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Veterinary Technician

While veterinary technicians do not go through the required graduate program to become full-fledged veterinarians, many veterinary technicians can run medical tests, take x-rays and even administer medicine while under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Today, veterinary technicians play a vital role in the veterinary field, performing a variety of clinical and technical tasks in veterinary clinics, research labs, animal shelters and even zoos which in turn enables veterinarians to direct more time to diagnosing and treating both injured and sick animals.

Even though veterinary technicians may be confused with veterinary assistants at a clinic, technicians are required to have graduated from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) approved veterinary technician school and obtained state licensure in all states in the country. As veterinary technician licensure requirements can vary by state, the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) has provided a drop down list of state regulatory agencies for veterinary technicians. State regulatory agencies may also offer professional certifications for their state.

Generally, licensure requires passing the Veterinary Technician National Exam which is administered by the AAVSB. The exam consists of three parts: laboratory procedure, diagnostic imaging and animal dentistry. The exam is 200 questions in length and administered in every state of the U.S. and in Canada.

Vet tech career aspects to consider:

  • The national employment opportunity growth for veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to increase by up to 52 percent from 2010 to 2020 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
  • The median annual wage of a veterinary technologists and technician was reported as $30,140, nationally, by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2011 (BLS.gov/oes, 2011).
  • According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, veterinary technologists and technicians experienced a rate of injuries and illnesses that is "much higher" than the national average (BLS.gov, 2012), as animals may kick, scratch, bite or become aggressive while being cared for. The BLS also notes that the job can be emotionally demanding.

There are currently two education paths available at veterinary technician schools: a two-year degree program and a four-year degree program. The four-year degree program provides greater animal health care specialization as well as equipment and technology specializations in anesthesia and emergency care. Specialization can also include animal assistance therapy, where technicians can supervise and train animals to help with emotional trauma in humans. Graduates of a four-year degree program are awarded a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology and, as with all bachelor's programs, they can generally be completed in four to five years.

In order to be employed as a veterinary technician, students must be licensed and have graduated from an accredited school approved by the AVMA. The AVMA has approved 209 veterinary technician programs in every state and Canada except the District of Columbia and the following four states: Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, and Rhode Island. The AVMA has not approved any purely online veterinary technician schools.

The AVMA provides a searchable list of all approved programs based on state/country, degree length and the availability of distance learning options. Currently there are nine veterinary technician programs available which offer partial distance education and 20 programs which offer a four-year degree program. Like all health care professions, veterinary technicians are required to participate in on-site laboratory and clinical practicums as part of their education and internships.

Purdue University, one of the few schools which offers both distance learning and four-year degree options, has reported (vet.purude.edu, 2012) that many of their students enrolled in distance learning are currently employed by a licensed veterinarian.

Sources:

The American Association of Veterinary State Boards, http://www.aavsb.org/

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm#tab-6

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2011, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292056.htm

American Veterinary Medical Association, Veterinary Technology Programs Accredited by the AVMA CVTEA - https://www.avma.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Education/Accreditation/Programs/Pages/vettech-programs-all-programs-list.aspx

Purde University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Distance Learning  - http://www.vet.purdue.edu/vettech/DL/

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