Eureka! For animal-lovers living in the Golden State or looking to relocate to the west coast, there’s an abundance of accredited veterinary technician programs to prepare people for this high-growth career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), California boasts the second highest level of employment in the nation for veterinary technicians and technologists (9,780). This number is expected to swell in coming years as the BLS (2017) predicts a 20% jump in job openings between 2016 and 2026, a much more robust growth rate than that anticipated for all occupations (7%). Finally, at an average annual salary of $39,690, California is one of the top five highest paying states in the U.S. for this career.
From the legendary redwood forests of Humboldt County down to the star-studded beaches of Los Angeles, there are plenty of opportunities for aspiring veterinary technicians to get training and secure employment. Read on to discover how to become a veterinary technician in California, as well as what to expect from a typical program and the employment landscape in this state.
Map of Vet Tech Schools in California
|School Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited|
|California State Polytechnic University-Pomona||3801 West Temple Avenue, Pomona, California, 91768||No||Yes|
|Carrington College California-Citrus Heights||7301 Greenback Lane, Ste A, Citrus Heights, California, 95621||No||Yes|
|Carrington College California-Pleasant Hill||380 Civic Dr., Ste. 300, Pleasant Hill, California, 94523||No||Yes|
|Carrington College California-Pomona||901 Corporate Center Dr. Suite 300, Pomona, California, 91768||No||Yes|
|Carrington College California-Sacramento||8909 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento, California, 95826||No||Yes|
|Carrington College California-San Jose||6201 San Ignacio Ave., San Jose, California, 95119||No||Yes|
|Carrington College California-San Leandro||15555 E. 14th Street, Suite 500, San Leandro, California, 94578-1977||No||Yes|
|Carrington College California-Stockton||1313 W. Robinhood Drive, Suite B, Stockton, California, 95207||No||Yes|
|Central Coast College||480 S. Main St, Salinas, California, 93901||No||Yes|
|Cosumnes River College||8401 Center Parkway, Sacramento, California, 95823-5799||No||Yes|
|Foothill College||12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos Hills, California, 94022||No||Yes|
|Los Angeles Pierce College||6201 Winnetka Ave, Woodland Hills, California, 91371-0002||No||Yes|
|Modesto Junior College||435 College Ave, Modesto, California, 95350-5800||No||No|
|Mt. San Antonio College||1100 N Grand Ave, Walnut, California, 91789-1399||No||Yes|
|Pima Medical Institute-Chula Vista||780 Bay Blvd Suite101, Chula Vista, California, 91910||No||Yes|
|San Diego Mesa College||7250 Mesa College Dr, San Diego, California, 92111-4998||No||No|
|San Joaquin Valley College-Fresno||295 E Sierra Ave, Fresno, California, 93710-3616||No||Yes|
|Santa Rosa Junior College||1501 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa, California, 95401-4395||No||No|
|Yuba College||2088 N Beale Rd, Marysville, California, 95901||No||Yes|
Finding Quality Vet Tech Schools in California
Fortunately for aspiring vet techs in CA, there are 23 vet tech programs offered, and 20 of those are CVTEA-accredited programs. Following is a breakdown of these 21 CVTEA-accredited vet tech programs that prepare students for the national and state exams. Note that certain institutions offer programs at multiple campuses, therefore some programs will be grouped together below.
California State Polytechnic University – Pomona—located in Los Angeles county—offers a 4-year bachelor of science program for aspiring vet techs through the Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture. A bachelor’s in animal science can offer graduates ample knowledge and experience in the field, which can lead to a better-paying job and more responsibilities as a veterinary technologist. One of the outstanding features of this program is the number of “real world,” empirical experiences offered to its students. For example, this Cal State school works with JustFoodForDogs, a specialty dog food supplier, in order to create research-backed nutrition for canines. Courses for this program include parasitology and animal diseases; fundamentals of animal nutrition; mammalian endocrinology and physiology of reproduction and lactation; biotechnology applications in animal science; and more. The 3-year pass rate for first time VTNE test takers was 87.6% between 2014 and 2017.
