Veterinary Technician Overview: Education & Job Outlook

The complete guide to veterinary technician programs, certification, careers and advancement opportunities.
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Veterinary Tech Career Facts

Overview

The pet market is a $55 billion industry with 84 million families owning pets in the U.S. and $131 billion industry world-wide. A Veterinary Technician is a vital job in this steady growth industry.

The skills and job duties required by a Veterinary Technician are very technical and require an empathetic and positive personality when dealing with family’s pets.

Because you are dealing with the equivalent of a family member possibly from birth to death, the job can be physically and emotionally demanding. Many clinics have non-traditional hours that include evenings and weekends depending on their patient.

If you are an animal lover, there are large opportunities in the veterinary field and almost every city and rural area has a veterinary office.

It is estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that 21,100 Veterinary Technician jobs will become available from 2018 to 2028.

Requirements to be a Veterinary Technician

Each state has their own credential requirements that regulate the Veterinary industry to make sure pets and animals receive their proper care. While not all states require a technician to have a registration, certification, or license, it will be more difficult to be hired in those states if you are not accredited and also could reduce your starting wages. In order to qualify to sit for the certification exam, most states require a 2 or 4-year degree from an accredited college or university.

The credentials vary state by state and can use different acronyms even though they mean the same qualification.

The terms used by different state boards are:

  • RVT – Registered Veterinary Technician
  • CVT – Certified Veterinary Technician
  • LVT – Licensed Veterinary Technician
  • LVMT – Licensed Veterinary Medical Technician (Tennessee only)

Because these multiple titles can be very confusing for the public, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), has recommended using the term “Veterinary Technician”, or Vet Tech, which refers to licensure or certification.

Each state board determines which designation they use with varying qualifications and regulations. The Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) is the test used to establish credentials, with the difference being whether a state uses a certification, licensing or registration process to regulate the field. Veterinary Technicians may be able to transfer their exam scores and gain credentials in their new state if they move by paying the state fee for Veterinary Technician which varies in amounts but average around $325.

Oddly, while not all states require a certification or license for a Veterinary Technician, some of those states offer to certify you even though it is not necessarily a requirement to work in their state.

The following chart shows which states require a license to be a Veterinary Technician. The states with a ‘No’ are not regulated and mean credentials are voluntary. Utah and the District of Columbia do not require, or offer, credentials to practice Vet Tech.

State License Required? License, Certification, or Registration
Alabama
Yes
LVT
Alaska
Yes
LVT
Arizona
Yes
CVT
Arkansas
Yes
CVT
California
Yes
RVT
Colorado
No
CVT
Connecticut
No
CVT
Delaware
Yes
LVT
Florida
Yes
CVT
Georgia
Yes
LVT
Hawaii
No
RVT
Idaho
Yes
CVT
Illinois
Yes
CVT
Indiana
Yes
RVT
Iowa
No
RVT
Kansas
Yes
RVT
Kentucky
Yes
RVT
Louisiana
Yes
RVT
Maine
Yes
RVT
Maryland
Yes
RVT
Massachusetts
No
CVT
Michigan
Yes
LVT
Minnesota
No
CVT
Mississippi
Yes
CVT
Missouri
Yes
RVT
Montana
No
CVT
Nebraska
Yes
LVT
Nevada
Yes
LVT
New Hampshire
No
CVT
New Jersey
Yes
CVT
New Mexico
Yes
RVT
New York
Yes
LVT
North Carolina
Yes
RVT
North Dakota
Yes
LVT
Ohio
Yes
RVT
Oklahoma
Yes
RVT
Oregon
Yes
CVT
Pennsylvania
Yes
CVT
Rhode Island
No
CVT
South Carolina
Yes
CVT
South Dakota
Yes
RVT
Tennessee
Yes
LVMT
Texas
No
LVT
Utah
No
None
Vermont
No
CVT
Virginia
Yes
LVT
Washington
Yes
LVT
West Virginia
Yes
RVT
Wisconsin
Yes
CVT
Wyoming
No
CVT
District of Columbia (D.C.)
No
None

States that say ‘No’ simply do not require a license, certificate, or registration but may offer one voluntarily.

