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How to Become a Vet Tech in 2021

October 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Vet Tech 

Individuals passionate about animals might consider becoming a veterinary technician but not know what the professional career entails. Vet techs work in different settings, including veterinary offices and labs. A vet tech is typically a trained nurse of animals. They obtain very veterinary certifications and licenses to enable them to provide animal care.

Veterinary technicians provide both routine medical care and emergency care services to animals. They have proficient clinical knowledge and skills to perform their tasks. The vet tech also performs other tasks as assigned by a veterinarian. However, they can’t make clinical diagnoses, perform surgeries, and prescribe medication. They act as a veterinary assistant. 

Those who love animals and want to improve their wellbeing and health should pursue a vet assistant profession. The step to becoming a vet tech begins by enrolling in a veterinary assistant program from a recognized learning institution. Most vet technologists prefer earning an associate’s degree in veterinary medicine. The programs typically take two years to complete. Aspiring vet techs who want better job prospects should specialize in different areas, including public health, land animal, dentistry, emergency, and exotic animals. Most states require veterinary technicians to obtain various vet techs credentials such as LVT, CVT, and RVT. 

Are you considering becoming a vet tech and don’t know where to start? You need to keep reading as this article explores all the aspects of becoming a vet tech, including: 

  1. Education needed to become a vet tech 
  2. Certification and licensing requirements for vet techs 
  3. Career opportunities for vet techs 
  4. How to determine if vet tech is the right career for you

Education Needed to Become a Vet Tech

Working with animals can be satisfying and challenging at the same time. A vet tech’s typical day might have the good, the bad, and the sad moments. But whatever the outcome of a veterinary technician’s regular workday, they keep pushing to improve the wellness of animals by providing primary care and intensive care services. Therefore, choosing to become a veterinary assistant means choosing to provide care to all animal creatures. The veterinary technician professional requires well-trained individuals with comprehensive knowledge of animal health. With this, aspiring vet technicians must obtain a veterinary technician degree from an accredited veterinary school. Aspiring vet techs must also possess adept skills in veterinary technology. If you are considering becoming a vet tech, keep reading to determine the education requirements for veterinary technicians. 

What Sort of Education Is Needed to Become a Vet Tech?

An aspiring vet tech must meet various educational requirements to become a certified vet tech. The educational requirements range from a high school diploma to an associate’s degree. Let’s explore the typical education requirements needed to become a vet tech in detail. 

  • High School Diploma or GED 

Like other careers, such as veterinary technologists, prospective vet techs must earn a high school diploma or GED. The high school diploma prepares students for various college courses. To obtain admission to a veterinary school, you must have passed various high school courses such as chemistry, English, biology, and other elective courses. Taking a foreign language might also help to increase your client base to non-English speakers.

  • Veterinary Assistant Certificate Programs 

Those seeking to make entry into the veterinary field should consider becoming a veterinary assistant. The veterinary assistant certificate programs provide primary education on veterinary services. Students can acquire hands-on experience from a veterinary clinical setting, which is also a learning path to becoming a vet tech. You can easily transfer the credits earned in the certificate program to higher degrees. Some of the courses covered in the certificate programs include basic animal care terminologies, the role of vet assistants, sanitary procedures, facility administration, and patient protocols.

  • Associate’s Degree 

An associate’s degree is the typical degree program for vet techs. The associate’s degree program provides foundational knowledge in veterinary medicine needed by veterinary technicians to perform their duties. The degree program provides the foundational knowledge needed to take and pass various veterinary certification exams. The education program typically takes two years to complete, making it the quickest path to becoming a vet. 

Some of the likely courses include: 

  • Animal genetics
  • Animal nutrition
  • Computer applications
  • Anatomy and physiology of animals 
  • Pharmacology 
  • Animal diseases 
  • Diagnostic imaging. 

Earning the veterinary technician program unlocks several career opportunities, especially for entry-level vets. After completing the classroom training, students must complete a supervised training practicum to obtain on-the-job training. 

What Sort of Continuing Education Is Required to Maintain a Career as A Vet Tech?

