Luckily for animal-lovers in the Sunshine State, there’s an abundance of accredited veterinary technician (vet tech) schools in Florida. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)—the primary certifying body for veterinary colleges in the nation—there are 13 quality, accredited programs for prospective vet techs, including a distance education option. Two schools of note include the scenic Miami-Dade College whose student reporters filmed an episode covering the essentials of the veterinary technology program (a video that’s available on iTunes). Another school, the Eastern Florida State College, provides hands-on instruction with furry, feathered, and scaly-skinned patients through its on-campus veterinary center and externships in clinics nearby the main campus.
Not only are there a plurality of AVMA-accredited programs in Florida, but the state also offers one of the most favorable employment climates in the nation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014) reports that FL employs 8,190 vet techs, the third most of all states in the U.S. Since the BLS (2016) predicts that openings for this occupation will swell 19 percent nationally between 2014 and 2024, this may equate to 1,556 new openings in FL by 2024.
Read on to learn about how to become a vet tech in Florida, what the detailed job outlook is for the state, and professional licensing information.
How to Become a Vet Tech in Florida
Here are common steps to become a certified veterinary technician (CVT) in Florida:
- Step 1: Graduate from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The AVMA is the main accrediting agency for vet tech schools across the nation. It weighs factors such as quality of facilities, student outcomes, and comprehensiveness of curricula. This process ensures a consistency of educational standards across the nation and graduating from one of these approved programs is a prerequisite to taking the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
- Step 2: Pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). This examination, while optional for aspiring vet techs in Florida, is essential for these healthcare professionals who are seeking certification. It’s also advisable for people who may move to another state where licensure—and thus passing the examination—is required for practice. There is no state exam in FL as of March 2015.
- Step 3: Get certified through the Florida Veterinary Technician Association (FVTA). This is the main certifying body for veterinary technicians in FL. While this licensure is not essential for practice, as mentioned above, it may be advisable for several reasons. First, being a certified professional can indicate a certain standard of performance to future employers. Also, for people who may relocate to other states in the future, having a preexisting certification can make a transfer of employment or licensure less complicated.
Please note that CVTs need to renew their licenses every two years in FL on December 31st of odd-numbered years. This requires an application and 15 hours of continued education (CE).
Map of Vet Tech Schools in Florida
|Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited||Grads|
|St Petersburg College||6021 142nd Ave N, Clearwater, Florida, 33760-2822||Yes||Yes||109|
|Hillsborough Community College||39 Columbia Drive, Tampa, Florida, 33606-3584||No||Yes||15|
|Westside Tech||955 E Story Rd, Winter Garden, Florida, 34787-3733||No||No||12|
|Marion County Community Technical and Adult Education Center||1014 SW 7th Rd, Ocala, Florida, 34471-3172||No||No||11|
|Brevard Community College||1519 Clearlake Rd, Cocoa, Florida, 32922||No||Yes||6|
|Miami Dade College||300 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami, Florida, 33132-2297||No||Yes||6|
|CHOICE High School and Technical Center||1976 Lewis Turner Blvd, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, 32547||No||No||1|
|Sarasota County Technical Institute||4748 Beneva Rd, Sarasota, Florida, 34233-1798||No||No||1|
Strong Outlook for Vet Tech Jobs in Florida
Florida has one of the strongest employment climates in the nation for aspiring veterinary technicians. Not only does the Sunshine State boast the third highest number of veterinary techs currently employed at 8,190 total, but it holds several metropolitan areas with the highest employment concentrations in the U.S., including Ocala, Gainesville, and Port St. Lucie (BLS 2014). Furthermore, the BLS (2016) anticipates a steady increase in openings for vet techs in FL and across the country. As mentioned above, there is a 19 percent increase in vet tech positions expected between 2014 and 2024 — approximately 17,727 new jobs nationally, with many expected in FL.
