If you’re an animal lover, chances are you have considered a career in animal healthcare. Apart from a passion and affinity for animals, a career in the veterinary technology field requires professionals to not only have sufficient textbook knowledge but also hands-on experience with animals.
Considering the wide range of specialties available in the field and the fact that every animal has different systems and temperaments, proficiency in the field can only be earned once one has worked with enough patients and directly seen a good number of cases. It also helps to observe senior veterinarians, vet techs, and assistants at work during surgeries and other major procedures to gain a microscopic understanding of the details that matter.
The good news is that several animal care centers and vet technology programs offer internship and externship opportunities. Whether you are interested in wildlife care or small animal medicine, there are programs available in every field.
Vet technology internships are generally three- to twelve-month experiences that require students to be present at work five days a week. While some offer a stipend, others may not. These programs are ideal for students currently pursuing a veterinary technology or a registered vet technician program. Most of these programs do not accept international students.
Externship opportunities, on the other hand, are similar to internships, but much shorter in duration (i.e. about two to four weeks). As an extern, students might not get as much hands-on experience but they do get an opportunity to shadow veterinary professionals, ask questions, and get an empirical view of their career. A number of externships also accept international students and are generally unpaid.
Students opting for a vet tech internship or externship get to observe—and in some cases, help perform—routine procedures such as anesthesia, immobilization, and surgical preparation. Many programs also let students spend some time in specialized departments such as radiology, hematology, oncology, cardiology, and surgery. All in all, these are valuable experiences that help students gain expertise in areas they might want to specialize in.
Below are some opportunities for students looking for vet tech internships or externships.
Veterinary Technician Internship Program – University of Florida Health
University of Florida’s Small Animal Hospital, College of Veterinary Medicine offers a 54-week veterinary technician internship program. Candidates can choose one of two specialties: anesthesia and pain management or emergency medicine and critical care.
Alternatively, they can opt for a rotating internship whereby they get first-hand experience with various different specialties such as emergency and critical care, dentistry, diagnostic imaging, and anesthesia. They can also spend time on other special services such as neurology, oncology, clinical pathology, surgery, and cardiology.
Students who opt for core specialties such as anesthesia or emergency medicine spend most of their time in these departments, with a month in any alternative specialty of their choice. The internship program offers ten days of paid leave.
In order to apply for the program, students must be graduates of an AVMA-accredited veterinary technology program and be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). They must submit an application form, two letters of recommendation, a letter of interest, official veterinary technology program transcripts, and documentation of their degree and credentials.
- Location: University of Florida Health, College of Veterinary Medicine
- Duration: One year
- Who Should Apply: Candidates who want to focus on anesthesia and pain management or emergency medicine and critical care
- Salary: $33,000 annually
Veterinary Technician Internship – The Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center, a globally renowned mammal hospital known for rehabilitating animals as well as education and research, offers the coveted veterinary technician internship program.
The hospital treats about 600 to 800 sick marine mammals each year, including sea otters, phocids, cetaceans, and otariids. The internship provides an opportunity for students to care for these animals, along with hospital staff and volunteers. Some of the responsibilities of the interns include preparing medical charts, handling animals, and preparation of medication. The interns are trained in studying animal behavior as well as rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals.
The program requires students to be enrolled in their second year or equivalent of an accredited veterinary technician program. Applicants must submit an online application, resume, two letters of recommendation, two references, and proof of medical insurance.
- Location: The Marine Mammal Center (Sausalito, California)
- Duration: Eight to 12 weeks
- Who Should Apply: Candidates looking to work closely with marine mammals
- Salary: Unpaid position
Veterinary Technician Internship – White Oak Conservation
White Oak Conservation houses about 3,000 animals from 30 different exotic species. Its veterinary internship program is an opportunity for candidates to work in the zoo and with wildlife for six months.
Interns work closely with exotic wild animals and be prepared for an entry-level job in a zoo or wildlife facility. During the course of the internship, candidates gain a world of valuable experience in wildlife care. They assist in surgical procedures including anesthesia, immobilization, and set up. Additionally, they are involved in conducting bloodwork, radiology, fecal exams, neonatal care, as well as some routine hospital maintenance tasks. Interns accepted into this program are expected to work 40 hours per week including rotating on-call and emergency shifts and assist with data entry.
In order to be eligible for the internship, candidates must have graduated from an AVMA-accredited vet tech program and have a year of experience as a credentialed veterinary technician. The application process requires candidates to submit their resume, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation.