Continuing education is the path to career advancement. Continuing education programs for vet techs unlocks a new world of career opportunities, including becoming veterinary technologists, and in some cases, professional vets. Continuing education is usually the requirement of maintaining your vet tech certification. The available continuing education programs for vets include: 

  • Bachelor’s Degree: Earning a bachelor’s degree is vital for vet techs who want to maintain their certifications and, at the same time, advance their careers to higher levels. The four-year degree programs for vets provide comprehensive knowledge to vet techs. The skills and knowledge gained from veterinary bachelor’s programs expose vet techs to various career opportunities, such as becoming veterinary technologists. The degree program also enables vet techs to specialize in various veterinary areas, making them highly competitive in the job market.
  • Master’s Degree: Vet techs with undergraduate degrees might opt to obtain a master’s degree to broaden their career prospects. A master’s degree helps you maintain your certification and places you in leadership and managerial positions in the veterinary field. You will likely be involved in policy-making processes needed to transform the veterinary field and medical sector at large. It also increases your vet tech salary. 

What Other Educational Requirements Are There to Become a Vet Tech?

Apart from the undergraduate and graduate degree programs needed to become a vet tech, aspiring veterinary technicians must also fulfill other education requirements. These educational requirements help vet techs broaden their career prospects. They include various training, certifications, and training programs. 

  • Passing VTNE: This is a preparation tool created by experts to help aspiring vet techs prepare for the certification exam. You are required to at least pass by 75% to gain practicing licensure. 
  • On-job Training: Aspiring vets are required to complete a one-year on-job training program from a clinical setting. The training program is generally provided by a licensed vet who develops a training program to help you gain clinical experience. Also, the program will enable you to put the classroom knowledge into practice, helping you hone your skills and knowledge. 
  • Certifications: Veterinary technician certifications test your knowledge and skills in animal care. The various certification programs offered by AALAS include Assistant Laboratory Technician, Laboratory Animal Technician, and Laboratory Animal Technologist certifications. 

Certifications and Licensing Requirements for Vet Techs

Several states require vet takes to obtain various certifications and licenses to practice veterinary medicine within the states. Obtaining the certification demonstrates that a vet tech has met all the standards set by the certification body and is highly qualified and experienced to provide veterinary services. The certifications and licenses help vet techs gain a competitive advantage over non-certified colleagues. The most common certification exam preferred by most states is the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). 

What Sort of Certifications Are Needed to Become a Vet Tech?

Are you considering becoming a certified veterinary technician? Several certification options might interest you. The certification options include: 

  • Laboratory Animal Technologists: This is an advanced certification for veterinary technicians and veterinary technologists. The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science offers the certification. The LATC sets professional standards for laboratory animal science advancement. It demonstrates a vet tech’s proficient knowledge of laboratory animal technology. It also provides an avenue for continuing education.
  • Laboratory Animal Technician: This is a core certification provided by the AALAS. The certification is used widely in animal care. To obtain the certification, one is required to get at least two years of education training. 
  • Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician. This certification is widely used in various fields of laboratory animal care. Apart from becoming a veterinary technician, certification is also a requirement for lab animal care professionals. The certification is renewed after every two years. 
  • Certified Billing and Coding Specialist: This certification is highly recommended for laboratory animal technicians. The certification is vital when converting medical procedures into specific codes to submit claims for reimbursement. 

What Sort of Licenses Are Required to Become a Vet Tech?

Before beginning their veterinary practice, vet techs must first obtain practicing licensure from a recognized veterinary body. The qualification for obtaining practicing licensure is graduating from an AVMA accredited school. You can obtain a two-year degree program in veterinary technology or animal health, plus three years of full-time experience. Veterinary licenses vary from one state to the other. However, most states require aspiring veterinary technicians to take and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). 

Individuals who pass the VTNE exams get licensed by their respective Veterinary State Boards and become a licensed veterinary technicians. The examination is generally offered three times a year. Hence one might opt to sit for the examinations in one of the three sitting days. Upon passing the VTNE exams, a veterinary technician will be required to take the proctored exam within your location. 

What Other Certifications or Licenses Can an Aspiring Vet Tech Earn to Put Themselves Ahead of the Competition?

With the increased number of veterinary professionals in the veterinary field, it is essential to put yourself before others by gaining additional licenses and certifications. The additional certifications enable a vet tech to remain competitive in the job market. They unlock several other career opportunities for vet techs. Apart from the common Laboratory Animal Technician certification, several other certifications can help veterinary technicians put themselves ahead of the competition. They include: 

