In 2015, there was a dog flu outbreak in Tennessee (Examiner). It had spread through the Midwest—concentrated mainly in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois—and reached the Volunteer State mid-year, affecting the eating habits and activity levels of people’s pets, particularly puppies and older dogs. Although the tide of this disease was curbed, just as with medical treatments for humans, there are always challenges in pet healthcare. For animal-lovers interested in a rapidly growing career with a relatively quick entry-level education, attending one of the quality veterinary technician schools in Tennessee can be a rewarding choice.
In TN, vet techs must be licensed prior to seeking employment and this state has rigorous restrictions on the scope of practice, relative to other states. As proof of point, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a table detailing how the scope of practice of vet techs varies by state. In Tennessee, common surgical, diagnostic, and dental procedures must be completed in the physical presence of a licensed veterinarian, although Tennessee vet techs can float animals’ teeth (i.e., file or contour them) with non-motorized equipment without physical oversight, so long as they are managed by a veterinarian responsible for their work. In fact, managing veterinarians in this state are held legally responsible for the conduct of their employees—including vet techs—and therefore they seek to hire the most qualified, dependable, and skilled individuals for the role.
Steps to Becoming a Vet Tech in Tennessee
So how does a person become a veterinary technician in Tennessee? Here is one common path:
- Step 1: Graduate from high school, completing coursework in biology, chemistry, and algebra (in addition to taking on volunteer work in animal care hospitals or centers if possible).
- Step 2: Complete a two- to four-year veterinary technology program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA).
- Step 3: Pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
- Step 4: Apply for licensure through the Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.
The Tennessee Veterinary Technicians Association (TNVTA) offers continuing education (CE) conferences, quarterly newsletters, scholarships, and local legislation memos to members. Adding to the TNVTA’s description of responsibilities for veterinary technicians, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) provides an extensive checklist of necessary skills, including instruction in animal restraint, anesthesia, operating room duties & sterilization, pharmaceuticals, necropsy, diagnostic imaging, and clinical pathology. Generally, these animal healthcare professionals are tasked with providing emergency care or first aid to animals; restraining veterinary patients; collecting case histories; and assisting veterinarians with common surgical, dental, diagnostic imagery procedures.
In addition to the generalist veterinary technicians in Tennessee, there are specialists in avian, large animal, small animal, equine, marine, dental, nutritional, psychological, radiological, anesthesiological, zoological, dermatological, and other types of veterinary technology. In many cases, veterinary technician programs offer electives that allow students to specialize in one of the aforementioned areas, so that they might later pursue employment and specialty certification in their area of choice.
Read on to learn more about the career outlook for vet techs in Tennessee, as well as what to know about CVTEA-accredited programs and professional certification.
Map of Vet Tech Schools in Tennessee
|Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited||Grads|
|Volunteer State Community College||1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, Tennessee, 37066-3188||No||Yes||31|
|Chattanooga State Community College||4501 Amnicola Hwy, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 37406-1097||No||Yes||30|
|Lincoln Memorial University||6965 Cumberland Gap Pky, Harrogate, Tennessee, 37752-9900||No||Yes||22|
|Columbia State Community College||1665 Hampshire Pike, Columbia, Tennessee, 38401||No||Yes||21|
|Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis||550 Alabama Ave, Memphis, Tennessee, 38105-3604||No||No||11|
Career Outlook for Vet Techs in Tennessee
There’s a lot of good news for aspiring veterinary technicians in Tennessee. First, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2015) predicts that job openings will increase 19 percent nationally between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the growth rate expected of all professions during that time period (7 percent). This expected addition of 17,900 vet tech jobs around the country will fuel opportunities in this field in the decade to come.
