In the Last Frontier State, there’s not only an abundance of wildlife, but also a wealth of pets in need of quality veterinary healthcare. One of the organizations rising to this challenge is the Alaska SPCA, which offers a comprehensive vet clinic, adoption services to connect animals in need with loving homes, and a pet food bank. For people interested in promoting the wellbeing of creatures mighty and small, becoming a veterinary technician may be a recommended career choice.
The Alaska Board of Veterinary Examiners (020) reports that vet techs may obtain professional licensure not only through the completion of academic programs in the field, but also by undertaking two years on-the-job training (OJT). However, at least one of the two years must be completed in the state of Alaska. The American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) adds that the OJT pathway is available to residents in only a few US states, including California, Wisconsin, and Alaska.
So what do vet techs learn through two-to-four year veterinary technician programs or the OJT route? The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) stated that vet techs take on numerous responsibilities in a veterinary healthcare setting such as maintaining current medical records and supply inventories; restraining animals during immunizations and other routine physical examinations; keeping facilities and equipment sterilized; helping vets with various types of procedures (e.g. radiological, anesthetic, surgical, dental); collecting and analyzing laboratory samples; and educating people on best practices for their pets.
In short, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) states that a vet tech is trained to be the “veterinarian’s nurse, laboratory technician, radiography technician, anesthetist, surgical nurse, and client educator.”
The AVMA also provides a state-by-state scope of practice chart, which outlines the varying stipulations for the provision of vet tech care across regions. In Alaska, veterinary technicians are required to have professional licensure. Furthermore, those who choose the OJT pathway to licensure may only perform duties under the supervision of a licensed vet or vet tech.
Read on to discover the high-growth field of veterinary technology in Alaska, as well as to learn about the salary prospects, accredited online vet tech schools, and how to become licensed in the state.
|School Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited|
|University of Alaska Anchorage (Vet Assistant Program)||3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, Alaska, 99508||No||No|
Vet Assistant Program in Alaska
There are no CVTEA-accredited vet tech programs in Alaska, nor any vet tech programs in the state. Those interested in starting their two-year Alaskan vet tech journey in a formal setting can begin at the non-accredited veterinary assistant program offered by the University of Alaska – Anchorage. Choosing to earn a vet assistant certificate qualifies a graduate to engage in basic and routine animal care practices, and may connect them to a veterinary clinic or hospital where they can go on to learn the higher-level skills required to become a veterinary technician.
The 21-credit hour veterinary assistant program at The University of Alaska in Anchorage offers students training to assist veterinarians in animal care. Courses in the program include basic handling and behavior of smalls and large animals, veterinary anatomy and physiology, veterinary office procedures, and a veterinary assistant practicum. At the close of the program, graduates earn an occupational endorsement certificate.
Online Vet Tech Programs for Alaskan Students
As stated in the introduction, the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) reported that there are various pathways for residents of Alaska to become veterinary technicians. One possible pathway is to learn skills through two years of on-the-job training (OJT), one year of which must be completed in Alaska. This may qualify a person for the AAVSB’s national test for credentialing in the profession: the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). There are very few states which offer this option toward credentialing, and the vast majority of people in this career field pursue a more traditional, academic route.
The more common pathway to this career for vet techs nationwide is to graduate from an accredited, two-to-four year program in veterinary technology. The predominant accreditation body in this field is the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), a branch of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
In order to gain entry to an accredited vet tech program, applicants typically need to submit the following:
- Official high school transcripts with proof of prerequisite coursework (e.g., chemistry, algebra, biology, English)
- Personal statement (500-600 words)
- Proof of vaccinations and/or health insurance
- Application fee
Other programs may call for test scores (e.g, SAT or ACT), personal interviews, or background checks. It also behooves candidates to have some experience working with animals.
As of March 2021, there were no CVTEA-accredited, on-campus programs for vet techs in Alaska, but there were several online vet tech programs. These web-based programs typically involve a combination of online didactic coursework and in-house clinicals, which may be completed at qualifying veterinary facilities close to a student’s home.
For example, St. Petersburg College offers a three-year, online associate of science (AS) program in veterinary technology. St. Petersburg recently completed an $11 million, 32,000 sq. ft. veterinary technology facility, and while distance-based students aren’t required to visit, they can take advantage of the world-class amenities. The online program boasts three convenient starting dates in August, January, and May, and is open to applicants who have worked (or volunteered) at a veterinary hospital for at least 40 hours.