  • Veterinary Internal Medicine Technician-Neurology: This specialty certification is offered by the Academy of Internal Medicine Veterinary Technicians. Neurology is currently considered a subspecialty of veterinary medicine. Hence, those seeking to remain competitive in the market should be considered pursuing the Veterinary Internal Medicine Technician certification. Additionally, the certification might help you land high-paying jobs in different work settings. 
  • Veterinary Technician Specialist: This specialized certification is provided by the Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians (AVECCT). To gain certification, you must pass the VTNE examination and gain 1,000-10,000 hours of working experience in the specialty. 
  • Veterinary Internal Medicine Technician-Large Animal Internal Medicine: The Academy of Internal Medicine also offers this certification for Veterinary Technicians. Large animal internal medicine is mainly concerned with the care and treatment of medical conditions in large animals. The specialty is among the veterinary specialties that are currently in high demand. Therefore, those seeking to earn higher packages and remain competitive should consider gaining the certification. 
  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician: These vet technicians deal mainly with collecting, analyzing, and interpreting blood sample results. These technicians are highly sought-after due to the increased demand for a phlebotomist in the veterinary field. The certification is renewable every year. 

Career Opportunities for Vet Techs

Associate’s degrees for veterinary technicians open up different opportunities in various work settings. Some of the likely places where vet techs work include emergency animal hospitals, zoos, animal shelters, and research laboratories. The training of veterinary technicians allows them to pursue various professions aimed at providing primary care and acute care services to animals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statics, the vet tech career is one of the health careers that are likely to grow in the next decade. Hence, individuals seeking career options with a promising career outlook should consider pursuing veterinary professions.

What Are Some of the Options Available for Those Who Seek a Career as A Vet Tech?

NAVTA recognizes several specialty areas in the veterinary field. The certifications in these specialties require aspiring vet techs to meet specific education requirements, including a degree in the veterinary field, relative work training, and experience and passing various national and state examinations. The certifications enable prospective tech vets to work as: 

  • Veterinary Surgical Tech: Veterinary surgical techs are highly trained to assist licensed vets with surgical procedures. One must gain substantial experience in veterinary services and surgical procedures to become a vet assistant
  • Veterinary Dental Tech: These veterinary technicians provide dental care to both large and small animals. The dental works range from routine cleanings to extensive dental procedures such as teeth extractions. To become a veterinary dental tech, you must have 6000 hours of veterinary tech experience and 3000 hours of experience in dentistry. Additionally, you must obtain certifications related to the dentistry certification. 
  • Zoo Vet Tech: Zoo vet techs provide animal care to exotic species. They are mainly found in animal zoos to help sick exotic animals. A certified zoo tech must earn at least five years of experience in zoological medicine. 
  • Clinical Practice Vet Tech: They provide care in different subspecialties, including production animals, exotic companion animals, or canine animals. To become a clinical practice vet tech, you must have completed a degree program related to veterinary and a five-year on-job training experience. 

What Are Some of the More Uncommon Career Paths Available for Specialized Vet Techs?

Most graduate vet techs typically begin working in a veterinary clinic providing wellness and medical services to small and large animals. However, in some cases, the veterinary clinical setting isn’t always viable for all graduate vet techs. Others opt to pursue various unique careers other than clinical practice. Some of these uncommon career paths include: 

  • Vet Teacher: Vet schools and referral hospitals generally employ veterinary specialists. Hence, if you are passionate about teaching, consider becoming a vet teacher. You will provide the foundational training to aspiring vets in different specialties, including dentistry, clinical practice, emergency, critical care, surgery, and physical rehabilitation. 
  • Shelter Vet Tech: Those passionate about animal welfare should consider working as a vet tech in animal shelters. Some of the careers for shelter vet techs include animal control officers and surgical assistants. 
  • Dermatology Clinical Vet Tech: They are involved in diagnosing and treating animal skills ailments. They also participate in research and development processes geared towards improving the health outcomes of animals. 
  • Behavior and Training Vet Techs: They help shape the behaviors of animals and enable them to learn specific skills. Though not common, the veterinary specialty is quite rewarding and satisfying. 

What Does the Average Day of a Vet Tech Look Like?

Veterinary technicians perform various duties daily. The average day for a vet tech involves performing various duties, including:

  • Performing medical diagnosis 
  • Collecting and testing lab samples 
  • Analysis and interpretation of lab samples 
  • Watching animal patient behavior changes 
  • Preparing animals for examinations and surgeries 
  • Giving treatments and medication 
  • Collecting and maintaining records

How to Determine If Vet Tech Is the Right Career for You

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for vet tech career options is expected to grow by 19% by 2028. This demonstrates that the demand for veterinary technicians is much higher than other medical careers. The career option is quite promising with high job security and remuneration. However, is the vet tech job the right career option for you? To ensure a vet tech career is right for you, you need to consider several factors. Some of the likely factors include personal interests and professional objectives. Keep reading to find out whether or not a veterinary technician is a career for you. 

