The Grand Canyon State not only boasts an incredible diversity of plant and animal life, but also has a thriving culture of animal welfare. By illustration, the Arizona Humane Society offers a wealth of services to help furry, feathered, and scaly-skinned creatures. It provides adoption services, tips for pet-owners, volunteering, vaccination, charity events (e.g., Paws in Paradise), and even advocacy for animal protection. With reports of more than 5,700 incidents of animal cruelty reported in Arizona—many of which involved a lack of access to water—the Humane Society has fought to strengthen legislation protecting the vulnerable pet populations dependent on humans for life.
One way for animal-lovers to transfer their interests into a high-growth career is to become a veterinary technician. This job has a relatively low educational barrier to entry—with 68 percent of these animal healthcare professionals holding an associate degree (O*NET 2016)—and there is a number of accredited veterinary technician programs to get people prepared.
So what do veterinary technicians do? And what is the scope of practice within the state of Arizona (AZ)? The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) provides an extensive checklist of necessary skills in this field such as restraining animals during common procedures, administering anesthesia, maintaining medical records, fulfilling operating room duties & sterilization, assisting with dental procedures (e.g., floating teeth), giving pharmaceuticals, performing necropsies, and doing diagnostic imaging. Overall, vet techs assist licensed veterinarians in providing high quality animal healthcare. It’s important to note that professional restrictions for vet techs vary by state. In fact, the AVMA (2017) has a table of regionally authorized procedures. Some states (including Arizona) allow non-veterinarians to perform equine dentistry, while others do not. The AVMA defines a certified veterinary technician in Arizona as someone who either graduated from a two-year AVMA-accredited program and passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), or had been certified prior to 2011 according to former rules of the board. Vet techs in AZ may provide emergency care or first aid under telephone-based supervision of a veterinarian, demonstrating a relatively generous scope of practice compared to other states. Finally, any certified vet tech who provides emergency care in good faith is not liable for damages barring cases of gross negligence.
Read on to discover the career outlook for vet techs in the Copper State, as well as information about accredited programs (on-campus and online) and how to pursue professional certification.
Map of Vet Tech Schools in Arizona
|School Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited|
|Mesa Community College||1833 W Southern Ave, Mesa, Arizona, 85202||No||Yes|
|Penn Foster College||14300 N. Northsight Blvd., Scottsdale, Arizona, 85260||Yes||Yes|
|Pima Community College||8181 E Irvington Road, Tucson, Arizona, 85709-4000||No||Yes|
|Pima Medical Institute-East Valley||2160 S Power Rd, Mesa, Arizona, 85209||No||Yes|
|Pima Medical Institute-Phoenix||13610 N. Black Canyon Highway, Phoenix, Arizona, 85029||No||Yes|
|Pima Medical Institute-Tucson||3350 East Grant Road, Suite 200, Tucson, Arizona, 85716||No||Yes|
Accredited Veterinary Technician Programs in Arizona
In Arizona, there are six programs (five campus-based programs, one online program) accredited through the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), the main accrediting body for vet tech programs in the country. Please reference the section below on program accreditation for more information.
In order to get into a two to four-year program in veterinary technology, admissions committees may call for official high school transcripts; proof of passing grades in specific classes (e.g., algebra, chemistry, biology, English); solid test scores (SAT or ACT, and TOEFL for non-native speakers of English); letter(s) of recommendation; documentation of immunizations, health insurance, or American citizenship; and an application fee. It may also behoove applicants to have experience working (or volunteering) with animals in a professional setting to demonstrate one’s commitment to the field.
Mesa Community College is one of the CVTEA-accredited programs in Arizona. Ideal for people interested in agribusiness, this associate of applied science (AAS) in veterinary technology degree features unique coursework in principles of equine science, agribusiness accounting & office management, and agribusiness computer operations. Along with general educational requirements, Mesa requires students to complete several hands-on, specialized vet tech internships at approved clinical sites close to the school. Impressively, 90 percent of all program graduates passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) on their first attempt between 2014 and 2017.
