From the heart of the Chesapeake Bay and along the Appalachian Mountains, the Old Dominion State boasts a wide range of plant and animal life. For those interested in taking care of furry, feathered, or scaly-skinned patients, there are a number of veterinary clinics, farms, laboratories, zoological parks, and universities to name a few of the organizations that employ veterinary technicians in Virginia.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014), there are currently 1,710 of these animal healthcare professionals employed in the state. Not only do these people earn more than national averages for this occupation (see “job outlook” below), but the number of openings is expected to explode in coming years. In fact, CareerOneStop (2015)—a data organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor—estimates that positions for veterinary technologists and technicians will increase 57 percent between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the 30 percent growth expected nationally for this field. Furthermore, this figure is more than five times the anticipated growth for all jobs during that time period (BLS, 11%).
So how does one join this dynamic, high-growth, and rewarding field? Read on below to learn how to become a veterinary technician in Virginia, as well as the job outlook, accredited vet tech colleges in the state, and professional licensure information.
Map of Vet Tech Schools in Virginia
|Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited||Grads|
|Blue Ridge Community College||1 College Lane, Weyers Cave, Virginia, 24486-0080||Yes||Yes||71|
|Northern Virginia Community College||4001 Wakefield Chapel Rd, Annandale, Virginia, 22003-3796||Yes||Yes||48|
How to Become a Vet Tech in Virginia
In order to practice as a veterinary technician in Virginia, one must be a licensed professional. While it’s possible to qualify for a reciprocal license if one is certified to practice veterinary technology in another state, here is the typical path to becoming a vet tech in Virginia:
- Graduate from high school. In addition to having a love of animals, successful veterinary technicians generally have strong grades in natural sciences classes such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy (if offered), and may even garner extra experience (and letters of recommendation) volunteering through local animal hospitals, clinics, and shelters.
- Complete an associate’s or bachelor’s college degree program accredited by the American Medical Veterinary Association (2-4 years). Most states require that veterinary technicians graduate from an AVMA-accredited program prior to practice. There are currently over 220 approved associate’s and bachelor’s programs across the country, including two in Virginia which both offer convenient distance learning options to their students as well. These programs teach the fundamentals of assisting veterinary care such as small animal medicine, administering anesthesia, animal dentistry, and other skills.
- Pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). This exam, offered during three month-long windows annually, gauges the knowledge of aspiring veterinary technicians in nine primary domains of expertise. These areas include pharmacology, diagnostic imaging, and laboratory procedures.
- Get licensed by the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine. All practicing vet techs in Virginia are required to be licensed. This process involves filling out an application, sending one’s transcripts as proof of having graduated from an AVMA-accredited program, and sending one’s VTNE test scores.
- Renew license (annually). In Virginia, veterinary technicians are expected to complete six hours of continued education (CE) as well as a yearly renewal application.
Strong Job Outlook for Vet Techs in Virginia
As stated above, there are many promising indicators for prospective veterinary technicians in Virginia. Not only is the number of openings expected to increase 57 percent between 2012 and 2022 (CareerOneStop 2015), but also the pay in Virginia is better than the national average.
By illustration, here are the national salary ranges for veterinary technicians and technologists (BLS 2014):
- 10th percentile: $21,390
- 50th percentile (median): $31,070
- 90th percentile: $45,710
By contrast, here are the ranges for vet techs in Virginia:
- 10th percentile: $25,310
- 50th percentile (median): $36,420
- 90th percentile: $51,200
These figures represent increases of 18.3,17.2, and 12 percent, respectively!
So what are the top-paying regions for vet techs in VA? Listed with annual mean wages, here are the areas of the state which best compensate their animal healthcare professionals (BLS 2014):
- Charlottesville, VA: $37,920
- Richmond, VA: $36,950
- Roanoke, VA: $36,380
- Winchester, VA-WV: $34,700
- Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA: $34,510
Fortunately for licensed vet techs seeking employment, these well-paying regions are many of the same places which have the most openings. Here is a list of the the top-employing municipalities in VA (BLS 2014):
- Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC: 300 employed
- Richmond, VA: 290
- Northwestern Virginia nonmetropolitan area: 150
- Roanoke, VA: 110
- Charlottesville, VA: 80
Finally, for working vet techs in Virginia, it’s crucial to have the support of a professional network and the empathy of a group that understands the difficulties of the job. The Virginia Association of Licensed Veterinary Technicians (VALVT) provides a job board, conferences, social events, legal briefs pertaining to the profession, and a list of resources to its members.
|Veterinary Career||Virginia Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2014)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
Accredited Veterinary Technician Schools in Virginia
To become a licensed vet tech in Virginia, one must have graduated from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). There are over 220 qualified schools nationwide with associate’s and bachelor’s programs in veterinary technology, including two schools in Virginia:
Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in Weyers Cave—a charming area northwest of Charlottesville— offers an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree in veterinary technology. BRCC boasts both on-campus learning as well as distance education, the latter arrangement ideal for students already employed as veterinary assistants. In addition to hands-on learning under the guidance of licensed mentors, these programs offer coursework in areas such as animal science, anatomy, pharmacology, clinical practices, and surgical nursing. For its on-campus graduates, BRCC had an impressive 97 percent first-time passing rate on the VTNE between 2012 and 2015. For its web-based students during the same time period, the rate was a perfect 100 percent.
Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in the Potomac Falls area hosts an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) in veterinary technology. With convenient on-campus and web-based formats, courses at NOVA include animal nursing techniques, behavior and client relations. For its traditional, on-campus program graduates, the first-time passing rate on the VTNE was an estimable 85 percent between 2011 and 2014. During the same time period, this rate was 88 percent for its distance learners.
Accreditation and Licensure for Vet Techs in VA
Prospective vet techs in Virginia are encouraged to seek out programs that are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the premier accrediting organization for veterinary technology programs in the U.S. This agency weighs factors such as comprehensiveness of curricula, facility quality, program resources, staff support, and student outcomes to ensure that students are receiving training worthy of practice in this sensitive profession.
Finally, in order to practice as a vet tech in VA, one must be licensed by the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine. First-time applicants for licensure are required to do the following:
- Complete an application (including a notarized statement of understanding the laws governing practice in the state of Virginia)
- Pay an application fee ($65)
- Send official transcripts from an AVMA-accredited program
- Send official test scores from the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)
Please note that these professional licenses must be renewed annually following the completion of six hours of continued education (CE).
|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||Virginia Association of Licensed Veterinary Technicians|