What Sort of People Enjoy Working as A Vet Tech Most?

A tech vet career is most suitable for animal lovers, especially those highly concerned about animals’ health and wellness. As a vet tech, you will spend most of your time working closely with animals. The profession is most suitable for individuals who like impacting the lives of others and animals. Just like nursing care provides quality care to humans, animals also need quality care services to help to improve their wellbeing. The experience of treating terminally ill pets improving their general health can be quite satisfying. This indicates that individuals who are highly passionate about animals are likely to enjoy working as vet tech the most. 

What Sort of Skills Are Necessary for Those Who Wish to Become a Vet Tech?

Veterinary technicians and veterinary technologists play a vital role in providing primary care to animals to help improve their health outcomes. To this effect, the veterinary technologists and vet techs must possess a particular skill set to work perform their duties diligently and effectively. You can earn the skills through education and training programs. Are you considering working as a vet tech? Here are some of the skills you need to work on before applying for that vet tech job: 

  • Communication skills

Veterinary technicians must be able to communicate effectively with their clients and other medical staff. Effective communication in clinical practice helps determine the medical conditions accurately and identify the best treatment option for animal diseases. Effective communication helps vet techs to educate and inform pet owners on effective animal care practices. 

  • Empathy 

Empathy skills enable a vet tech to understand the animal’s and pet owner’s perspectives and feelings. Empathy will help build lasting relationships with pet owners since they will become comfortable and confident with your treatment strategies. 

  • Detail Oriented 

Attention to detail is more than just speaking. It is about being keen and listening attentively. This will help the vet tech understand the key points and ask appropriate questions since you will likely get loads of information you need to internalize. Vet techs should maintain accurate records to avoid making tiny mistakes that might lead to severe health complications for the animal. 

  • Intellectual Skills 

Vet techs should have the adept problem-solving and analytical skills needed to process complex information and tackle various issues. Also, they should be able to effectively develop and evaluate strategies and implement the best alternative approaches to identified problems. 

  • Technical Skills 

A typical workday for veterinary technicians and veterinary technologists involves handling sophisticated machineries such as x-rays and computer programs. A vet tech should be able to learn how to handle the equipment and programs quickly. 

  • Result-Driven

A good vet tech should be result-driven. That is, they should be able to strive and keep going until they find the required results. 

  • Teamwork Oriented 

As an animal health professional, you have to work with others in different departments as working with a multidisciplinary team leads to high-quality medical services. Prospective vet techs should be able to get along with other staff quickly. 

What Sort of Talents Are Necessary for Those Who Wish to Become a Vet Tech?

Those wishing to become vet techs must have talents to enable them to perform their duties. Unlike skills, talents are also inborn. All you need is to nurture your talent effectively to help you succeed in your career. Some of the likely talents that vet techs must possess include: 

  • Flexibility: Flexibility is key to working in a multidisciplinary team. Vet techs career doesn’t stick to the typical eight hours working schedule. In some cases, you might have to work in unplanned shifts, especially during emergency cases. Therefore, veterinary technicians should be highly flexible to meet all the needs of the clients.
  • Time management: Time management is more important in the veterinary field. In some cases, the lives of animals are always on the line. A vet tech should be able to meet schedules and prioritize essential matters. 
  • Confidence: As a vet tech, you are likely to deal with different kinds of animals. You should, therefore, have high confidence levels to enable you to attend to each type of animal confidently. it would be best to be confident of your actions as high confidence leads to improved outcomes.

Final Thoughts 

If you love animals, you might think of becoming a vet tech. Veterinary technicians work in various settings to provide care to animals. As a vet tech, you will spend most of your time helping animals, the animal’s owner, and the veterinarian. Your primary duties will involve giving ill animals medications. You will also provide healthy animals with vaccinations. Other typical duties include:

  • Bathing animals.
  • Observing animals’ behaviors and conditions.
  • Providing first aid and nursing care. 

The typical path to becoming a vet tech is earning an associate degree in veterinary technology or other related courses. The two-year program prepares aspiring vet techs for entry-level veterinary roles. Upon completing your education program, you must complete a one-year supervised training program to earn hands-on experience in the veterinary field. To become a certified vet tech, you must gain various veterinary credentials depending on your specialization. Some of the likely certifications include assistant laboratory technician, Laboratory animal technician, and laboratory animal technologist. 

The education program and certification unlock various careers in animal care. You might opt to specialize in different areas to help you gain a competitive advantage and maintain your certification. To quickly advance your career, you should pursue a continuing education program to advance your knowledge and skills.

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