How to Become a Veterinary Technician: A Complete Guide

Updated on January 13, 2024

Veterinary technicians, also known as vet techs, are professionals who support veterinarians in providing medical care and treatment for animal patients. Keep reading for a comprehensive overview of how to start an exciting, in-demand career as a vet tech.

What is a Vet Tech?

A veterinary technician assists vets in examining animals, performing medical tests and lab work, monitoring animals under care, administering medications and treatments, helping with surgeries, and keeping meticulous healthcare records.

Demand for qualified vet techs is growing substantially with increased public health awareness, pet ownership rates, and the expansion of veterinary services across the country.

Education Needed to Become a Vet Tech

While some vet assistants learn on the job, credentialed vet tech positions require the following:

Bachelor’s Degree (Optional but Preferred)

A 4-year bachelor’s degree in animal science, biology, zoology, or pre-veterinary studies provides a competitive edge for vet school applicants and the job market.

Vet Tech Associate Degree

A 2-year associate degree program with AVMA accreditation focusing on vet technology coursework and lab/clinical training is the alternative, faster educational path to enter the field.

Programs blend classes in areas like animal nursing, surgical assisting, imaging, and anatomy with hundreds of supervised clinical hours across various veterinary settings working with diverse species.

Certification Steps for Vet Techs

To demonstrate competency, vet techs must:

Pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE)

This comprehensive assessment tests animal nursing knowledge in 9 domains, including anesthesia/analgesia, dentistry, lab procedures, clinical practices, and more.

Obtain State Credentialing

Depending on jurisdiction rules, vet techs must fulfill registration, certification, or full licensure requirements through state veterinary medical boards. Renewals may mandate continuing education credits.

Job Settings for Certified Vet Techs

Upon entering the field, vet techs gain invaluable experience in:

Key Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Vet tech daily functions center around maximizing the quality of animal care by:

Meticulous medical/surgical record-keeping and communications norms must be rigorously upheld in line with legal/ethical guidelines.

Outlook for Vet Tech Careers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects excellent job growth for vet techs exceeding 19% over the next decade – much faster than average across all occupations.

Rising disposable incomes enabling advanced pet care, higher veterinary clinic standards, and retirements in the field all significantly boost demand.

Vet Tech Salary Potential

As per 2021 BLS data, the national median salary for veterinary techs and technicians was $37,850 yearly and $18.21 hourly. Years of experience can considerably impact pay scales:

Years ExperienceAverage Vet Tech Salary
0-2 years$27,000 – $36,000
3-5 years$32,000 – $40,000
6-10 years$36,000 – $45,000
10+ years$40,000+

Types of Vet Techs

Beyond general practice, common vet tech specialization pathways include:

FAQs on Becoming a Vet Tech

How long does vet tech training take?

A vet tech associate degree spans two years if attending full-time. Bachelor’s degrees run for four years. Some fast-track options combine general prerequisites with concentrated vet tech coursework.

What’s the cost of education?

In-state public school vet tech programs charge $8,000-$12,000 total for tuition/supplies. Private colleges range from $20,000-$35,000 overall. Grants, scholarships, and employer co-investment can significantly curb self-funded amounts.

Do I need pet experience?

While not mandatory, substantial prior hands-on exposure caring for animals through high school roles, rescue volunteering, or vet assistant jobs can help considerably ease the learning curve in handling diverse species.

What’s the work-life balance like?

Vet techs often face hectic, tiring work demands in fast-paced hospital settings involving weekends, nights, and emergencies. However, benefits like 3-4 day work weeks help compensate along with the profound satisfaction of helping animals daily.