Once you become a Veterinary Technician, many join National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) which is the governing board for technicians. The typical responsibilities for this non-profit association are to provide direction, on-going education, technical support and coordination for its members and strives for the competent care and humane treatment of animals.

Veterinary Technician Education: Degrees and Programs

More than 200 schools offer Veterinary Technicians degrees but only 24 offer 4-year degrees in Veterinary programs. It is important to look for one that’s accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as exams and guidelines have been adopted by almost all states and school veterinary programs.

Obtaining a 2-year associate degree is the most popular path for Veterinary Technicians, although some students prefer 4-year bachelor’s degree as more career options exist. Veterinary Technicians education programs can be found at technical schools, community colleges, and 4-year universities. If you prefer online education, there are about 5 AVMA certified programs that offer classes. These classes will require that you get some hands-on lab and clinical rotations.

The curriculum in a Veterinary Technician’s program focuses on a variety of topics that prepare you for your career:

Accredited programs are under the oversight of Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) and graduating from these programs allow you to be eligible in most states to take the recommended VTNE certification exam. Almost all employers regardless of state oversight require this exam so they can understand your skill level.

Veterinary Technician Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and detailed statistics which vary greatly state by state but the median average salary for Veterinary Technician is $34,420 per year.

The salary information listed is based on a national average from BLS. Several factors determine the final salary or wage that a Veterinary Technician will pay including specialization within a field, experience, and geography to name a few. The areas with a higher cost of living tend to pay above average. For a Veterinary Technician you can expect on average:

Quick Facts: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
2018 Median Pay

$34,420 per year

$16.55 per hour

Typical Entry-Level EducationAssociate degree
Work Experience in a Related OccupationNone
On-the-job TrainingNone
Number of Jobs, 2018109,400
Job Outlook, 2018-2819% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-2821,100

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Veterinary Technician Job Growth

The future is very bright for Veterinary Technician job growth. According to the BLS website, they predict employment is expected to grow 19% from now through 2028. This is a much faster than average growth occupation in the Allied Health industry in terms of jobs. In other words, the BLS predicts 20,400 dental Veterinary Technician jobs will be added between 2018 and 2028.

Job growth for Veterinary Technicians is growing as veterinarians continue to use technicians to do general care and lab work at vet clinics. By hiring Veterinary Technicians who can complete routine tasks, Veterinarians can treat more pet patients. People are falling in love with their pets and are realizing the emotional benefits a pet can bring to the family making this a growth industry in both rural and urban areas.

The need for Veterinary Technicians is in every state but some have a dire need today and are willing to pay more to start.

What You Can Expect on the Job

You may have visited a pet clinic office with your pet and the functions described here may be familiar to you.

A typical start to the day for a Veterinary Technician starts out by putting on clean scrubs and sanitizing. They review the appointments and make sure they are prepared for the day’s patients unique needs.

Once the patient checks into the facility, the Veterinary Technician typically takes the patient to the exam room and performs a diagnosis. If the day includes surgery or small procedures, both the operation and the recovery room are prepared so the patient is comfortable. A day could include drawing blood, performing pre operation anesthetics, running tests in the laboratory, or simply caring for sick patients. Since no two patients are alike with their issues during their visit, it keeps your day exciting and moving fast.

Each state regulates some of these functions differently and your state may require you to be in full supervision of a licensed Veterinarian or may allow you to be unsupervised and on your own.

Related Jobs in the Industry

Military Veterinary Technician – An army veterinary technician could be an interesting career option for you. An army veterinary technician duty is to keep government-owned animals such as patrol dogs, horses, and even research animals in good health and the Army provides for all military branches.  Army Veterinary Technician duties are also to provide veterinary care to the personal pets of enlisted members. As a veterinary technician in the army your military occupation specialty (MOS) grade starts as a 68T – Animal Care Specialist.

Zoological Veterinary Technician – Since you will potentially be taking care of a variety of animals as a zoo vet tech, your responsibilities could change significantly from day to day. A Zoo Veterinary Technician must be in good health and able to handle such animals as tigers, monkeys, rhinos, giraffes, elephants and possibly snakes. The education requirements follow the same path as a clinic Veterinary Technician.

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