Coursework includes animal anatomy, veterinary medical terminology, animal breeds & behavior, anesthesia, emergency medicine, and avian & exotic pet medicine. One measure of a program’s effectiveness is the three-year VTNE passing rate for program graduates, a statistic that must be reported by law. Between 2016 and 2019, an impressive 74 percent of St. Petersburg’s vet tech graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt.
Purdue University offers a part-time, online associate program in veterinary nursing designed for those working as a veterinary assistant who are interested in advancing their careers. Classes in the 70 credit hour program include anatomy; physiology; pharmacy procedures; diagnostic imaging for vet techs; clinical pathology; small animal nursing; animal agriculture; anesthesia; and laboratory animal health.
This program typically requires four-to-six hours of studying time per week, and can be completed in 4.5 years. Between 2017 and 2020, 95.2 percent of the distance-based Purdue program graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt.
These are only two of the online veterinary technology programs open to residents of Alaska. To learn more, check out the online vet tech colleges page.
Job Outlook for Alaska Vet Techs
There’s excellent news for aspiring veterinary technicians nationwide. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020), there’s expected to be a 16 percent increase in openings in this field between 2019 and 2029, much more substantial growth than that anticipated across all occupations during that time (4 percent).
In Alaska, the growth in this profession is expected to be slightly slower, but still above the national average for jobs. Projections Central (2020)—a data-crunching affiliate of the US Department of Labor—reports that there will be an anticipated 26.3 percent increase in job opportunities for vet techs in the state between 2018 and 2028.
Vet Tech Salaries In Alaska
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2019) here is how vet tech salaries and employment in Alaska compare to vet tech salaries and employment nationwide:
|Number of vet techs employed||110,650||180|
|Average annual salary||$36,670||$39,200|
|50th percentile (median)||$35,320||$37,980|
Luckily for vet techs in the Last Frontier State, salary percentiles for the Alaskan veterinary professionals tended to be higher than national averages. That said, it’s important to note that Alaska is also one of the more expensive states in which to live. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) found that AK has the eighth highest cost of living in the U.S., particularly when it comes to utilities.
Where Do Alaska Vet Techs Work?
In Alaska, vet techs may be employed across a range of veterinary environments including animal hospitals, clinics, zoos, aquariums, animal sanctuaries, shelters, kennels, food inspection agencies, farms, colleges, research institutes, and humane societies.
iHireVeterinary (2021) posted vet tech openings at places such as Midnight Sun Animal Hospital + Emergency Care, University of Alaska System, Trupanion, Inc., and VCA Animal Hospitals, which is a partner with Penn Foster, one of the online vet tech programs available. Additionally, Indeed (2021) had opportunities at Southeast Alaska Animal Center, Palmer Veterinary Clinic, Personnel Plus, Petco, and Hillside Pet Clinic.
It’s important to note that some vet techs in Alaska choose to specialize in a sub-field of veterinary technology in order to become a vet tech specialist (VTS). The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) provides a guide to the societies and academies which focus on various aspects of veterinary care. A society functions as a professional association, whereas an academy typically has a specialized certification process with academic, experiential, and testing requirements for members. These specialized groups include:
- Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Anesthesia and Analgesia
- Academy of Veterinary Clinical Pathology Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Zoological Medicine Technicians
- Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians
- American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians
To learn more about how to become a VTS, including the requisite education, training, and testing across various sub-fields of vet technology, please check out the veterinary technician careers page.
|Veterinary Career||Alaska Jobs||SALARY DATA (BLS 2019)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||MEDIAN SALARY (50TH %ILE)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
Vet Tech Licensing in Alaska
As mentioned in the introduction, veterinary technicians must be licensed by the Alaska State Board of Veterinary Examiners in order to practice the profession in the state. There are varying routes to qualify, but the application to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development calls for:
- Notarized application
- Proof of having completed an accredited two-to-four year program in veterinary technology or proof of two years (700 hours) of on-the-job training (OJT) with at least one year in AK
- Three letters of recommendation (two from licensed vets)
- Passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)
- Application fee ($50)
These licenses are valid for two years. Each state has its own requirements for licensed veterinary technicians to be able to renew their license. AAVSB maintains the RACE program (Registry of Approved Continuing Education) where professionals can find approved continuing education programs to maintain active licensure.
Vet Tech Program Accreditation
Finally, all vet tech candidates in AK who are interested in the academic route to licensure are advised to seek out programs accredited by the aforementioned Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) program-approval entity.
The CVTEA weighs many variables in its program accreditation process, including:
- Program & institutional finance management
- Quality of program curricula & faculty
- Student outcomes (e.g., VTNE passing rates)
- Availability of resources
To learn more about the process of vet tech program accreditation, check out the AVMA vet tech program accreditation criteria page.