“I believe strongly that virtual education and distance learning programs will continue to flourish in the future. The growth rate is staggering. The applicant pool for the residential programs is not what it used to be because of the competitiveness of online programs.”
Chad Brown, DVM, Director of the Veterinary Nursing Program, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary technicians, often called vet techs, are crucial in providing compassionate animal care. They fulfill myriad responsibilities, including administering medication, assisting in surgeries, conducting laboratory tests, and offering routine healthcare advice to pet owners. To become a vet tech, students must complete a two-year associate degree in veterinary technology, although some choose to pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree. The importance of vet techs cannot be overemphasized as they serve as the backbone for efficient veterinary practices, contributing significantly to animal health and welfare.
As with most other education programs, vet tech education is evolving to keep up with current trends and industry needs. Technological advancements are changing the nature of veterinary practice and redefining the approach to veterinary education. Digital platforms and innovative teaching methods are gradually replacing traditional classroom-based learning, adding flexibility and convenience previously unattainable.
Becoming a vet tech takes significant time and dedication. “I wish people understood the years of schooling and the difficulty of the academic journey to get through an accredited program,” shares Dr. Chad Brown, director of the Veterinary Nursing Program at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. “Students in our program have to complete 127 credit-hours of coursework and spend over 1,300 hours in the teaching hospital by the time they graduate.”
The future of this field is very promising for aspiring students. “Our graduates are getting salaries anywhere from $21 an hour up to $28 an hour to start with. Some even more than that,” says Dr. Brown. “That is very different than just a few years ago because the veterinary field is becoming aware that you don’t have as profitable practices without quality vet techs. Now, veterinarians are working hard at attracting and retaining good vet techs because it helps them with their profitability issues and mental wellness.”
Keep reading to learn more about the future changes in veterinary technology education.
Meet The Expert: Chad Brown, DVM
Dr. Chad Brown is an accomplished veterinarian with more than 17 years of experience in veterinary medicine. He is the director of the veterinary nursing program at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. He excels in direct medical and surgical services, practice management, and college-level teaching.
Dr. Brown’s passion for exceptional care is evident in his proficiency with small and large animals. He also possesses strong leadership and organizational skills, successfully managing veterinary practices and implementing innovative problem-solving approaches. As an educator, he ensures rigorous curriculum execution and continuously improves student performance. He holds a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Purdue.
Embracing Online Education
As the world becomes increasingly digitized, so does the field of veterinary technology. While traditional classroom-based learning will always have its place, online education is becoming more prevalent in the veterinary tech world: “When I started teaching, [online] education at that point was virtually nonexistent. There were only a few programs, so many students didn’t look into virtual education. That is certainly not the case now,” says Dr. Brown. “Online models tend to be easier for part-time students, and even full-time students, to complete while still gainfully employed.
He continues, “I believe strongly that virtual education and distance learning programs will continue to flourish in the future. The growth rate is staggering. The applicant pool for the residential programs is not what it used to be because of the competitiveness of online programs.”
Continued Importance of High-Quality Bachelor’s Degree Programs
While associate degrees remain the minimum requirement for becoming a vet tech, the demand for professionals with bachelor’s degrees is also rising. This is partly due to increased complexities in animal healthcare and the need for advanced knowledge and skills. Students can even complete their degree in this field online.
“Historically and theoretically, a bachelor’s degree opens the doors to many more opportunities. If you want to work in anything other than private practice, like academia, for example, generally speaking, a bachelor’s is the floor to get in,” shares Dr. Brown. “In terms of making money, graduates from our bachelor’s program make more over the long term thanks to a general shift where veterinarians are now valuing more education.”
The rapidly evolving field of veterinary technology necessitates an educational approach that goes beyond theoretical knowledge, bringing a solid emphasis on intensive hands-on training. On-campus bachelor’s programs in veterinary technology are pivotal in offering such comprehensive education. These programs provide students ample opportunities to gain practical experience in various areas, from conducting laboratory tests and handling surgical equipment to administering medications and managing animal care.
“The on-campus students here get a wonderful experience because they are in the College of Veterinary Medicine. They’re on campus from nine to five for four years and have exposure to experience remote education cannot give them. By the time they graduate, our students have rotated through large animal surgery, small animal surgery, oncology, cardiology, ophthalmology, and more,” says Dr. Brown.
Utilization of Vet Techs Will Continue To Increase
As the demand for high-quality animal care continues to rise, so does the need for veterinary technicians. With the advancements in technology and education, vet techs are becoming increasingly recognized as valuable assets to veterinary practices. Their unique blend of technical skills, compassion, and dedication make them indispensable healthcare team members.
However, underutilizing properly trained and credentialed vet techs has been an ongoing problem. “The field of veterinary technology is still undervalued, underutilized, and underpaid. There’s no consistency from state to state regarding title protection and scope of practice. After 30 to 40 years of advocating for the usage and the value of credentialed veterinary technicians, I believe that now many practices are moving towards utilizing their vet techs to the fullest scope of the practice act of their state,” says Dr. Brown.
Dr. Brown believes this trend will continue: “In the future, I see techs getting more utilized and veterinarians shifting more to do the four things that techs cannot, which include diagnosing, writing a treatment plan, performing surgery, and prescribing medications,” he says. “We are preparing our students for this shift. In addition to the technical skills, we are integrating more soft skills into our curriculum. Students can separate themselves if they have excellent soft skills. We have also been asked to train our students to be proficient in telemedicine and other technology.”
Ongoing Emphasis on Mental Health
Mental health is an ongoing problem for veterinary staff. Burnout and compassion fatigue are common and more extreme cases like moral distress. In recent years, awareness around these issues has increased, and Dr. Brown believes this will continue to be the trend: “One of the biggest changes of the last five years is equipping students with resources and making them aware of mental health during school after school. We are teaching them how to cope with the difficulties and the challenges of working in veterinary medicine, which we did not do just a few years ago. Mental health wellness and protecting mental health are peppered throughout our entire curriculum,” he shares.