The outlook is bright for animal-lovers in the lovely Centennial State. By illustration, Durango—a quaint town in the southwestern corner of Colorado—not only boasts countless scenic hiking trails, dog-friendly businesses, and an annual Mutt ‘n Strut for charity, but there are also public art installations throughout the community which pay homage to people’s favorite furry friends. For those seeking a career in animal healthcare, there are currently seven CVTEA-accredited vet tech schools in Colorado (CO) from which to choose.
The Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians (CACVT)—the largest association of its kind in the nation at nearly 3,000 members—reports on the common path to join this career in the state. Certified veterinary technicians (CVTs) typically graduate from a program accredited by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), a branch of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Next, they must pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). Finally, aspiring vet techs must apply for certification through CACVT and maintain their credential by fulfilling continuing education (CE) requirements.
So what do veterinary technicians do? O*NET (2016)—a data organization allied with the US Department of Labor—reports that vet techs maintain animal medical records; assist veterinarians with medical treatments, dental care, diagnostic imaging, or surgeries; keep inventory of supplies; liaise with pet-owners about proper care; process laboratory samples to diagnose conditions; and monitor the medical status of veterinary patients. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA 2016) outlines state-based laws on the scope of practice for vet techs. In CO, vet techs can perform the duties of vet medicine under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, and indirect supervision may be appropriate in limited circumstances. For surgeries and dental procedures, immediate oversight is necessary.
Also, some of these animal healthcare professionals choose to specialize in order to deepen their knowledge, enhance their job candidacy, and even increase their pay grade. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) provides a list of designated specialties in this field, including anesthesia & analgesia, behavior, clinical pathology, dermatology, dentistry, equine nursing, nutrition, internal medicine, surgery, zoological medicine, rehabilitation, and critical care.
Finally, the CACVT includes the CVT oath on its website:
I solemnly dedicate myself to aiding animals and society by providing excellent care and services for animals, by alleviating animal suffering, and by promoting public health. I accept my obligations to practice my profession conscientiously and with sensitivity, adhering to the profession’s Code of Ethics, and furthering my knowledge and competence through a commitment to lifelong learning.
Map of Vet Tech Schools in Colorado
|School Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited|
|Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology||1681 S Dayton St, Denver, Colorado, 80247||No||Yes|
|Colorado Academy of Veterinary Technology||2766 Janitell Road, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80906-4944||No||Yes|
|Colorado Mountain College||802 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs, Colorado, 81601-0233||No||Yes|
|Community College of Denver||800 Curtis Street, Denver, Colorado, 80204||No||Yes|
|Front Range Community College-Larimer Campus||4616 South Shields, Fort Collins, Colorado, 80526||No||Yes|
|Pima Medical Institute-Aurora||13750 E. Mississippi Avenue, Aurora, Colorado, 80012||No||Yes|
|Pima Medical Institute-Colorado Springs||5725 Mark Dabling Blvd, Suite 150, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80919||No||Yes|
CVTEA-Accredited Vet Tech Programs in Colorado
Aspiring veterinary technicians in CO are encouraged to enroll in a two- to four-year veterinary technology program accredited by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), a branch of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the predominant program accreditation body nationwide. For more information about program accreditation, please reference the section below.
Colorado vet tech schools typically require applicants to send their official high school transcripts with proof of specific coursework (e.g., biology, chemistry, algebra, English); submit test scores from the SAT, ACT, or TOEFL (for non-native speakers of English); show proof of immunizations and health insurance; pass a background check; write a personal statement; and pay an application fee. Some of the more competitive programs also ask for a candidate interview or experience in a veterinary setting as a volunteer or intern.
There are currently seven CVTEA-accredited programs in Colorado. The prestigious Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology in Denver offers a 125-credit associate of applied science (AAS) degree in veterinary technology. With classes such as veterinary medical chemistry, technical writing, and anesthesiology, Bel-Rea prepares its graduates to handle animals, assist with surgeries, and perform common laboratory & diagnostic procedures. Students can start the program four times throughout the year. In the last quarter of the program, students are placed in local internships to round out their didactic coursework with hands-on experience. Between 2014 and 2017, 78.1 percent of this program’s graduates passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) on their first attempt.
The Colorado Academy of Veterinary Technology in Colorado Springs also provides a CVTEA-accredited associate of applied science degree (AAS) in veterinary technology. The program can be completed in two years. Courses include medical mathematics; biochemistry; introduction to veterinary technology and animal behavior; parasitology; pharmacology; and diagnostic imaging; among others. The Colorado Academy prides itself on small class sizes, a highly experienced faculty of veterinary specialists, and a very hands-on education.