- Location: White Oak Conservation (Yulee, Florida)
- Duration: Six months
- Who Should Apply: Veterinary technicians intending to work in a zoo or wildlife facility
- Salary: $1,466 monthly stipend
Veterinary Technician Internship – Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center
Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center offers a veterinary technician internship program where students get the opportunity to work with a wide variety of species such as elephants, great apes, small primates, large carnivores, invertebrates, and avian species. Interns get first-hand experience with surgical procedures including take down, set up, anesthesia, and immobilization. They also help with record filing, hospital maintenance, and data entry. The position requires candidates to be proficient in drawing blood and catheter placement.
Eligibility criteria for the internship include at least two years of experience in veterinary practice, the ability to multitask and be calm in stressful situations, and the ability to lift at least 50 pounds. Candidates should also have a driver’s license.
- Location: Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center (Topeka, Kansas)
- Duration: Length of the internship to be determined during the interview
- Who Should Apply: Registered veterinary technicians looking for further experience working with wildlife
- Salary: Unpaid
Veterinary Technician Internship – San Diego Zoo Global
San Diego Zoo Global offers a veterinary technician internship program for students looking to make a career in exotic animal medicine. Interns work under the supervision of veterinary technicians and staff vets. They assist in day-to-day care of animals in the hospital, as well as gain experience with anaesthesia, preventive medical care, radiology, and animal restraint. They are also responsible for preparing for and cleaning up after procedures.
Applicants to the program must be graduates of an accredited veterinary technician program, have proof of health insurance, and a negative TB test. They are required to submit their resume, a letter of intent, transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
- Location: San Diego Zoo Global (San Diego, California)
- Duration: Four to twelve weeks
- Who Should Apply: Graduates looking for experience with exotic animal medicine
- Salary: Unpaid
Veterinary Technician Internship – Texas A&M University
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University offers a veterinary technician internship focused on animal husbandry and other ranch duties. The Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is a well-known animal sanctuary that houses more than 1,000 exotic and domestic animals in a 1,800-acre park setting.
Interns gain valuable experience observing the health of animals, administering care to sick and injured animals, and performing lab tests. They also take care of the maintenance of instruments and supplies and complete general cleaning duties.
Candidates applying to the internship must have strong communication skills, be able to work well with Fossil Rim Wildlife Center staff and be at least 18 years of age. It is also preferable for candidates to have a phone for communication and a driver’s license.
- Location: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Glen Rose, Texas
- Duration: Unspecified
- Who Should Apply: Vet tech program graduates looking to work with ranch animals
- Salary: $300 monthly stipend
Animal Hospital Vet Tech Internship – The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
The Maryland Zoo’s veterinary department offers a vet tech internship for students pursuing a vet tech degree at an AVMA-accredited institute. Recent graduates from a vet tech program can also be considered for the position.
Candidates get an opportunity to work with veterinary technicians performing various procedures. Students observe and assist in the Zoo Laboratory, clean and restock the hospital, clean up after procedures, and also be in charge of record-keeping.
In order to be eligible, students must also be able to carry 50 pounds of weight; be able to lift, unload, and push heavy carts; and be willing to work in all types of weather.
- Location: Maryland Zoo (Baltimore, Maryland)
- Duration: Unspecified
- Who Should Apply: Students interested in working as a vet technician at a zoo
- Salary: Unpaid
Veterinary Technician Internship – Sea Life Park Hawaii
Sea Life Park Hawaii offers a veterinary technician internship for students with an affinity for marine animals. Interns get the chance to work closely with marine life such as seabirds, sea turtles, reef fish, and penguins. Interns assist the staff at Sea Life Park Hawaii in treating and taking care of animals at the facility. Additionally, interns help with keeping records, processing samples, and conducting lab procedures.
Interns must commit to working at least 40 hours per week, and attend seminars and training courses. In order to apply, students must be at least 18 years of age, a current student or graduate of an accredited university, and be available for a phone interview. Also, they should be comfortable working with dead fish, have strong swimming skills, and be able to lift 50 pounds.
- Location: Sea Life Park Hawaii (Waimanalo, Oahu, Hawaii)
- Duration: Five months
- Who Should Apply: Students wishing to work closely with marine animals
- Salary: Unpaid
Veterinary Technician Internship – Minnesota Zoo
Minnesota Zoo’s Animal Health Department offers a veterinary technician internship for students enrolled in an accredited vet tech program. Students get a chance to work closely with birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. Interns work with a team of veterinarians, certified vet technicians, and other animal care staff. Lastly, they will also be expected to do some record keeping and lab work.
The program requires applicants to have completed classes on surgery and anesthesia. They should also be comfortable working outdoors, in all types of weather. It is also a plus if interns think on their feet and are highly motivated.
