Vet techs are in high demand, and the need is rapidly growing. Veterinary practices worldwide are experiencing higher patient volume, so they are urgently looking to fill those roles with caring, passionate, animal-loving people like you. But how does one become a vet tech? And sure, there may be a need for them now, but is there long-term stability with that career path?
We have the resources and answers you need to help make the best decision for your future. Whether entering the workforce for the first time or making a career change, you’ll find valuable information here to help you navigate your next steps. This is your guide to becoming a vet tech.
Your Guide to Becoming a Veterinary Technician
1. Earn Your High School Diploma or GED
You will need a postsecondary degree to become a vet tech, so the first step is to complete your high school education or earn your GED. If you’re still in high school, this is a great time to prepare for your vet tech career by taking biology, chemistry, and other science courses.
There are also plenty of opportunities to gain experience while completing this stage of your education. For example, you could volunteer at an animal shelter, get a part-time job at a dog daycare, or seek a kennel assistant position at a local veterinary office. Just because you haven’t graduated doesn’t mean you can’t get valuable skills and animal science knowledge.
2. Complete an AVMA-Accredited Postsecondary Program
Once you’ve completed your high school education, it’s time to decide if you want to be a veterinary technician or a veterinary technologist. Veterinary technicians must complete a two-year associate’s degree to sit for their credentialing exam, and veterinary technologists must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree. Whether it’s a community college, tech school, university, or specialty school, be sure to choose an accredited program.
How do you know if your chosen school is accredited? The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) established a Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) in the early ‘70s to maintain educational standards and training for veterinary technicians. Most institutions list their AVMA-CVTEA accreditation on their website, but you can always check AVMA’s list of accredited programs.
3. Fulfill All Externship & Clinical Hour Requirements
Classroom learning is fantastic, but you also need hands-on experience. Externships or clinical hours are required for veterinary technician and technologist programs, so be prepared to dedicate more hours outside your scheduled class time.
Clinical experience is immensely valuable in your journey to becoming a vet tech. You will have the opportunity to work with various animals, experience many aspects of an animal clinic or hospital setting, and explore specialties within veterinary medicine.
4. Pass the VTNE & Obtain State-Required Credentials
While every state has different requirements for licensure, registration, or other certifications, all vet tech graduates must pass one key credentialing exam before stepping into their new roles: the Veterinary Technician National Examination.
The VTNE is owned and administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). This exam is available to new graduates during three exam windows each year, and it is a critical piece in obtaining your vet tech credentials no matter which state you’re planning to work in. Once you pass the VTNE, you’ll be a certified, registered or licensed vet tech – depending on the state.
If you’d like to know more about your state’s regulatory agencies or licensing boards before starting your path to being a vet tech, check out this helpful directory from AAVSB.
5. Launch Your Vet Tech Career
Now that you’ve obtained all the necessary education and certifications, it’s time to launch your career as a vet tech. Start scheduling interviews and research the clinics you interview with ahead of time.
Find hospitals that align with your areas of interest and prepare questions for your interviewers as well. Do they provide on-the-job training? What growth opportunities are available? What kind of benefits do they offer employees?
BluePearl offers many opportunities to gain invaluable experience working in emergency veterinary care, critical care, and many unique specialties. In addition to providing our Associates with an annual allowance and free opportunities for their continuing education credits, we offer many advancement opportunities to support their career growth.
FAQs About Becoming a Vet Tech
What’s the difference between a vet tech and a vet assistant?
Vet techs must complete an accredited degree program and obtain the correct certifications, registrations, and licensures in accordance with their state’s requirements. They typically assist veterinarians in conducting exams, performing laboratory tests, administering medications and injections, and handling many other clinical tasks.
In contrast, veterinary assistants only require a high school diploma and some on-the-job training to start working. While there are certifications available for veterinary assistants, they are not mandatory to begin working in a clinic.
Veterinary assistants help with handling pets, walking dogs, monitoring pets for changes, maintaining equipment and sterilizing instruments. They help veterinarians and vet techs treat their patients in addition to providing animals with food, exercise, and anything else they need to feel comfortable.
What is the average salary of a veterinary technician?
In May 2021, the average salary for vet techs was $36,850 or $17.72 per hour. The highest 10% of vet techs took over $48,100 home each year, and the lowest 10% earned less than $28,370.
With retirement options, time off plans, and many additional benefits, BluePearl offers competitive compensation packages. We’re home to leaders and innovators in veterinary medicine, and we firmly believe that caring for our Associates is as important as caring for pets.
Are vet techs in demand?
Yes, and demand will only continue to grow! The projected employment growth rate from 2020 to 2030 is a whopping 15%, much faster than the average 8% of other occupations. Vet techs aren’t just in demand; they are greatly needed. This career path will offer excellent job security in a gratifying field.
How long does it take to become a vet tech?
If you enroll in your program full-time, it will typically take two years to become a veterinary technician and four years to become a veterinary technologist. The time spent in your program will include classroom learning, labs, externships, and clinical hours.
What qualifications do I need to become a vet tech?
While registration or licensure regulations may vary by state, there are a few qualifications every vet tech will need:
- Successful completion of a certified AVMA-CVTEA program
- Passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Examination
- State-regulated credentials (where required)
What other skills do I need to become a vet tech?
Vet techs need more than just certifications, experience, and education to do their jobs well. If you’re looking to make this profession into a career, other soft skills will help you find success.
A love for animals is first and foremost. You will need to express empathy and kindness to many pets and their owners throughout the day, and it’s much easier to do so when you love working with cats, dogs, rabbits, and other creatures.
You also need strong communication skills to collaborate with your team and interact with owners in many different scenarios. Strong interpersonal skills will serve you well whether you are assisting with a routine checkup or a serious surgery.
Close attention to detail, strength for lifting animals, and dexterity for performing delicate procedures are also helpful qualities.
Can a vet tech become a veterinarian? Are there other career advancement opportunities?
Becoming a vet tech is a fantastic way to gain experience in veterinary medicine, and many veterinary technicians or technologists go on to become veterinary tech specialists (VTS) or even doctors. Keep in mind that those programs may have additional prerequisite requirements that your vet tech program did not include. Be sure to speak with an academic advisor to find out what classes you may need to take.
Even without advanced training, a vet tech career offers many opportunities for advancement. BluePearl, in particular, contributes to our Associates’ growth through CareerTrax, an electronic career pathing platform that outlines clear, direct career pathways and provides the necessary tools. Associates also have access to 2,000+ medical journals, books, and abstracts through BluePearl University, and we offer continuing education incentives to encourage – and reward – lifelong learning.
What’s the best part about being a vet tech?
Ask any vet tech what they love most about their job, and they will have a hard time choosing one thing. In veterinary medicine, we get to walk alongside pets through most stages of their life, from routine checkups to urgent visits. We get to help owners keep their beloved pets stay happy and healthy for as long as possible, giving them thousands of precious moments with each other. And we get to make a positive impact on our communities.
Every day in a vet clinic is different and exciting. Plus, you get to work in an industry where your passion for animals translates to a rich and fulfilling career.
Ready to Become a Vet Tech?
Whether you choose to become a veterinary technician or technologist, it’s a rewarding career with opportunities galore. You will enjoy excellent job security, and you will get to make a significant difference in the lives of pets and their families. And we would love to welcome you to the BluePearl family.