Pima Community College offers a CVTEA-accredited Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree. It features advanced courses in veterinary nursing procedures (I/II); clinical pathology (I/II); pharmacology; radiology & imaging techniques; and two supervised clinical externships. These course credits may be used toward a bachelor of applied science (BAS) or other qualifying four-year degrees. Among Pima Community College’s program graduates, there was a 79 percent first-time passing rate on the VTNE between 2014 and 2017.
The other three CVTEA-accredited, on-campus programs are offered through Pima Medical Institute. These programs take place at the East Valley campus in Mesa, AZ, the Phoenix campus, and the Tucson campus. Graduates earn an AAS degree. Pima teaches the first set of courses using a hybrid learning system with a mix of online and on-campus coursework. Courses include introduction to veterinary technology; laboratory procedures for veterinary technicians; dentistry techniques; surgical nursing for veterinary technicians; exotic animal medicine and nursing; and more. The program consists of 78.5 credits including one externship. The total number of program hours is 1,775 and the degree takes 18 months to complete. In Tucson, between 2014 and 2017, 50 percent of students passed the VTNE exam on their first attempt. Students graduating from the East Valley campus had a first-time pass rate of 70% in this same 3 year time frame. Phoenix statistics were not available.
Online Vet Tech Programs
For some aspiring veterinary technicians, attending a campus-based program may not be the most convenient option. There may be restrictions on someone’s availability due to familial, time-based, or regional commitments. Fortunately, there are currently eight CVTEA-accredited distance-based programs to meet the needs of these students. Web-based vet tech programs typically combine online didactic coursework with clinical instruction provided at an approved site under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian. For example, Penn Foster of Scottsdale, AZ has a AVMA-accredited distance-based AAS program in veterinary technology boasting dedicated faculty, interactive study materials, affordable tuition, and ample opportunities for hands-on clinical experiences through Banfield and VCA Animal Hospitals. Courses in this program include information literacy; veterinary office management; medical mathematics; small & large animal medicine; and laboratory animal medicine & nursing. Among the 176 program graduates between 2014 and 2017, 63.3 percent of them passed the VTNE on their first attempt.
For more information about online vet tech programs, please visit the distance-based veterinary technician programs page.
Demand for Vet Techs in AZ
In Arizona, the future looks very bright for veterinary technicians. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) projects a 20 percent increase nationally in job openings in this field between 2016 and 2026, much more robust growth than the average anticipated for all occupations during that period (7 percent). With the expected addition of 20,400 positions for vet techs around the country, there are expected to be ample professional opportunities in this field in the decade to come.
What about the salary prospects for vet techs nationwide and specifically in Arizona? According to the BLS (2017), the 103,430 vet techs around the country had an annual average salary of $34,710. This is slightly higher than the average salary of the 1,580 vet techs in Arizona ($33,600). In more granular terms, the BLS (2017) found the following salary percentiles among its vet techs nationwide:
- 10th percentile: $22,880
- 25th percentile: $27,430
- 50th percentile (median): $33,400
- 75th percentile: $39,860
- 90th percentile: $49,350
These figures varied slightly according to a different source of data. In fact, Payscale (July 2018), which aggregates self-reported salary data, found the following percentiles among its 463 responding vet techs:
- 10th percentile: $20,000
- 25th percentile: $25,000
- 50th percentile (median): $30,887
- 75th percentile: $39,000
- 90th percentile: $47,000
For comparative purposes, the BLS (2017) had similar salary figures for the 1,580 vet techs currently working in AZ:
- 10th percentile: $23,150
- 25th percentile: $27,290
- 50th percentile (median): $32,430
- 75th percentile: $38,540
- 90th percentile: $47,600
These figures also differed substantially between the four BLS-designated regions within Arizona. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of vet techs were employed in the Phoenix and Mesa areas. By region, here are the number of vet techs employed, salary percentiles, and average annual salaries in this occupation (BLS 2017):
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ (960 employed): avg. $36,180
- 10th percentile: $26,930
- 25th percentile: $30,170
- 50th percentile (median): $35,060
- 75th percentile: $40,970
- 90th percentile: $49,530
Prescott, AZ (130 employed): avg. $32,400
- 10th percentile: $22,510
- 25th percentile: $26,890
- 50th percentile (median): $30,350
- 75th percentile: $37,160
- 90th percentile: $46,930
Tucson, AZ (unknown number employed): avg. $28,560
- 10th percentile: $21,320
- 25th percentile: $22,730
- 50th percentile (median): $26,500
- 75th percentile: $32,800
- 90th percentile: $39,480
Arizona Nonmetropolitan Area (unknown number employed): avg. $26,590
- 10th percentile: $20,810
- 25th percentile: $20,810
- 50th percentile (median): $26,660
- 75th percentile: $29,740
- 90th percentile: $31,680
Although the salary averages were somewhat lower in Tucson and nonmetropolitan areas in AZ, it’s important to note that the cost of living is also substantially lower in this region than many other states. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2018) found that AZ ranked twenty-first among American states with respect to affordability with slightly less than average costs for housing, groceries, and transportation.