Another option is the Colorado Mountain College of lovely Glenwood Springs. This AAS program has coursework in clinical pathology, microbiology, animal handling & restraint, and veterinary clinic management. Additionally, the school has a gorgeous 220-acre campus in the Elk Mountains with a 2,600 square-foot veterinary hospital, state-of-the-art equipment, and a range of animals. An incredible 97.5 percent of this program’s graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt between 2014 and 2017. This school also has the country’s only certification in animal shelter management.
Community College of Denver offers an associate of applied science degree (AAS) in veterinary technology. Vet tech courses are held on the Lowry campus in east Denver. Students must choose between a two-year or three-year track and cannot switch between the two. Internships consist of 15 weeks at four veterinary hospitals/facilities and are supervised by veterinarians and veterinary technologists. Courses include exotic animal handling; introduction to laboratory procedures; applied comprehension animal behavior; vet assis surgical and nursing care; and more. First-time pass rate for the VTNE exam between 2014 and 2017 was 74%.
Front Range Community College-Larimer Campus (FRCC) offers an AAS in veterinary technology with classes such as radiology, physiology, medical & surgical nursing, and exotic animal handling. This 72 credit program takes 5 semesters or 2 years to complete. Students complete a 135-hour internship at a private practice between semester two and three, as well as completing clinical rotations at the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. FRCC reports an 81 percent first-time VTNE passing rate among its graduates between 2014 and 2017, 11% higher than the national average. In addition to the vet tech associate degree program, this school also offers vet tech certificates in basic laboratory animal care (12 credits) or veterinary technician assistance (17 credits).
Pima Medical Institute offers a veterinary technician program in Aurora and Colorado Springs, CO as well as other locations around the US. The associate degree can be earned in just 18 months and the first set of courses is taught via a hybrid program which is a mix of online and on-campus instruction. Courses include foundations in biology and chemistry; diagnostic imaging for veterinary technicians; laboratory animal science; anatomy and physiology for veterinary technicians; dentistry techniques; and more. While the Aurora campus VTNE first-time pass rate falls at 43%, the Colorado Springs campus boasts a pass rate of 82% between 2014 and 2017.
For aspiring vet techs in CO with familial, professional, or other types of time commitments, attending an on-campus program can be difficult. Luckily there are also eight CVTEA-accredited, distance-based vet tech programs. Students typically complete their coursework online and fulfill clinical requirements at veterinary clinics or similar facilities conveniently close to their homes. For example, San Juan College based in New Mexico provides a CVTEA-approved, online associate of applied science (AAS) in veterinary technology. Students take classes such as vet nursing care, vet business procedures, and diagnostic imaging, putting their skills to the test at approved off-campus clinical instruction (OCCI) sites. Classes begin in January, May, and August annually.
For more information on distance-based programs for vet techs, please check out the online veterinary technician programs page.
Job Outlook for Vet Techs in Colorado
In Colorado and nationwide, job openings for veterinary technicians are poised to explode in coming years. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) projects that vet tech positions will swell 20 percent nationwide between 2016 and 2026, much faster than the expected growth of all occupations during that time (7 percent). And this anticipated addition of 20,400 vet tech jobs nationally is only part of the story. CareerOneStop (2018)—a partner of the US Department of Labor—found that among jobs with an associate degree as the typical entry-level education, veterinary technology is expected to be the sixth fastest growing occupation in the country between 2014 and 2024. In Colorado, it’s projected to be the fourth fastest with an astounding 44 percent projected increase in job openings (CareerOneStop 2018).
