Veterinary Technician Programs

Vet Tech Programs offer courses of study designed for students who aspire to pursue a career as a veterinary technician, veterinary technologist, or veterinary assistant. ...

While each of these paths taps into a love of animals and animal care, they have unique academic requisites.

What Types of Vet Tech Programs Are There?

Veterinary Technician Schools offer several types of vet tech programs. These span Veterinary Assistant Certificates and two types of vet tech degrees. One of these is a 2-year program designed for future vet techs. The other is a 4-year program intended for aspirant veterinary technologists. i To figure out which path mirrors your interests, you might take into account two main factors.

  1. What are your career goals?
  2. How much time can you devote to your studies?

FACT: Most veterinarians require that assistants hold at least an associate's degree in veterinary technology from an accredited community college or technical school. i

Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology Programs

An Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology program is intended to prepare students for several possible outcomes. One of these is to graduate with trade skills and the know-how to pursue possible careers as veterinary technicians in small or large animal hospitals or clinics. Therefore courses may look at how to perform lab tests, or help veterinarians conduct diagnostic tests.i  These programs usually fall under the category of ‘Associate of Applied Science.’ However, you may find a second type of program, usually the ‘Associate of Science’, which is meant as a transfer degree. Students in AS programs generally move on to a Bachelor of Veterinary Technology program later.

Most Vet Tech programs require students to have first earned a high school diploma or GED. A full-time student may complete the course of study for an Associates Vet Tech program in two years or less.

Course of Study

While course topics vary between Veterinary Technician schools, a sample of general course topics follows.

  • Intro to biology
  • Animal nursing
  • Animal anatomy and physiology
  • Veterinary office management
  • Pharmacology for vet techs
  • Parasitology
  • Anesthesia for vet techs

Aside from their courses, students who pursue a Vet Tech degree may have a clinical externship requisite. Through this on-site practice, students get hands-on experience with animals. Those who work towards a vet tech degree online may be able to intern at a local animal clinic

How Might I Become a Vet Tech?

As stated above, one of the primary goals of Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology programs is to prepare students to pursue a career as a vet tech. This degree is required for most entry level positions.i Additionally, in many states both technologists and technicians must pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). Furthermore, while state rules differ, vet techs must become certified, licensed or registered to practice.i Some Vet Tech programs may prepare students to take state credential exams. If this is a goal of yours, review program descriptions and curriculum to find one that fits your needs.

Is a Veterinary Assistant the Same as a Veterinary Technician?

The veterinary assistant plays a compassionate and supportive role in animal care. They help veterinarians, vet techs and vet technologists with basic animal care. For instance, they might feed, bathe and exercise animals, clean cages or nurse an animal after surgery. While veterinary assistants do not need a degree and certification is not mandatory, it is often preferred by employers.ii As a result, some Vet Tech schools offer certificate programs to help students develop the required skillsets to work in clinics and animal hospitals. 

Veterinary Assistant Certificates

Veterinary Assistant Certificate programs generally require students to have a high school diploma or GED. As non-degrees, they often take less than a year to complete. Some certificate programs prepare students to take the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) test offered by the NAVTA. 

Course of Study

Veterinary assistant courses often help students to identify various types of animal behavior and perform some basic functions. For example, how to keep an animal steady while you collect a lab sample or assist with a diagnostic image. ​In addition, some programs may entail an externship at a small clinic. While Vet Tech Schools differ in the courses they offer, the list below includes a general sample of veterinary assistant topics.

  • Veterinary terminology
  • Emergency wound care
  • About animal parasites
  • Radiology and surgical preparation

Bachelors Degree in Veterinary Technology Programs

A Vet Tech Bachelors Degree program is also intended to prepare students for several possible outcomes. One of these, usually through a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS), is to provide students with a terminal professional vet tech degree. These programs may be great for students who wish to pursue careers as veterinary technologists. A 4-year bachelors degree in veterinary technology is often required for entry level roles.i Programs seek to prepare students to work in more advanced research-oriented careers or in a laboratory setting. While Veterinary Technicians too work under the guidance of a scientist or veterinarian, their tasks differ from vet techs. For example, a veterinary technologist might administer a medication or prepare a tissue sample for examination.i

A bachelors degree in veterinary technology might also prepare students to pursue higher education. Students might be wish to earn a MS in Animal Science or continue on to a doctorate program in veterinary medicine.

Veterinary technology students who enter a bachelors in veterinary technology program with an associates degree may complete their degree in about 2-years. Those who enter a program without one need to have first earned a high school diploma or GED. For students who work towards their degree on a full-time basis, it takes an average of 4-years to complete the program.

Course of Study

Often, the courses in a bachelors program provide an intro to animal sciences, and go in-depth into the mechanics of how to nurse animals of various sizes. While course topics vary, they may include some of the sample topics listed below.

  • Veterinary pharmacology
  • Safety and regulatory compliance
  • Dental techniques
  • Human-animal bond

Aside from their coursework, students may be required to complete a veterinary technology capstone project. Also, some Veterinary Technology schools offer unique areas of emphasis such as veterinary hospital management.

Career Outlook

Per the BLS, veterinary technicians and technologists are in high demand.i

  • The median annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians was $31,800 in May 2015 i
  • A 19 percent growth in employment is projected from 2014 to 2024 for veterinary technologists and technicians i

Find Accredited Vet Tech Programs and Vet Tech Schools

Accredited Vet Tech Programs are approved by the American Medical Association (AVMA). In 2015, there were 231 AVMA-accredited veterinary technology programs. i

Take the Next Step

Read about Vet Tech programs and easily compare Vet Tech Schools. Browse paid programs to land on a Certificate, Associates or Bachelors degree. Then, use the on-page form to request more information. Take the next step now!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm |[ii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm |[iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm

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