Specializations

With additional education, vet techs can gain certification in specialties such as:

Anesthesia and analgesia: Concentrate on safely managing the pain of animals during surgeries and other procedures.

Behavior: Use humane techniques to manage and modify animal behavior so as to improve the bond between pets and their owners.

Clinical pathology: Analyze blood, tissue, and other biological samples to detect signs of disease.

Dentistry: Care for animals' teeth and gums.

Dermatology: Specialize in disorders or conditions affecting animals' skin.

Diagnostic imaging: Use specialized equipment like ultrasound machines or CT scanners to capture images that help in pinpointing an illness or disease.

Emergency and critical care: Treat animals that have life-threatening conditions.

Equine nursing: Support the well-being of horses.

Internal medicine: Focus on diseases and disorders affecting animals' internal body systems, such as diabetes, pneumonia, or kidney failure. Within this specialty, you can choose to focus on cardiology, neurology, oncology, small animal internal medicine, or large animal internal medicine.

Nutrition: Specialize in dietary management for animals.

Ophthalmology: Help animals who have vision or ocular issues.

Physical rehabilitation: Use physical therapy techniques to reduce pain and increase mobility in injured animals.

Surgery: Focus on preparing animals, setting up surgical suites, administering anesthesia, and monitoring patients' recovery.

Career FAQs

What's the difference between a veterinary technician and a veterinary technologist?

It mainly comes down to a difference in education. All vet techs complete a post-secondary program in veterinary technology, but technicians typically complete two-year associate degrees, while technologists complete four-year bachelor's degrees.

In most cases, technicians and technologists perform the same types of tasks. However, having a bachelor's degree can lead to more career opportunities at the supervisory or management level. It can also help you qualify for veterinary medical school if that is your ultimate goal.

Is animal care dangerous work?

Handling and restraining animals comes with a certain amount of risk. Injured or frightened animals can react in unpredictable ways, and vet techs or assistants may get scratched, bitten, or kicked while carrying out their duties. However, experienced workers often develop techniques for avoiding injuries.

Veterinary personnel may also be exposed to diseases such as rabies or tetanus. That's why many training programs require students to provide proof of vaccinations against such illnesses.



Education & Training

By undergoing post-secondary studies in veterinary assisting or veterinary technology, you can gain the expertise and abilities to make a positive difference in animals' lives.

Length of Training

It typically takes between nine and 48 months to become a veterinary assistant, technician, or technologist.**

Most Common Length of School**
(range in months)

  • Dental assisting
    7-12
  • Veterinary assisting
    9-12
  • Medical assisting
    4-20
  • Veterinary technology
    18-48

Program Options

Certificate or diploma programs in veterinary assisting generally take no more than a year to complete.**

Associate degree programs in veterinary technology typically last for about two years, although some programs can be completed in about 18 months.** Most states require veterinary technicians to hold at least an associate degree.

Bachelor's degree programs are usually four years long.** They typically include advanced studies in areas like emergency care and practice management. Those who complete bachelor's degrees are called veterinary technologists.

Most programs, at all levels, give students the opportunity to complete hands-on externships in real-world veterinary settings.

Typical Courses

Depending on the program you choose, you may have courses in:

  • Animal behavior and handling
  • Pet grooming
  • Veterinary medical terminology
  • Animal anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Medication dosages and administration
  • Nutrition
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Clinical pathology
  • Animal nursing
  • Laboratory procedures
  • Anesthesia
  • Surgical preparation and assisting
  • Radiology
  • Dentistry
  • Veterinary office procedures
  • Client communication

Skills You Can Learn

 You could begin developing abilities related to:

  • Bathing, feeding, and grooming animals
  • Handling and restraining animals
  • Collecting and analyzing biological samples
  • Assisting with or performing diagnostic imaging
  • Cleaning animals' teeth
  • Sterilizing surgical equipment
  • Administering anesthesia
  • Caring for animals before, during, and after surgery
  • Administering medication
  • Maintaining veterinary records
  • Educating owners about home care

Licensing & Certification

Veterinary assistants do not require licensing or certification. However, a voluntary certification called Approved Veterinary Assistant is available from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). You must complete a NAVTA-approved training program in order to qualify for the exam.

Most states require licensing, registration, or certification for veterinary technicians. Vet techs generally must earn at least an associate degree in veterinary technology and pass official exams, which usually include the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) and sometimes a state exam. Depending on your state, official designations for vet techs who pass the exams include Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT), Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT), or Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT).

Credentialed vet techs are also often required to take a certain number of continuing education courses every year in order to keep their expertise up to date.

Education & Training FAQs

What's required for admission to a program?

For veterinary assistant programs, you generally need to hold a high school diploma or equivalent credential. Some programs also require an entrance or placement exam.

Veterinary technology programs often require students to pass a drug screen and criminal background check. You may also have to provide a current record of immunizations, particularly for tetanus and/or rabies.

In some cases, applicants must complete college-level courses in subjects like biology, chemistry, math, or English composition before they can be admitted to a vet tech program. That can mean completing a year of post-secondary coursework before beginning your veterinary technology studies.

Some programs also require students to have volunteer experience in a veterinary clinic.

Are online programs available?

Yes. Some programs allow students to complete the theory part of the curriculum entirely via distance learning. However, you still may need to complete a supervised externship at a veterinary facility in your local area. Some programs include the externship, while others require students to arrange it for themselves.

What's on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE)?

The VTNE requires you to answer 170 multiple-choice questions in three hours. The exam covers nine major areas:

  • Pharmacy and pharmacology
  • Surgical nursing
  • Dentistry
  • Lab procedures
  • Animal care and nursing
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Anesthesia
  • Emergency medicine/critical care
  • Pain management/analgesia

Online practice tests are available for purchase from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB), which administers the VTNE.


* The average median salary is based on the average of the median yearly wages for veterinary technologists and technicians and veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers, as noted by the OES program. The career outlook is based on the average between BLS projections for those same two occupational groups. The job openings represent a cumulative total of the average yearly openings for both groups.

** Length of training information is based on a combination of information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Education, and a wide sampling of relevant programs from about 30 individual school websites. They are a mix of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.