The outlook is bright for animal-lovers in the lovely Centennial State. By illustration, Durango—a quaint town in the southwestern corner of Colorado— boasts countless scenic hiking trails, dog-friendly businesses, and an annual Mutt ‘n Strut for charity. The love is so deep the city is full of art celebrating humanity’s connection and coexistence with animals. For those seeking a career in animal healthcare, there are currently eight 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 (2021)—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 an inventory of supplies; liaise with pet-owners about proper care; process laboratory samples to diagnose conditions; and monitor the medical status of veterinary patients.
Vet tech scope of practice varies from state to state. 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.
While it is possible to work as a generalized vet tech anywhere in the nation, some vet techs 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.
Once a prospective vet tech graduates from an AVMA-accredited program, passes the VTNE, registers with the state, and maintains their certifications, all that is left to do, according to CACVT, is practice by the following Certified Veterinary Technician’s Oath:
“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.”
|School Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited|
|Apex College of Veterinary Technology||330 S. El Paso Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80903||No||Yes|
|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 eight CVTEA-accredited programs in Colorado.
Apex College of Veterinary Technology in Colorado Springs received initial AVMA accreditation in 2019 and offers a two-year associate of applied science (AAS) degree in veterinary technology. Graduates of the Apex vet tech program will have the entry-level skills required to support veterinarians in the treatment of companion animal, equine, food animal, and lab animal populations.
In addition, vet techs graduating from Apex will garner a range of business skills and will be required to complete an externship at the culmination of the program. Coursework in the 115.75-quarter-hour program includes clinical parasitology and microbiology, large animal nursing, medical and surgical nursing, and dentistry. Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) pass rates are not yet available for this program.
The prestigious Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology in Denver offers a 24-month, 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 and 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 2017 and 2020, 79.2 percent of this program’s graduates passed the 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 hands-on education. Graduates of Colorado Academy achieved a 76.5 percent first-time pass rate on the VTNE between 2017 and 2020.
Another option for vet tech hopefuls is the Colorado Mountain College of lovely Glenwood Springs. This AAS program has coursework in clinical pathology, microbiology, animal handling and 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.
This school also has the country’s only certification in animal shelter management. A very rare achievement, 100 percent of this program’s graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt between 2017 and 2020.
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 can choose between a two-year track, a three-year track, and an apprenticeship program. Internships for the two and three year tracks 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 assist surgical and nursing care; and more.
This program offers 27 percent of its coursework online. In the apprenticeship program, students partner with an employer to learn the craft. This program results in a degree and a certificate from the US Department of Labor and requires 21 months of continuous participation where breaks are determined by the employer. The first-time pass rate for the VTNE exam between 2018 and 2021 was a respectable 83 percent.
Front Range Community College-Larimer Campus (FRCC) offers an AAS in veterinary technology with classes such as radiology, physiology, medical and surgical nursing, and exotic animal handling. This 71-credit program takes five semesters (two years) to complete. Students learn how to work with household pets, exotics, birds, lab animals, and food animals.
Students complete a 135-hour internship at a private practice between semesters two and three, as well as completing clinical rotations at the Colorado State University. Between 2017 and 2020, 82.9 percent of all first-time test takers passed the VTNE.
Pima Medical Institute (two CO locations) 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. The Aurora campus VTNE first-time pass rate was 56 percent, and the Colorado Springs campus boasted a pass rate of 84.5 percent between 2017 and 2020.
Online Vet Tech Programs for Colorado Students
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 ten 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. VTNE first time pass rates for graduates of this program between 2017 and 2020 were 89.8 percent.
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 for growth in the coming years. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) projects that vet tech positions will swell 16 percent nationwide between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the expected growth of all occupations during that time (4 percent). In Colorado, this outlook is even brighter with the anticipated growth rate between 2018 and 2028 projected at 36.9 percent (Projections Central 2020).
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 board with opportunities at facilities such as Bouton Veterinary Hospital, The Center for Animal Wellness, Beaver Brook Pet Center, The Feline Fix, Apex Dog and Cat Dentistry, Alpine Animal Hospital, Heska Corporation, Tower Road Animal Hospital, and Pathway Vet Alliance. Additionally, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has an online career center with continually updated opportunities in veterinary technology and assisting.
Colorado Vet Tech Salary
So how much do vet techs make nationwide and specifically in CO? Nationwide, the average annual wage for the 109,490 vet techs across the United States was $37,860. Below are the figures for annual salaries for vet techs across the nation and in Colorado, by percentile (BLS May 2020):
|Number of vet techs employed||109,490||3,450|
|Average annual salary||$37,860||$38,200|
|50th percentile (median)||$36,260||$37,590|
The salaries in Colorado tend toward being slightly higher than the national average, perhaps in part to compensate for the cost of living. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021), Colorado ranks 35th in terms of affordability across the states. Although Colorado does boast savings in grocery and utilities, higher cost of living in regard to housing, transportation, and health may require CO residents to have higher salary points in comparison to other regions in the U.S.
|VETERINARY CAREER||COLORADO JOBS||SALARY DATA (BLS MAY 2020)|
|LOW SALARY (10TH %ILE)||MEDIAN SALARY (50TH %ILE)||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)
- 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 first recertification may vary depending on when a CVT became certified initially (CACVT). The CACVT accepts technical CE, supportive CE, and online CE approved by the Registry of Approved Continuing Education (RACE).
Colorado 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 and 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.