- Location: Minnesota Zoo (Apple Valley, Minnesota)
- Duration: Twelve weeks
- Who Should Apply: Candidates pursuing a career in wildlife, zoo, or exotic animal care
- Salary: Unpaid
Wildlife Veterinary Technician Externship – PAWS Wildlife Center
The PAWS Wildlife Center offers a three- to four-week externship program for candidates who want to work with wildlife. The Center receives about 5,000 wild animals from more than 160 different species at their rehabilitation facility. The animals include marine life, large carnivores, as well as urban wildlife.
The externship is an exclusive opportunity for candidates to gain valuable work experience in the capture and restraint of wild animals, as well as surgical nursing, parasitology, hematology, radiology, and wildlife ethics. They work with a team of experts including a veterinarian, a staff veterinary technician, and other animal care staff.
The program requires applicants to be enrolled in their final year of an AVMA-accredited veterinary technology program and have at least some prior experience working with wildlife. Additionally, candidates should be able to follow protocol, lift 40 pounds, and work well with hospital staff and volunteers.
The application process includes submission of an application form, curriculum vitae or resume, official veterinary technology program transcripts, a letter of intent, and three letters of reference.
- Location: PAWS Wildlife Center (Lynnwood, Washington)
- Duration: Three to four weeks, five working days per week
- Who Should Apply: Candidates with a strong desire to work with wildlife
Veterinary Externship Program – Banfield Pet Hospital
Banfield Tech Hospital offers a two- to eight-week veterinary technician externship program. As part of the program, students get an opportunity to work with mentors and a team of Banfield professionals.
Candidates work with small animals and get a first-hand look at interaction with clients and working as a professional vet tech. Under the supervision of a senior vet professional, they can help perform duties such as taking case histories of patients, performing physical exams, developing therapeutic plans, and assisting in medical cases. The externship is also a great opportunity for students to brush up on their communication and technical skills.
Applicants to the program must be enrolled in an AVMA-accredited veterinary technician program and be authorized to work in the US.
- Location: Banfield Pet Hospitals (multiple U.S. locations)
- Duration: Two to eight weeks
- Who Should Apply: Candidates interested in gaining a first-hand view of working as a small animal veterinary technician
- Salary: Competitive hourly wage
Veterinary Technician Externship – Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital
The Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital offers a veterinary technician externship program for students. The externships provide a valuable learning experience to students under the guidance of a licensed vet technician.
Students gain knowledge in a wide range of equine veterinary and hospital procedures such as surgery, radiology, reproduction, medicine, ambulatory practice, and laboratory. They get a chance to closely observe and learn from equine experts in anaesthesiology, cardiology, ophthalmology, reproduction, and internal medicine. The hospital staff ensures that the procedures are explained properly to the externs, so they can make the most of this opportunity.
In order to apply, students must submit the externship application and a letter of reference.
- Location: Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital (Lexington, Kentucky)
- Duration: Up to three weeks
- Who Should Apply: Students interested in working in an equine care facility
- Salary: Unpaid
Veterinary Technician Student Internship – Zoo Atlanta
The Atlanta-Fulton County Zoo offers a veterinary technician externship for final year students in an accredited program. The position is voluntary and works under the supervision of a senior vet technician and zoo veterinarians. The internship focuses on preventive medicine, specialized procedures, and husbandry of various species.
Students get the opportunity to handle equipment during routine procedures and learn the lingo of exotic animal medicine. The procedures take place at the zoo veterinary and other cooperating facilities.
Applicants to the externship must be in their last year of an accredited veterinary technician program or have graduated in the last two years, be able to lift 30 pounds and be willing to work outdoors in all types of weather.
- Location: Zoo Atlanta (Atlanta, Georgia)
- Duration: Two to four months
- Who Should Apply: Students looking to pursue a career in exotic animal medicine
- Salary: Unpaid
Vet Tech Externship – Chicago Zoological Society
Students interested in working with aquatic animals can consider the vet tech externship program offered by the Chicago Zoological Society.
Students work with the veterinary staff to take care of the patients in the facility. They assist vet technicians in a wide range of procedures. However, externs must also bear in mind that they will be working with live animals and might be exposed to hazards. They must keep their safety in mind before applying. Students are also expected to contribute to animal welfare and suggest innovative ways for animal conservation.
The application process involves the submission of a cover letter, resume, official transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
- Location: Chicago Zoological Society (Brookfield, Illinois)
- Duration: Twelve weeks
- Who Should Apply: Students currently pursuing the veterinary technician certificate, with a keen interest in aquatic and zoo animals