The Path to a Veterinary Technician Degree

Before you get on the path to a veterinary technician degree, make sure you have a firm commitment to animal care. Even veterinary assistants need formal training to work in the field. The schooling for an entry-level job will take you at least two years, and a 4-year degree is needed for an advanced position with better pay.

But the future looks bright for vet tech students. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook is promising and expected to increase well into the future. The rise in pet health care techniques and popularity of pet ownership makes obtaining a veterinary technician degree a smart choice for animal lovers.

Early Education

If you know you want to enter the veterinary profession start as early as possible to lay the foundation for your education. Take a host of science, math and lab courses in high school. Today, there are vocational programs in high schools, which are also paving the way for budding veterinarians.

2-year Degree

But the first professional level of education required for a vet tech is an Associates Degree. Students will enroll in an accredited college or pursue their veterinary technician online degree with a qualified distance learning school. The educational agency needs to be accredited with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Classes for vet techs are taught in clinical and laboratory settings with live animals. The basic courses you will take while earning a veterinary technician degree are:

Prerequisites classes

  • biology
  • chemistry
  • humanities courses
  • microbiology

Advanced courses

  • anesthesia
  • animal diseases
  • animal medical techniques
  • animal husbandry
  • comparative anatomy and physiology
  • hematology
  • radiography
  • surgical principles

Certification Requirements

After earning a degree, a student needs to pass a state exam to become registered, certified, or licensed (depending on the state agency facilitating the program). After completing the 2-year program, graduates take the veterinary technician certification exam. The test includes a combination of oral, written and practical skills.

Levels of certification for graduates

  • Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT)
  • Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT)
  • Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG, the highest level of certification)

Careers and Job Duties

The work available after getting your veterinary technician degree is quite diverse. Vet techs normally work at private veterinary offices assisting doctors. They are not able to prescribe medications, diagnose illnesses, or perform surgeries.

Other areas of work for vet techs

  • animal shelters
  • health management for livestock/farming industry
  • performing biomedical research
  • pharmaceutical sales industry
  • zoological and wildlife care/medicine

Technical and additional tasks performed by vet techs include

  • administering anesthesia and injections
  • assisting in diagnostic, medical, and surgical procedures
  • collecting specimens, taking tissue and blood samples
  • documenting patient histories
  • exposing and developing x-rays
  • consulting with pet owners
  • performing dental prophylaxes
  • helping to put animals at ease
  • executing laboratory procedures
  • supervising and training personnel