So how much do veterinary technicians make nationally and specifically in Tennessee? Here is a detailed look at the annual salary percentages nationwide (BLS 2014):
- 10th percentile: $21,390
- 25th percentile: $25,740
- 50th percentile (median): $31,070
- 75th percentile: $37,590
- 90th percentile: $45,710
For comparison, Payscale (2016)—another data source which aggregates self-reported salary data—found that its 327 responding vet techs had similar salary ranges:
- 10th percentile: $21,000
- 25th percentile: $25,000
- 50th percentile (median): $30,914
- 75th percentile: $40,000
- 90th percentile: $49,000
Among its 93,300 veterinary technicians and technologists nationwide, the BLS (2014) found an average annual salary of $32,350. While in Tennessee, this figure decreased to $29,170, it’s important to note that the cost of living varies substantially by region. In fact, it’s substantially cheaper to live in TN than in many other US states. As proof of point, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2015) found that TN ranked seventh among American states with respect to affordability, especially in the realm of housing. Here are the salary percentiles among veterinary technicians in TN (BLS 2014):
- 10th percentile: $20,460
- 25th percentile: $23,570
- 50th percentile (median): $28,080
- 75th percentile: $34,100
- 90th percentile: $40,420
Not surprisingly, these figures also tend to vary by metropolitan region. The BLS (2014) designates nine discrete regions in TN. Interestingly, Knoxville is the top-employing and top-paying area for vet techs in the state. Here are the relevant salary percentiles within each area:
Chattanooga, TN-GA: 160 vet techs employed
- 10th percentile: $18,120
- 25th percentile: $21,780
- 50th percentile (median): $26,480
- 75th percentile: $30,900
- 90th percentile: $37,030
Clarksville, TN-KY: 60 vet techs employed
- 10th percentile: $17,330
- 25th percentile: $20,490
- 50th percentile (median): $24,000
- 75th percentile: $30,200
- 90th percentile: $35,370
Johnson City, TN: 40 vet techs employed
- 10th percentile: $17,900
- 25th percentile: $20,640
- 50th percentile (median): $23,350
- 75th percentile: $27,630
- 90th percentile: $30,950
Knoxville, TN: 440 vet techs employed
- 10th percentile: $22,430
- 25th percentile: $26,800
- 50th percentile (median): $33,260
- 75th percentile: $39,210
- 90th percentile: $45,820
Memphis, TN-MS-AR: 350 vet techs employed
- 10th percentile: $21,350
- 25th percentile: $24,650
- 50th percentile (median): $30,350
- 75th percentile: $36,330
- 90th percentile: $41,400
Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN: 220 vet techs employed
- 10th percentile: $22,440
- 25th percentile: $25,110
- 50th percentile (median): $27,340
- 75th percentile: $29,580
- 90th percentile: $30,920
Western Tennessee non-metropolitan area: 120 vet techs employed
- 10th percentile: $19,550
- 25th percentile: $21,680
- 50th percentile (median): $25,240
- 75th percentile: $29,790
- 90th percentile: $41,430
North Central Tennessee non-metropolitan area: 70 vet techs employed
- 10th percentile: $21,260
- 25th percentile: $23,890
- 50th percentile (median): $29,020
- 75th percentile: $34,100
- 90th percentile: $36,790
Eastern Tennessee non-metropolitan area: 110 vet techs employed
- 10th percentile: $20,720
- 25th percentile: $23,880
- 50th percentile (median): $26,700
- 75th percentile: $29,110
- 90th percentile: $30,560
Veterinary technicians in Tennessee are employed in a range of facilities such as veterinary hospitals, private veterinary clinics, kennels, pharmaceutical companies, laboratory research facilities, zoos, wildlife preserves, aquariums, government agencies, non-profit organizations, universities, farms, pet sanctuaries, and more. While many choose traditional roles in animal healthcare, others work in areas including food safety, disease control, and biomedical research. In addition to traditional job hunting websites—Monster, CareerBuilder, and Glassdoor—the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) also maintains an active database of local openings in this field. In addition, the Tennessee Veterinary Technicians Association (TNVTA) maintains an active list of jobs in this field with openings at facilities such as Memphis Veterinary Specialists, McGehee Clinic for Animals, and Appalachian Animal Hospital.
Due to the “always on” nature of animal care, some veterinary technicians have to work evenings, weekends, and holidays to monitor the condition of their furry, feathered, and scaly patients. So, it’s important to take that into account when considering a career in veterinary technology. It’s very possible, if not probable, that working shifts won’t often conform to a 9-5 schedule.
|Veterinary Career||Tennessee Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2014)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
Accredited Vet Tech Schools in TN
In the state of Tennessee, there are five campus-based programs accredited through the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), the predominant accrediting body for vet tech programs in the country. Three of these boast full accreditation and the other two are in the initial stages of the process. For more information on accreditation, please reference the section below.
Typical requirements to gain admittance to a two- to four-year vet tech program include sending one’s official high school transcripts; completing specific coursework (e.g., biology, chemistry, algebra, English); submitting test scores from the SAT, ACT, or TOEFL (for non-native speakers of English only); passing a background check; showing proof of immunizations and health insurance; and paying an application fee. Some competitive programs—particularly at the bachelor’s level—also call for observation hours or voluntary service in a veterinary setting.
