Veterinary technicians, colloquially known as vet techs, are an integral part of the animal medicine world. Through formal training and practice, vet techs are prepared to complete routine testing, administrative, patient-facing, and veterinarian support tasks. Because of the services performed by vet techs, veterinarian attention is freed to perform high-level diagnosis, surgery, and treatment planning. Together, vet and vet techs save countless animal lives and promote animal health.
The vast amount of animals that require medical help portends a booming occupational market for those looking to become a part of the veterinary medicine world. In the U.S., 89.4 million households are homes to pets, and spending on medical care for these pets is rising. In the last decade, spending on veterinary services increased from one-fourth to one-third of the total amount of household pet spending. In addition to the needs of domesticated animals, there are also medical needs for animals in the agricultural, zoological, conservation, and research arenas.
The booming animal industry is one reason why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020) predicted the demand for vet techs between 2019 and 2029 will grow by 16 percent—a growth rate four times faster than the national average of 4 percent for that time period. There were already 112,900 vet techs employed in the U.S. in 2019, and the BLS predicted that there will be 18,300 new vet tech jobs added over the next decade.
In 2019, vet techs earned an average annual salary of $36,670 ($17.63 per hour). Those looking to take advantage of this high growth field will find that there are training opportunities at the community college and university level in every state of the union.
Large universities, state schools, and private colleges in every state offer prospective vet techs the ability to choose between two- and four-year training programs.
The majority of vet tech training programs span two years and focus on the basic practical skills that a vet tech will need to join the workforce directly following graduation. Two-year programs prepare graduates to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE)—the passing of which is required to work as a vet tech in most states. Graduates of two-year programs earn an associate’s degree or certificate upon completion of all courses. Specialized or advanced training for vet techs who choose this route is completed on the job or through continuing education (CE) following graduation.
Those who are interested in specialization, management, or a future as a clinic leader may find a more solid beginning in a four-year bachelor’s program. Through four-year programs, veterinary technicians may be trained in advanced techniques, clinical management, or may begin their path to becoming a veterinary technician specialist through focusing training in a veterinary specialty. The four-year path is also how many veterinary technologists become trained for careers working in laboratory and/or research settings.
One benefit to offering both two- and four-year programs creates ease of transfer for vet techs who decide at the end of two years that they’d like advanced or specialty training.
Below are several featured two- and four-year programs offered by large universities.
Purdue offers one of the top veterinary technology programs in the country and training in a number of different areas. Students who complete a veterinary technology program at Purdue are eligible to take the national credentialing exam to become a vet tech. Purdue offers on-campus education for those interested in earning a Bachelor’s of Science or an Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology. The Bachelor’s program takes longer to complete and includes a senior project, additional advanced coursework, and more clinical rotations. Purdue also offers a distance learning Associate of Applied Science. The distance learning option includes clinical mentorship, typically completed on-site at the student’s place of employment (the program is designed for those employed in a veterinary practice wishing to become veterinary technicians). Students will learn a variety of skills and techniques, including those listed here.
SUNY at Canton offers an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science, as well as a four-year program for veterinary services management. Students attending the classes will receive instruction in a variety of areas, including those listed here.
Morehead St. offers both Associate and Bachelor degrees in veterinary technology. Those who choose to follow the four-year program have the ability to specialize in various areas if they choose. Some of the specialty choices are listed here.
Notes: 2012 graduate data from IPEDS (2013). Number includes all vet tech and assistant grads reported by the institution for the class of 2012.
Accredited Vet Tech Programs at Community Colleges
Community college programs are the most abundant for aspiring vet techs in each state. Community colleges offer two-year training programs that culminate in an associate degree or certificate and the ability to sit for the VTNE licensing exam. Because of their practical focus, two-year programs prepare a vet tech for immediate employment following graduation.
The community college route is for future vet techs who are looking for the most direct pathway to work at the lowest cost. The cost of a community college program will, generally, be more affordable than the cost of a two-year degree earned at a large university, and much more affordable than a four-year degree. In addition, entrance into many community college programs is not as competitive as large universities, making it easier for future vet techs to begin their training.
Despite the cheaper tuition and lower rates of competition, community college programs accredited by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) will provide education that is as high quality as the education offered by a large university. To earn CVTEA accreditation, all programs need to prove adherence to a universal set of standards for things like quality of instruction, facilities, subject matter, and more.
Because vet tech training is more abundant at the community college level, some community colleges may have robust facilities, internship opportunities, hands-on training, and programmatic insights that are more developed than programs offered by large universities.
Learn more about the featured two-year community college vet tech training programs below.
Blue Ridge CC is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association and offers an on-campus vet tech program for students. Graduates will be able to take the National Veterinary Technician Examination.
Los Altos Hills, CA - 50 Vet Tech Graduates (2012)
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Foothill offers the only AVMA accredited veterinary technology program in the San Francisco Bay Area. Graduates earn their Associate degree and meet the eligibility requirements for the California Veterinary Technician Licensing Exam so that they can become registered veterinary techs.
Portland CC offers an Associate of Applied Science for aspiring vet techs. It also happens to be the only program in Oregon for the field. Graduates of the school have a higher than the national average on the National Veterinary Technician Examination. They have a pass rate of 98.8%, whereas the national average is 84.7%.
Founded as a 2-year community college that has since expanded to offer 4-year degrees as well, St Petersburg College offers anon-campus certificate and post-bachelor’s certificate in veterinary practice management, as well as AS and BAS degrees in Veterinary Technology. The degrees include lecture and clinical, hands-on courses in radiology, nursing, dentistry, surgical preparation, and anesthesia.The AS degree program is also offered online. Degree program graduates are qualified to take the National Veterinary Technician Examination.