Carrington College California offers an associate of science in veterinary technology degree that can be completed in two years. This program is 63.5 semester credit hours and is offered at the following campuses in CA: Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Pomona, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leandro, and Stockton. Through work with live animals in clinical externships as well as animal patient simulations, this program gives students a solid foundation for careers in animal healthcare. Courses include introduction to the veterinary hospital; introduction to the applied sciences; introduction to anesthesia and surgical assisting; surgical nursing theory and practice; and more. General education courses are offered online. The first-time pass rate among its graduates on the VTNE ranges from 50% to 75.5% depending on the campus (2015-2018).
Central Coast College located in Salinas, CA, offers an associate of applied sciences (AAS) degree in veterinary technology that can be completed in two years. Courses include anatomy and physiology; veterinary management, medical records, ethics, and jurisprudence; anesthesiology and surgery; veterinary dentistry; veterinary pathology and parasitology; and more. Program objectives include preparing students to become employees who hold to a high standard of integrity, work ethic, and personal responsibility, preparing students to take the VTNE certification exam, and prepare students for successful employment in their community. Since the program was accredited beginning in 2016, there are no VTNE pass rate averages yet for this program.
Cosumnes River College, located in Sacramento, CA, offers a two-year associate of science (AS) veterinary technology degree. This is a daytime program and students may begin in the fall only. Courses include pharmacology and anesthesiology for the veterinary technician; advanced veterinary technology; large animal nursing; introduction to diagnostic imaging; large animal disease: pathology; and more. 37-40 credits are required to complete the program and most courses include 2-6 hours per week caring for colony animals. Shifts may be scheduled during weekends, holidays, and semester breaks. Students must complete a minimum of 300 hours internship/work experience. Cosumnes River College boasts a 3-year, first-time pass rate among its graduates on the VTNE of 90.7% between 2015 and 2018.
Foothill College in Los Altos of the San Francisco Bay Area provides a rigorous, two-year veterinary technology program. It consists of 90 units including courses such as animal management and clinical skills; comparative veterinary anatomy and physiology for the veterinary technician; animal care skills; clinical pathology methods; and more. Core values of the program include creating compassionate vet techs who are able to provide excellent care to veterinary patients, as well as carry on compassionate relationships with owners, co-workers and the community, and who are dedicated to lifelong learning. In addition to rigorous coursework Foothill College has collected a list of tongue-in-cheek “You Might Be a Vet Tech If…” statements such as:
- …when you go out to a club and the black light comes on, you check yourself and others for ringworm.
- …pets are more recognizable than their owners.
The 3-year, first-time pass rate among Foothill graduates on the VTNE is an impressive 91% between 2014 and 2017.
Los Angeles Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA, offers an associate of science degree in veterinary technology. This flexible program has multiple entry points throughout the year and provides many of its more popular general education classes at night or during the summer. Courses include anatomy and physiology of animals; microbiology; animal health and disease control; principles of animal science; small animal nursing; large animal nursing; lab animal care; and more. The 3-year, first-time pass rate among its graduates on the VTNE is above average at 85.48% between 2013 and 2016.
Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA, offers an associate of science degree in Registered Veterinary Technology. This rigorous program combines lectures with active labs that take place in the 26,000 sq. ft. agriculture building that includes an animal hospital, as well as on the college’s 150-acre working farm. The program can be completed in 2 years and coursework transfers to Cal Poly universities and other 4-year universities. Courses include medical nursing and animal care; surgical nursing; clinical pathology; animal sanitation and disease control; animal nutrition; veterinary radiography; and more. The degree consists of 88 units and the college boasts an 88% success rate on the licensing exam.
Pima Medical Institute-Chula Vista offers an associate of applied science degree (AAS). The first set of courses is taught using a hybrid learning system that combines both online and on-campus coursework. Courses include food and fiber animal; laboratory procedures for veterinary technicians; diagnostic imaging for veterinary technicians; small animal nursing for veterinary technicians; laboratory animal science; and more. The program consists of 78.5 credits and includes one externship. The degree takes 18 months to complete and includes 1,775 hours. The VTNE first time pass rate for 2014-2017 was 63%.
Platt College has four campuses on which is offered an associates degree veterinary technology. Currently the AVMA recognizes programs at Platt College campuses in Alhambra, Anaheim, Ontario, and Riverside. In addition they offer an online program, which will be outlined below. Courses include veterinary nursing procedures; parasitology; client communications and customer service; veterinary anatomy and physiology; anesthesia; surgical assistance; diagnostic imaging; and more. Students must also participate in a clinical externship. VTNE pass rates follow from 2014-2017: Alhambra – 34.3%; Ontario-34%; Riverside-36.7%.