Typical courses in accredited vet tech programs include mammalian anatomy & physiology; veterinary medical calculations; microbiology; parasitology; anesthesia & surgery; diagnostic imaging; animal dentistry; research methods; and veterinary clinic management.
Chattanooga State Community College offers a CVTEA-accredited associate of applied science (AAS) degree in veterinary technology. With courses such as animal nursing, clinical pathology, and general educational requirements, this 70-credit program encourages students to apply what they learn in supervised internships across local veterinary clinics, hospitals, and farms. Between 2012 and 2015, an impressive 75.6 percent of Chattanooga’s graduates passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) on their first attempt.
Columbia State Community College similarly provides a fully accredited, 21-month AAS program in veterinary technology featuring courses in pharmacology, livestock management, and introduction to animal science. Columbia reported a 68 percent first-time VTNE pass rate between 2011 and 2014.
Lincoln Memorial University of Harrogate has two CVTEA-accredited programs: a two-year associate of science (AS) and a four-year bachelor of science (BS), both in veterinary technology. The AS program has advanced instruction in diagnostic imaging, animal husbandry & nutrition, medical technology, and pharmacology & anesthesia, as well as several lab sections to apply didactic lessons. Between 2012 and 2015, Lincoln Memorial reported a 59 percent first-time pass rate among its graduates on the VTNE. The 66-credit BS program—open to those with relevant associate degrees—goes more in-depth with coursework in probability & statistics, animal behavior, equine management, advanced anesthesia, and emergency & critical care. Also, scholarships from NAVTA, TVTA, the Knoxville Veterinary Medical Association are available for qualified students.
For some students with familial, professional, or distance-based difficulties attending a program, there are some online veterinary technician schools available. These programs typically involve web-based classes and clinical work to be completed at approved preceptor sites located close to a student’s home. In addition to the five CVTEA-accredited, on-campus programs in TN, there are nine approved online vet tech programs across the US. For instance, Colby Community College based in Kansas provides an online associate degree in veterinary technology with classes such as math for veterinary technicians, medical records & veterinary office skills, basic nutrition of domestic animals; and veterinary parasitology, among others. Classes begin in January, June, and August, and students also have the opportunity to join the Student Veterinary Technician Association (SVTA), a group which offers professional resources and community service opportunities. The SVTA also takes annual field trips sponsored by the college.
Purdue University of Indiana offers a CVTEA-accredited, distance-based associate of applied science (AAS) degree in veterinary technology. In a heady combination of 17 targeted clinical mentorships and 35 didactic courses such as small animal nursing & health management, imaging for veterinary technicians, and principles of anesthesia for veterinary technicians, this rigorous program is one of the more competitive online program options. In the web-based program between 2012 and 2015, 79 percent of Purdue’s graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt, compared to 94 percent of the campus-based graduates.
Licensing for Vet Techs in TN
As mentioned above, the state of Tennessee requires vet techs to be licensed prior to employment. The Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is the main professional credentialing agency for these animal healthcare specialists in the state and calls for the following:
- Passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)
- A notarized application
- An $85 application fee
- Two passport-style photographs
- Proof of US or Canadian citizenship (e.g., birth certificate copy)
- Official transcripts from a CVTEA-accredited veterinary technology program
- Criminal background check
Additionally, this credential must be maintained annually following the completion of 12 hours of continuing education (CE). A maximum of four of these hours can be “multi-media courses” (i.e., completed online). The Tennessee Veterinary Technicians Association (TNTVA) provides a list of upcoming conferences and CE opportunities with additional resources provided by:
- North American Veterinary Technicians Association (NAVTA)
- VetMed Team
- Veterinary Support Personnel Network (VSPN)
Program Accreditation for Vet Techs
To qualify for professional licensure, certification, or registration in most states—including TN—an aspiring vet tech must typically complete a two- to four-year program accredited by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), the program approval body established by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The CVTEA—a programmatic accreditation body—weighs several factors in its program evaluation process such as institutional accreditation, comprehensiveness of curricula, student outcomes, quality of facilities & equipment, availability of student support services, and program finances. Finally, Purdue University provides a detailed checklist of vet tech skills recommended by the AVMA which must be included as part of the curricula in any approved program.
|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||LVT||Yes||Yes||Applicants in Tennessee must also pass a criminal background check; submit proof of citizenship; notarize their application; and include two passport-style photographs.||Tennessee Veterinary Technician Association|