So what are the top-employing regions in the state? Here is a list of the top five with number of vet techs currently employed (BLS 2014):
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL: 2,180 vet techs
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL: 1,260
- West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, FL Metropolitan Division: 820
- Jacksonville, FL: 780
- Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division: 770
Not only does Florida have a thriving employment landscape for prospective vet techs, but it also on average, boasts many regions which pay more than what’s expected nationally for these specialists. Here is a breakdown of the average annual salaries nationally for vet techs (BLS 2014):
- 10th percentile: $21,390
- Average (mean): $32,350
- 90th percentile: $45,710
By comparison, here is a list of top-paying regions for vet techs in FL with the average (mean) annual salaries (BLS 2014):
- Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropol: $35,580 (9.9% more than the national average)
- Gainesville, FL: $34,510 (6.7% more)
- Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL: $33,380 (3.2% more)
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL: $32,980
- Naples-Marco Island, FL: $32,130
In addition to a favorable employment outlook, the state of Florida offers professional networking and support for vet techs as well. The Florida Veterinary Technician Association (FVTA) is a non-profit organization established in 1975 that certifies vet techs and has a wealth of resources including job postings, continued education (CE) opportunities, volunteer groups, and a quarterly newsletter.
Here is a summary of salary data for vet techs and assistants in FL:
|Veterinary Career||Florida Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2014)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
Exploring Vet Tech Schools in Florida
There’s a multitude of vet tech schools in Florida accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Of these 13 approved programs, here is a featured selection from all over the state:
Miami-Dade College provides a scenic medical campus which hosts its six-semester associate of science (A.S.) program in veterinary technology. Students garner 400 hours of clinical exposure and enjoy comprehensive coursework in subjects such as avian and exotic pet medicine, large animal diseases, and pharmacology.
Eastern Florida State College in Cocoa, nearby Cape Canaveral, not only provides a traditional two-year veterinary technology in its associate of science (A.S.) program, but offers several electives to give people interested in specializations exposure to more advanced study. These additional courses include small animal behavior and a special topics seminar.
Hillsborough Community College of Plant City—just outside of Tampa—provides a two-year program to prepare students for work in a variety of environments such as private clinics, humane societies, and biomedical research labs, among others. Its mission statement summarizes the program outcome goals which include offering superior instruction, innovative technology, and plenty of empirical, hands-on experience for its students to prepare them for their careers.
Florida A&M University (FAMU) offers a four-year Veterinary Technology degree program which trains students to provide medical and non-medical support to veterinarians. The program emphasizes not only small animal medicine, but also large animal, food animal, and regulatory medicine. During the first two years of the program, students will concentrate on core science requirements. In the final two years, students will apply veterinary concepts at the FAMU Animal Health Complex in Quincy, Florida and at local clinics and animal facilities. The FAMU facility is located on 260 acres which houses cattle, horses, pigs, chickens and goats. In the summer of 2016 a new facility to house a new surgical suite, prep room, anatomy lab, and small animal holding will be completed. The FAMU Veterinary Technology Program has strong affiliations with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the state diagnostic labs, and other regulatory agencies, which provides opportunities for FAMU students to gain knowledge in alternative careers in veterinary medicine, and opportunities to complete externships at these sites. The FAMU Veterinary Technology program received initial accreditation from AVMA in October, 2013.
School Accreditation and Certification for Veterinary Technicians in Florida
To become a certified veterinary technician (CVT) in Florida, one needs to graduate from a training program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Committee on Veterinary Technicians Education and Activities (AVMA CVTEA). This organization weighs criteria such as school facilities, quality of instruction, and student outcomes (e.g., first-time pass rate on the Veterinary Technician National Exam [VTNE], job placements). Graduating from a AVMA-accredited school is also a prerequisite to sit for the VTNE.
Aspiring veterinary technicians are also encouraged to seek certification through the Florida Veterinary Technician Association (FVTA). While being certified is not essential to practice in the state of Florida, it may help people secure employment and higher pay, as well as setting a vet tech up for licensure by reciprocity if (s)he relocates to another state. The application for new certified vet techs (CVTs) must be completed within six months of passing the VTNE. The requirements include:
- Submit a completed application
- Pay a $75 fee
Please note that these certifications must be renewed every two years (on December 31st of odd-numbered years). This process involves the completion of 15 hours of continued education (CU) credit. Vet techs can find CU opportunities through the FVTA as well as through OnlineCE.
In sum, the educational and employment landscapes are favorable for aspiring vet techs in Florida.
|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|
|No||CVT||Yes||Yes||As of March 2015, Florida’s practical exam for CVTs has been suspended for review. Although becoming certified isn’t required for practice as it is not regulated by the Florida Board of Veterinary Medicine, it may be advisable for those seeking to be employable in other states with reciprocity.||Florida Board of Veterinary Medicine|