Stanbridge University located in Irvine, CA, offers an associate of science (AS) degree in veterinary technology. Students work directly with animals in hands-on training, as well as with state-of-the-art surgical simulators. The program consists of 115.5 quarter credit hours and time to completion ranges from 23-24 months. Courses include small animal handling and husbandry; anatomy and physiology of animals; veterinary microbiology; diagnostic imaging; small animal medicine; large animal and equine procedures and public health; veterinary pharmacology; and more. Students also complete a preceptorship.
Yuba College located in Marysville, CA, offers a two-year associate of science degree in veterinary technology. The Yuba College AS degree offers students a range of program options including business management, dental, large animal, public health, shelter medicine, exotic animal/wildlife, small animal emergency and critical care, laboratory animal, and laboratory diagnostics options. Students begin their experience with a 1/2-day orientation experience to explore the requirements of becoming a veterinary technician, and what they can expect throughout the program. Courses include veterinary physiology and anatomy; pharmacology for veterinary technicians; clinical laboratory techniques; veterinary workplace safety; large animal medicine and nursing; exotic and wildlife medicine; veterinary emergency and critical care; and more. In addition students complete three, off-campus internship experiences in veterinary facilities supervised by licensed veterinarians or veterinary technicians. Yuba College boasts a 94.66% VTNE first-time pass rate between 2014 and 2017.
Non-Accredited Vet Tech Schools in California
In order to become a registered veterinary technician in CA without attending an AVMA-accredited program, students must complete “20 semester units, or 30 quarter units or 300 hours of specific education and 4,416 hours of directed clinical practice experience” with specific time-frames (California Veterinary Medical Association). The following programs including clinical practice experience qualify students to take the registered veterinary technician (RVT) exam:
Modesto Junior College located in Modesto, CA, offers a veterinary technician program as an AS degree or certificates. The associates degree consists of 30 units and students can choose from a small animal science or large animal science option. Courses include introduction to animal science; veterinary laboratory procedures; veterinary anatomy, physiology, and terminology; preparation for veterinary surgical and dental assistance; and more. Program outcomes include demonstration of common surgical, dental and restraint techniques, ability to identify the role of a veterinary technician in the field, and knowledge of proper sanitation and disease prevention techniques, among others. The MJC catalog provides more detailed information about the veterinary technology AS degree.
San Diego Mesa College offers an associate of science degree in animal health technology. Students completing this program are eligible to become registered veterinary technicians through the state of California. Courses include animal care and management; fundamentals of animal health technology; veterinary office procedures; veterinary clinical pathology; veterinary pharmacology; diseases of domestic animals; animal nursing techniques and anesthesiology; and more. The program is approved by the California Department of Consumer Affairs and the Veterinary Medical Board.
Santa Rosa Junior College, located in Santa Rosa, CA, offers a two-year veterinary technician program that can lead to students becoming registered veterinary technicians in the state of California. The program is offered through SRJC’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Department. Most classes are scheduled in the evenings to facilitate those who work and need to meet the demands of a family. Courses cover veterinary laboratory and pharmacy procedures; surgical and dental anatomy and assistance; veterinary anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology; small animal disease recognition and transmission control; and more. Students who complete this program and the required number of practical experience hours can take the RVT board exam.
Online Vet Tech Programs for Californian Students
Fortunately for California students and others who are not able to attend campus regularly, Platt College offers a distance-based associates degree in veterinary technology. Students can earn this degree in as little as 18 months. Students should check with Platt College to make sure the online program is also accredited by the AVMA since this program is not listed as a distance based program on the AVMA site. The college does say that they are currently applying for acceptance of the distance education option with the AVMA. Courses include introduction to veterinary technology; veterinary medical terminology; clinical pathology; parasitology; veterinary economics; anesthesia; animal nutrition; exotic animal care; and more. There are no VTNE first-time pass rates for the online program at this time. For other distance based education programs for vet techs, visit our online veterinary technician schools page.
