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How To Become a Veterinary Technician

It’s no secret that Americans love pets. According to the Humane Society, there are currently around 74.8 million pet dogs and roughly 90 million cats in the United States. This skyrocketing amount of furry friends has created a huge demand for well-qualified animal healthcare professionals, such as veterinary technicians. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the employment of veterinary technologists and technicians should grow by forty-one percent between 2006 and 2016. Sound intriguing? Let’s examine how you can become a successful veterinary technician.

Do You Fit the Profile?
Before you spend money on veterinary school applications, make sure you have the right personality for a veterinary career. Besides a deep love for four-legged companions, you must be prepared for the unpleasant situations that can arise while helping sick animals. For example, some veterinary technicians work regularly with violent, angry, or scared pets. Other technicians need to euthanize terminally ill animals and help owners cope with their loss.

In addition to the emotional demands of animal care, you should be ready for the physical challenges. Veterinary technicians can spend long hours on their feet, and might have to lift heavy animals on and off the examination table. They also must have the manual dexterity to perform delicate tasks, such as preparing tissue samples for laboratory tests. While most veterinary technicians work regular forty-hour weeks, an occasional twenty-four hour shift may be required.

Veterinary Technicians and Veterinary Assistants: What’s the Difference?
Many people mistakenly assume that “veterinary technician” and “veterinary assistant” are different terms for the same job. Actually, veterinary technicians not only hold higher levels of education than veterinary assistants, but veterinary technicians also have more job responsibility. Typical tasks of veterinary technicians include:

Veterinary technicians in the biomedical research industry may have extra duties, such as ensuring humane treatment of research animals and spearheading new research programs. Regardless of their specialty, most veterinary technicians work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian or research scientist.

Getting the Training You Need
As you search for veterinary technician schools, make sure that each institution you consider has accreditation through the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Certification ensures that schools uphold rigorous curriculum standards so you can receive top-notch training. Also, by completing an accredited program, you can become qualified for the required credentialing examination in any U.S. state in which you would like to work. You may find two-year associate’s degree programs at community colleges and four-year bachelor’s degrees at colleges and universities. If your schedule prevents you from attending on-campus courses, investigate AVMA-accredited distance-learning programs. Whether you study via the Internet or in a classroom, your coursework should cover the following subject areas:

Most programs also include lab time, which lets you interact with animals in a supervised clinical environment. Besides your in-class lab time, you can also benefit from securing an outside internship with an animal hospital, an animal shelter, or a private clinic. Since most of veterinary technicians’ work is hands-on, this real world experience is very helpful for making you feel comfortable once you obtain your first job. Your internship can also help you make valuable connections with potential employers.

Gaining Certification
Though every U.S. state has unique regulations for veterinary technicians, all states ask that aspiring veterinary technicians both graduate from an accredited program and pass a national certification examination. Most states require the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), a two-hundred-question test that’s divided into seven distinct areas of veterinary knowledge. All questions on the VTNE are invented by accomplished veterinary professionals, including academic workers, specialty board members, and practicing veterinarians.

Many veterinary technologists earn accreditation by passing the VTNE. However, some technician specialties require a different kind of certification. For example, if you wish to work for a research group, you should become accredited through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The AALAS offers three levels of official recognition:

The difficulty of your AALAS examination usually depends on your desired level of certification. If you are studying to become an Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician, for instance, your test lasts for two hours and involves 120 questions. On the other hand, aspiring Laboratory Animal Technologists need to pass a three-hour, 180-question exam.

Landing a Job After Your Degree
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) claims that around eighty-five percent of veterinary technicians find their first job with a private veterinary practice. Still, plenty of other career opportunities exist with various types of institutions, such as:

As you garner more and more experience in the animal-care field, your job responsibilities can increase. With hard work and dedication, you may even obtain a prestigious supervisory position. Also, don’t forget that many veterinary technicians eventually return to school to become fully licensed veterinarians.

Publish date: February 1, 2009