So how much do vet techs make nationwide and specifically in CO? Here is a comparative look at the annual salary percentiles for vet techs across the country (BLS 2017):
- 10th percentile: $22,880
- 25th percentile: $27,430
- 50th percentile (median): $33,400
- 75th percentile: $39,860
- 90th percentile: $49,350
Payscale (2018)—a collector of self-reported wages in common occupations—found similar salary ranges 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
By comparison, the 3,920 vet techs employed in Colorado had the following salary percentiles (BLS 2017):
- 10th percentile: $25,440
- 25th percentile: $28,910
- 50th percentile (median): $34,160
- 75th percentile: $39,320
- 90th percentile: $46,200
These figures tended to vary based on region as well. Fort Collins and Colorado Springs reported the highest salary ranges among vet techs in the state. In alphabetical order, here are the salary data among the nine designated regions of CO (BLS 2017):
Boulder, CO: Average annual salary: $29,910; (unknown number employed)
- 10th percentile: $23,790
- 25th percentile: $26,820
- 50th percentile (median): $29,480
- 75th percentile: $32,050
- 90th percentile: $37,710
Colorado Springs, CO: Average annual salary: $35,620; (540 vet techs employed)
- 10th percentile: $25,990
- 25th percentile: $28,960
- 50th percentile (median): $34,650
- 75th percentile: $41,970
- 90th percentile: $48,270
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO: Average annual salary: $35,270; (1,950 vet techs employed)
- 10th percentile: $26,260
- 25th percentile: $30,610
- 50th percentile (median): $35,330
- 75th percentile: $39,950
- 90th percentile: $46,270
Eastern and Southern Colorado nonmetropolitan area: Average Annual Salary: $29,560; (50 vet techs employed)
- 10th percentile: $26,130
- 25th percentile: $27,330
- 50th percentile (median): $29,320
- 75th percentile: $31,230
- 90th percentile: $34,870
Fort Collins, CO: Average annual salary: $35,940; (430 vet techs employed)
- 10th percentile: $26,810
- 25th percentile: $32,050
- 50th percentile (median): $35,560
- 75th percentile: $39,090
- 90th percentile: $46,420
Grand Junction, CO: Average Annual Salary: $31,750; (140 vet techs employed)
- 10th percentile: $21,780
- 25th percentile: $24,690
- 50th percentile (median): $30,050
- 75th percentile: $37,040
- 90th percentile: $45,350
Greeley, CO: Average Annual Salary: $28,080; (150 vet techs employed)
- 10th percentile: $21,160
- 25th percentile: $23,390
- 50th percentile (median): $27,430
- 75th percentile: $32,260
- 90th percentile: $36,830
Northwest Colorado nonmetropolitan area: Average Annual Salary: $37,720; (210 vet techs employed)
- 10th percentile: $27,750
- 25th percentile: $32,500
- 50th percentile (median): $37,990
- 75th percentile: $44,250
- 90th percentile: $48,460
Southwest Colorado nonmetropolitan area: Average Annual Salary: $29,770; (70 vet techs employed)
- 10th percentile: $21,110
- 25th percentile: $22,760
- 50th percentile (median): $25,930
- 75th percentile: $36,230
- 90th percentile: $45,120
It’s crucial to note that while wages for vet techs in some areas of CO are slightly lower than national averages, most are quite similar. And, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2018), Colorado ranks thirty-fourth nationally with respect to affordability, boasting savings on utility costs, while transportation and groceries are almost at average relative to the rest of the country.
Not surprisingly, salaries also vary substantially with experience. Here are the median annual salaries of veterinary technicians according to different experience levels (Payscale 2018):
- Entry-level (0-5 years): $29,955
- Mid-career (5-10 years): $32,479
- Experienced (10-20 years): $36,227
- Late-career (20+ years): $39,997
Vet techs in Colorado can seek employment not only at animal hospitals and clinics, but also in zoos, aquariums, farms, research laboratories, shelters, kennels, and universities. These professionals generally have an associate degree prior to practice, and may work irregular hours (e.g., weekends, holidays, evenings) to serve the needs of veterinary patients. The Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians (CACVT) maintains an active job post board with opportunities at facilities such as the Franktown Animal Clinic, Mandalay Animal Hospital, Mountain Perks Veterinary Hospital, PetAid Colorado, Loveland Veterinary Clinic, the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital, and more. Additionally, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has an online career center with continually updated opportunities in veterinary technology and assisting.
|Veterinary Career||Colorado Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2017)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Average Salary (Median)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
Certification for Vet Techs in Colorado
As mentioned in the introduction, the Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians (CACVT) is the main professional credentialing agency for vet techs in CO. In order to qualify as a certified vet tech (CVT), candidates must graduate from a CVTEA-accredited program; pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE); and pay an application fee. This certification lasts for two years and must be renewed following the completion of 20 continuing education (CE) hours. Since renewals occur only in even-numbered years, the number of CE hours required for the the first recertification may vary depending on when a CVT became certified initially (CACVT 2016). The CACVT accepts technical CE, supportive CE, and online CE approved by the Registry of Approved Continuing Education (RACE).
Vet Tech School Accreditation
The main programmatic accreditation body for vet tech programs in CO is the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), a subdivision of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). CVTEA weighs several factors in its program-approval process, including institutional accreditation, physical facilities & equipment, resources for clinical instruction, admissions processes, student outcomes, and comprehensiveness of curricula. For a detailed examination of how programs are evaluated, please check out the CVTEA site.
|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||Candidates must also submit a copy of their diploma. It’s important to note that the State Board of Veterinary Medicine in Colorado does not license vet techs. Therefore the certification is not essential for practice, but some employers may prefer CVTs.||Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians|