Animal lovers rejoice; vet tech jobs are one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that veterinary tech and technologist careers will grow by 19 percent nationwide from 2018 to 2028—a rate which is much faster than the 5 percent national average for all occupations (BLS 2020). In that ten-year period, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that 21,100 new vet tech positions will open up nationally.
With most vet tech positions requiring a two-year associate’s degree and a credentialing exam in most states, high school graduates interested in working with animals can begin a career by attending a vet tech school. California is the second-highest employer of vet techs and technologists employing 9,750 people who earn average annual salaries of $43,470 (BLS May 2019).
Programs across the country train students for vet tech careers, and in California, where the BLS projects vet tech job growth to be 21 percent (2016-2026), there are many accredited programs to choose from.
The vet tech schools featured on this list are all accredited through the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Not only does AVMA program accreditation ensure students that these programs meet the highest educational standards, graduating from an AVMA-accredited program also enables students to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB).
It is worth noting that California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has three qualifying educational and career pathways to become eligible to take the registered veterinary technician (RVT) exam, including graduating from an AVMA-accredited program.
In addition to high-quality curriculum and instruction, many of these programs provide hands-on experiences through externships, rotations, or practicums to prepare future vet techs for working with animals in a clinical setting. Without further ado, here is a list of seven exceptional Southern California vet tech programs offering animal care training and education to students.
Los Angeles Pierce College is located on 427 acres of land in Woodland Hills, California, and maintains herds of cattle, sheep and swine. Its AVMA-accredited vet tech program leads to an associate degree, but students can seek more training in the field by transferring to Cal Poly Pomona to work on a bachelor's of science (BS) degree in animal science.
Pierce College has offered its vet tech program since 1972 and utilizes an experience-oriented approach. Upon completion of the program, students are prepared to take the state board examination to become a registered veterinary technician (RVT). As another point of interest, Pierce College also offers an associate degree in pre-veterinary science.
Pima Medical Institute-Chula Vista allows students to complete an AVMA-accredited associate degree in veterinary technology in 18 months. The Chula Vista campus, open since 1997, promotes learning through experience and gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on skills in equine medicine, exotic animals, laboratory procedures, livestock animals and nursing.
The program is comprehensive in nature with classes in dentistry, diagnostic imaging, lab animal science, pharmacology, and surgical nursing, and concludes with a final externship experience. When done, students should be prepared to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE).
Platt College-Alhambra provides an associate degree in veterinary technology, which is extensive in outlook. In their first year, students take classes such as clinical pathology, veterinary economics, and parasitology, and follow these up with second-year courses such as anesthesia, animal nutrition, and surgical assistance.
The program is completed with hands-on experience in a clinical externship and is fully-accredited by the AVMA. Platt College also has fully-accredited AVMA programs at its Ontario, Anaheim, and Riverside campuses.
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona—a 1,500-acre campus—offers a bachelor's degree in animal health science that should allow students to pass both the California State Board Registered Veterinary Technician examination as well as the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). This enables graduates to work in the veterinary technology profession.
In this program, students can emphasize business or science and gain hands-on skills working with small animals and farm animals. Four distinctive externships are required, including two clinical externships and two animal health science externships. The Huntly College of Agriculture hosts an annual open house event for prospective students and academic advisors. Also, the Alumni Center allows prospective students to learn more about current events and job postings.
Carrington College California-Ontario campus provides an associate degree in vet technology that uses a skills-based approach. Classroom theory, hands-on experience, and practical instruction combine for the learning component. An externship in an animal care facility in or near Pomona adds to student learning.
While students do take science classes that are focused in anatomy, biology, and physiology as part of their coursework, they should understand they are not enrolled in a pre-veterinary program. The associate degree program is fully-accredited through the AVMA and students can complete their associate’s degree and prepare for the Veterinary Technician National Exam in as few as 21 months.
In addition to the Ontario campus located in Southern California, Carrington College also offers the vet technology associate’s degree program at six other campuses outside of Southern California in Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leandro, and Stockton.
San Joaquin Valley College, a private junior college founded in 1977, introduces students to animal nursing fundamentals, diagnostic imaging, laboratory procedures and veterinary office practices. Externship rotations help round out the students' experiences, occurring in animal care environments and giving them first-hand learning and insight into their chosen profession.
Like many vet tech programs, the one at San Joaquin leads to an associate degree, but can be completed in 16 months. The program is fully-accredited through the AVMA and students can earn a certificate of completion in nine months (or more). Prospective students can learn about the college by reading about success stories from current students on the San Joaquin Valley College blog.
Mount San Antonio College, known as Mt. SAC, is located in Walnut, California and offers an associate of science (AS) degree in registered veterinary technology. The program features a variety of guided pathways for specialization, including animal science fundamentals, horse range management, livestock production, and pet science. The vet tech program curriculum includes courses such as animal breeding, clinical pathology, surgical nursing, and veterinary radiography.
Students can also select work experiences in fields such as aviculture, canine management, and pet shop management. The school has been AVMA-accredited since 1977 and students can complete this program in two years or transfer coursework to Cal Poly Pomona or Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and other four-year universities.