How to Become a Vet Tech in California
Before enrolling in any program, aspiring veterinary technicians in California should ensure that their school is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Here is one common path to becoming a registered veterinary technician (RVT) in California:
- Step 1: Graduate from a AVMA-accredited veterinary technician program. There are currently 18 fully accredited programs in the Golden State. These can range from two- to four-years. Most working vet techs currently hold an associate’s degree—68% according to O*NET (2013)—but others choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree. The four-year degree may qualify a candidate to become a veterinary technologist (as opposed to a technician), which involves more advanced training, increased responsibilities, and possibly higher pay.
- Step 2: Pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). This computer-based exam is offered during three one-month testing windows annually.
- Step 3: Pass the California Registered Veterinary Technician Exam. According to the California Veterinary Medical Board (CaVMB), this must be passed within 60 months of passing the VTNE and is offered three times per year.
- Step 4: Apply for licensure as an RVT and renew every two years with 20 hours of continued education (CE) credits.
Strong Outlook for Vet Tech Jobs in California
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017), there will be approximately 20,400 new jobs added for veterinary technicians across the country between 2016 and 2026. This 20% job increase is much faster than the 7% average growth expected of all occupations. In California where there are 9,780 vet techs employed (BLS 2017), this would equate to 1,956 new jobs.
So what are the highest employing regions within the state of California for vet techs? Not surprisingly, areas surrounding the hub cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco offer a wealth of openings. According to the BLS (2017), these are the top-employing areas where statistics are reported:
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division: 1,670
- Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA: 1,190
- Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA Metropolitan Division (Southern California): 1,180
The healthy increase in openings for vet techs in California is only one reason why the Golden State offers a promising location for these animal care professionals. This state is also one of the top-paying states in the nation for veterinary technicians according to the BLS (2017):
|Veterinary Career||California Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2017)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
This salary data can be contrasted with the national averages for vet techs (BLS 2017):
- Low salary (10th percentile): $22,880
- Average salary (50th percentile or median): $33,400
- High salary (90th percentile): $49,350
In California, vet techs typically make 11.5%, 12.8%, and 18.7% more money than national averages in each salary category, respectively.
So which municipalities in the Golden State pay the most? According to the BLS (2017), these are the five highest paying regions within the state (average annual salaries):
- San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division (Bay Area): $47,960
- Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA: $46,600
- San Rafael, CA: $44,360
- Santa Diego-Carlsbad, CA: $44,290
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $43,560
In addition to a promising job outlook, there are a number of resources and organizations for these professionals within the state as well. The California Registered Veterinary Technicians Association (CaRVTA) offers an online career center, a mentor program, continued education opportunities, and informative articles. The CaRVTA also holds a number of conferences and events, including an annual seminar for veterinary techs and assistants every summer. This three-day event includes programs from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. There are also smaller, regional meetings—including those in Southern California and the Silicon Valley—that can provide localized professional networking as well.
Accreditation and Licensing for Vet Techs in California
As with other states, the main accreditation agency for vet tech schools in California is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This organization weighs a variety of factors, including the quality of the coursework, faculty, facilities, and program outcomes in order to ensure program quality.
Prior to practice as a veterinary technician in the Golden State, a person must become a registered veterinary technician (RVT) with the California Veterinary Medical Board (CaVMB). The application requirements include:
- Passing the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)
- Passing the California Veterinary Technician Examination (CVTE)
- Submitting a live scan of one’s fingerprints and a copy of one’s diploma
Alternatively, according to the California Registered Veterinary Technicians Association, prospective vet techs in California can qualify for licensure by either:
- Being a licensed, certified, or registered veterinary technician in another state (or Canada) and passing an exam qualified by the CaVMB, in addition to garnering at least 4416 hours of clinical practice over no less than 24 months under a licensed veterinarian, or
- Completing at least 4416 hours of supervised clinical practice over no less than 24 months and 300 hours of approved educational credits
Please note that California RVT licenses are valid for two years and require 20 hours of continued education (CE) for renewal. The complete application instructions are available through the CaVMB.
Overall, the state of California presents a wealth of opportunities—both educational and professional—for aspiring veterinary technicians.
|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|
|Yes*||RVT||Yes||Yes||In order to become a registered veterinary technician (RVT), candidates must pass the California Registered Veterinary Technician Examination given by the Veterinary Medical Board (VMB). Candidates must also fulfill an academic course checklist; pass a background check; get fingerprinted; garner at least 4,416 supervised, clinical hours over two years; and submit a copy of their diploma.||California Registered Veterinary Technicians Association|
* A limited permit may be provided for on-the-job training or interstate transfer.