Eureka! For animal-lovers living in the Golden State or looking to relocate to the west coast, there’s an abundance of accredited veterinary technician programs to prepare people for this high-growth career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014), California boasts the second highest level of employment in the nation for veterinary technicians and technologists (8,820). This number is expected to swell in coming years as the BLS (2016) predicts a 19% jump in job openings between 2014 and 2024, a much more robust growth rate than that anticipated for all occupations (7%). Finally, at an average annual salary of $37,220, California is one of the top five highest paying states in the U.S. for this career.
From the legendary redwood forests of Humboldt County down to the star-studded beaches of Los Angeles, there are plenty of opportunities for aspiring veterinary technicians to get training and secure employment. Read on to discover how to become a veterinary technician in California, as well as what to expect from a typical program and the employment landscape in this state.
How to Become a Vet Tech in California
Before enrolling in any program, aspiring veterinary technicians in California should ensure that their school is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Here is one common path to becoming a registered veterinary technician (RVT) in California:
- Step 1: Graduate from a AVMA-accredited veterinary technician program. There are currently 18 fully accredited programs in the Golden State. These can range from two- to four-years. Most working vet techs currently hold an associate’s degree—68% according to O*NET (2013)—but others choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree. The four-year degree may qualify a candidate to become a veterinary technologist (as opposed to a technician), which involves more advanced training, increased responsibilities, and possibly higher pay.
- Step 2: Pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). This computer-based exam is offered during three one-month testing windows annually.
- Step 3: Pass the California Registered Veterinary Technician Exam. According to the California Veterinary Medical Board (CaVMB), this must be passed within 60 months of passing the VTNE and is offered three times per year.
- Step 4: Apply for licensure as an RVT and renew every two years with 20 hours of continued education (CE) credits.
Map of Vet Tech Schools in California
|Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited||Grads|
|Pima Medical Institute-Chula Vista||780 Bay Blvd Suite101, Chula Vista, California, 91910||No||Yes||180|
|Carrington College California-San Jose||6201 San Ignacio Ave., San Jose, California, 95119||No||Yes||54|
|Foothill College||12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos Hills, California, 94022||No||Yes||50|
|San Joaquin Valley College-Fresno||295 E Sierra Ave, Fresno, California, 93710-3616||No||Yes||49|
|Carrington College California-Stockton||1313 W. Robinhood Drive, Suite B, Stockton, California, 95207||No||Yes||38|
|Carrington College California-San Leandro||15555 E. 14th Street, Suite 500, San Leandro, California, 94578-1977||No||Yes||33|
|Carrington College California-Pleasant Hill||380 Civic Dr., Ste. 300, Pleasant Hill, California, 94523||No||Yes||32|
|Mt. San Antonio College||1100 N Grand Ave, Walnut, California, 91789-1399||No||Yes||31|
|Los Angeles Pierce College||6201 Winnetka Ave, Woodland Hills, California, 91371-0002||No||Yes||28|
|Carrington College California-Sacramento||8909 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento, California, 95826||No||Yes||26|
|Modesto Junior College||435 College Ave, Modesto, California, 95350-5800||No||No||23|
|Carrington College California-Citrus Heights||7301 Greenback Lane, Ste A, Citrus Heights, California, 95621||No||Yes||22|
|San Diego Mesa College||7250 Mesa College Dr, San Diego, California, 92111-4998||No||No||21|
|Cosumnes River College||8401 Center Parkway, Sacramento, California, 95823-5799||No||Yes||13|
|Yuba College||2088 N Beale Rd, Marysville, California, 95901||No||Yes||12|
|Santa Rosa Junior College||1501 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa, California, 95401-4395||No||No||11|
|Shasta College||11555 Old Oregon Trail, Redding, California, 96003||No||No||7|
Strong Outlook for Vet Tech Jobs in California
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2016), there will be approximately 17,727 new jobs added for veterinary technicians across the country between 2014 and 2024. This 19% job increase is much faster than the 7% average growth expected of all occupations. In California where there are 8,820 vet techs employed (BLS 2014), this would equate to 1,675 new jobs.
So what are the highest employing regions within the state of California for vet techs? Not surprisingly, areas surrounding the hub cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco offer a wealth of openings. According to the BLS (2014), these are the top-employing areas:
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA: 2,770 employed vet techs
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division: 1,690
- San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA: 1,310
- Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA Metropolitan Division (Southern California): 1,070
- San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA: 1,010
The healthy increase in openings for vet techs in California is only one reason why the Golden State offers a promising location for these animal care professionals. This state is also one of the top-paying states in the nation for veterinary technicians according to the BLS (2014):
|Veterinary Career||California Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2014)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
This salary data can be contrasted with the national averages for vet techs (BLS 2014):
- Low salary (10th percentile): $21,390
- Average salary (50th percentile or median): $31,070
- High salary (90th percentile): $45,710
In California, vet techs typically make 15.9%, 17.4%, and 11.2% more money than national averages in each salary category, respectively.