Vet techs in Arizona seek out employment in wide range of environments such as animal clinics, veterinary hospitals, biomedical research facilities, universities, specialty practices (e.g., critical care, surgery, rehabilitation, small animal, etc.) clinics, humane societies, shelters, kennels, public health organizations, pet food companies, farms, and more. In addition to traditional job-hunting services such as Monster, Indeed, SimplyHired, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn, the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association (AzVMA) has an active job postings board with opportunities available at places such as the Arizona Animal Welfare League, VCA Animal Hospitals, Alta Mesa Animal Hospital, Desert Tails Animal Clinic, KC Animal Hospital, Pima Medical Institute, and more. Joining the National Association of Veterinary Technicians (NAVTA) may also confer professional benefits, including the ability to network with others in the field, access to an academic journal, and opportunities for continuing education.
Finally, to enhance their job prospects, some veterinary technicians choose to specialize in fields such as critical care, dermatology, exotic animal nursing, equine medicine, dentistry, anesthesia, clinical pathology, surgery, animal behavior, and other subfields. For a detailed examination of how to join these growing specialties, please visit the veterinary technician page.
|Veterinary Career||Arizona Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2017)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
Certification for Vet Techs in AZ
In order to become a certified veterinary technician (CVT) in AZ, candidates typically follow this trajectory:
- Graduate from high school with qualifying grades in courses such as biology, chemistry, algebra, and English
- Graduate from a two- to four-year program in veterinary technology accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA)
- Successfully pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)
- Apply for certification through the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board (AZVMEB)
To qualify for certification through the Board, candidates must show proof of having graduated from an AVMA-accredited program, send official VTNE test scores, submit three character references, provide proof of US citizenship, give a resume with proof of two years of employment as a vet tech, pay a $150 fee, and pass a State Board Exam for certification. The Arizona-specific exam is offered three times annually, typically during April, August, and December.
Finally, in order to maintain active certification, CVTs must submit a renewal application and complete 10 hours of continuing education (CE) every two years. All certifications expire on December 31st of every even-numbered year. Also, Arizona has specific rules about the type of CE that qualifies, and these rules are subject to change. For the most recent information, please check out AZVMEB’s continuing education page.
Vet Tech Program Accreditation
As mentioned above, prospective veterinary technicians in AZ are encouraged to seek out programs accredited by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), the approval organization created by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). To qualify for licensure, certification, or registration in most states—including AZ—graduating for a AVMA-accredited program is a requirement. Additionally, in order to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)—the predominant national credentialing exam for vet techs—a candidate must have completed a two to four-year AVMA-accredited program. The CVTEA weighs many factors in its program approval process such as institutional accreditation status, quality of physical facilities, student outcomes (i.e., VTNE first-time passing rates), faculty prestige, program curricula, students support services, admissions processes, and program finance management. For a full examination of the criteria, please visit the CVTEA website.
|Vet Techs Must Be Licensed to Practice||Licensed Vet Techs Are Called||Licensing Requirements||Additional Resources|
|Graduate from an AVMA-Accredited Program||Pass the VTNE||Additional Requirements|
|No||CVT||Yes||Yes||Arizona also requires a State Board Exam for certification, three personal references (“Moral Character Reference Forms”), documentation proving U.S. citizenship, and proof of employment for at least two years as a veterinary technician.||Arizona Veterinary Medical Association|