So which municipalities in the Golden State pay the most? According to the BLS (2014), these are the five highest paying regions within the state (average annual salaries):
- San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division (Bay Area): $43,480
- Salinas, CA: $42,980
- Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA: $42,570
- Merced, CA: $42,540
- San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA (Bay Area): $42,230
In addition to a promising job outlook, there are a number of resources and organizations for these professionals within the state as well. The California Registered Veterinary Technicians Association (CaRVTA) offers an online career center, a mentor program, continued education opportunities, and informative articles. The CaRVTA also holds a number of conferences and events, including an annual seminar for veterinary techs and assistants every summer. This three-day event includes programs from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. There are also smaller, regional meetings—including those in Southern California and the Silicon Valley—that can provide localized professional networking as well.
Finding Quality Vet Tech Schools in California
Here is a featured selection of AVMA-accredited vet tech schools in California to prepare students for the national and state exams:
California State Polytechnic University – Pomona—located in Los Angeles county—offers a four-year bachelor of science program in for aspiring vet techs. A bachelor’s in animal science can offer graduates ample knowledge and experience in the field, which can lead to a better-paying job and more responsibilities as a veterinary technologist. One of the outstanding features of this program is the number of “real world,” empirical experiences offered to its students. For example, this Cal State school works with JustFoodForDogs, a specialty dog food supplier, in order to create research-backed nutrition for canines.
Carrington College California – Sacramento offers an associate of science in veterinary technology degree. Through work with live animals in clinical externships as well as animal patient simulations, this program gives students a solid foundation for careers in animal healthcare and boasts an impressive 80% first-time pass rate among its graduates on the VTNE (2011-2014). Finally, Carrington College has a number of accredited vet tech programs throughout the Greater Bay Area (e.g., Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, San Jose, San Leandro, Stockton).
Foothill College in Los Altos of the San Francisco Bay Area provides a two-year veterinary technology program that’s both informative and entertaining. In addition to rigorous coursework in parasitology, radiology, and surgical assisting, Foothill has collected a list of tongue-in-cheek “You Might Be a Vet Tech If…” statements such as:
- …when you go out to a club and the black light comes on, you check yourself and others for ringworm
- …pets are more recognizable than their owners
The Los Angeles Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley offers associate programs in both pre-veterinary medicine and veterinary technology. This flexible program has multiple entry points throughout the year an provides many of its more popular general education classes at night or during the summer.
Accreditation and Licensing for Vet Techs in California
As with other states, the main accreditation agency for vet tech schools in California is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This organization weighs a variety of factors, including the quality of the coursework, faculty, facilities, and program outcomes in order to ensure program quality.
Prior to practice as a veterinary technician in the Golden State, a person must become a registered veterinary technician (RVT) with the California Veterinary Medical Board (CaVMB). The application requirements include:
- Passing the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)
- Passing the California Veterinary Technician Examination (CVTE)
- Submitting a live scan of one’s fingerprints and a copy of one’s diploma
Alternatively, according to the California Veterinary Technicians Association, prospective vet techs in California can qualify for licensure by either:
- Being a licensed, certified, or registered veterinary technician in another state (or Canada) and passing an exam qualified by the CaVMB, in addition to garnering at least 4416 hours of clinical practice over no less than 24 months under a licensed veterinarian, or
- Completing at least 4416 hours of supervised clinical practice over no less than 24 months and 300 hours of approved educational credits
Please note that California RVT licenses are valid for two years and require 20 hours of continued education (CE) for renewal. The complete application instructions are available through the CaVMB.
Overall, the state of California presents a wealth of opportunities—both educational and professional—for aspiring veterinary technicians.
|Vet Techs Must Be Licensed to Practice||Licensed Vet Techs Are Called||Licensing Requirements||Additional Resources|
|Graduate from an AVMA-Accredited Program||Pass the VTNE||Additional Requirements|
|Yes*||RVT||Yes||Yes||In order to become a registered veterinary technician (RVT), candidates must pass the California Registered Veterinary Technician Examination given by the Veterinary Medical Board (VMB). Candidates must also fulfill an academic course checklist; pass a background check; get fingerprinted; garner at least 4,416 supervised, clinical hours over two years; and submit a copy of their diploma.||California Registered Veterinary Technicians Association|
* A limited permit may be provided for on-the-job training or interstate transfer.