Montana is synonymous with natural beauty. Home to expansive wilderness including Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, as well as hardworking ranchers, Big Sky Country has a special relationship with its animals. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) works to conserve antelope, bats, beavers, bighorn sheep, black bears, bobcats, deer, elk, grizzlies, moose, mountain goats, mountain lions, grouse, and wolves through rigorous research utilized by the FWP wildlife team, external parties, and the public.
The Animal Health Bureau in Montana provides education to animal owners, livestock producers, and vets to safeguard the health and food production capacity within the state. Montana’s pets also have a resource in the Humane Society of Western Montana, which has a 98 percent adoption rate, offers microchip identification, rehoming, and pet/owner reunion services.
Becoming an animal nurse in the fourth largest state in the U.S. (by landmass) is no easy task, which is why the Big Sky Veterinary Technician Association (BSVTA) exists. With a mission to advance the vet tech profession in Montana, BSVTA provides vet techs in Montana with continuing education opportunities, maintains an active job board, helps vet techs to get certified, and provides a professional network for all vet techs in the state.
There are no explicit requirements for veterinary technicians in Montana to become certified. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA 2019) the supervising veterinarian in Montana is responsible for determining if support staff has the competencies to assist with diagnosis, treatment, surgical, and other animal caretaking tasks. Someone with a high school diploma and without formalized training could work as a – vet tech in Montana, if a veterinarian is willing to take them on.
However, according to CareerOneStop (2020)—a U.S. government site that sources its data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—only 23 percent of vet techs have a high school diploma or less. While becoming certified is not required, having enough training to become certified may be useful to those who wish to be more competitive in the Montana vet tech job marketplace.
Future Montana vet techs who wish to pursue certification will need to earn a degree from a program that is accredited by the AVMA and will need to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE).
|School Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited|
|Pima Medical Institute-Dillon||434 E. Poindexter Street, Dillon, Montana, 59725||No||Yes|
Accredited Vet Tech Schools in Montana (MT)
There is one veterinary technology program accredited by the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA).
Pima Medical Institute offers a veterinary technician associate of applied science (AAS) degree at a campus in Dillon, Montana. The hybrid online and on-campus 78.5 credit hour program takes 18 months to complete as a day student. The combination of didactic, lab, and externship hours equals 1,775 hours. Pima students will take courses that include equine medicine and nursing; food and fiber animal; diagnostic imaging for veterinary technicians; laboratory animal science; small animal nursing; dentistry techniques; clinic surgery and lab; and much more.
The externship requires students to complete 225 hours of hands-on learning with a board-certified vet. Between 2017 and 2020, 82 percent of the graduates of the Pima vet tech program in Dillon passed their VTNE on the first try.
Online Vet Tech Programs for Montana Students
Students who wish to pursue an AVMA-accredited education within the state of Montana may also participate in distance learning through an online CVTEA-accredited program, such as those that follow.
Most students may have heard of Purdue University in Indiana, but may not have known that the school offers an online vet tech program. The program has full AVMA accreditation and students who graduate receive an associate of science (AAS) degree. The program includes a range of animal care courses and subjects, such as:
- Animal care
- Pre- and post-surgical care
Students in this program complete 18 clinical mentorships in addition to courses. The first-time VTNE pass rate for graduates of the Purdue program was 93 percent through the distance learning program and 87 percent through their on-campus program (2016 to 2019).
Penn Foster College in Scottsdale, AZ, offers another option for online vet tech learning. The school has full AVMA accreditation and offers an associate of science (AAS) degree for aspiring veterinary technicians. Students in the vet tech program take courses in many different subjects and learn how to do many things, such as:
- Administer medications or anesthesia
- Collect lab samples
- Prepare animals for surgery
- Provide first aid
- Record case histories
Students in this program complete two clinical externships working with veterinarians and veterinary technicians. In partnership with Banfield Pet Hospital, BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital, and VCA Animal Hospital, Penn Foster offers excellent opportunities for hands-on training throughout the United States. Graduates have a first-time VTNE pass rate of 71 percent between 2017 and 2020.
A third online option is San Juan College. Like the two preceding schools, it has AVMA accreditation and offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree through online learning. The program prepares students to take the VTNE and includes asynchronous online courses in combination with hands-on exercises and labs that take place in veterinary practices. Students are evaluated through web-based assessments at clinics in their area.
Students must be employed by a veterinarian beginning in tier two classes. Courses in this program include general education courses as well as vet tech-specific courses such as vet nursing care; vet diagnostic imaging; small animal disease and medical care; pharmacy and medical therapeutics; vet anesthesia and surgical assisting; vet business procedures; and much more. Graduates from this program have a first-time pass rate on the VTNE of 89.8 percent (2017 to 2020).
Students should check to see what types of clinical training online programs offer. Some programs can connect the students with shelters, clinics, hospitals, and other locations so that students can complete the practical portions of their schooling via externships. For more information visit our online vet tech programs page.
How to Become a Vet Tech in Montana (MT)
There is no single path to become a veterinary technician, but there are a few things that must be accomplished before vet techs are likely to find a job. The most common path is as follows:
Step 1: Graduate High School (Four Years) – An aspiring veterinary technician would be hard-pressed to find a job without a high school diploma or GED, and it is a prerequisite for applying to vet tech undergraduate programs. In high school, students should be sure to focus on relevant subjects including natural sciences such as biology and chemistry. High school students may also find volunteering at a local animal shelter to be a good way to gain some relevant experience.
Step 2: Complete an Accredited Vet Tech Program (Two Years) – Veterinary technician programs generally take just two years to complete and result in an Associate of Science degree. Vet techs for whom certification is important must select a vet tech program that has been accredited by the AVMA.
Step 3: Take the VTNE (Timeline Varies) – Veterinary Technician National Exam is another certification prerequisite. You must graduate from an AVMA-accredited program in order to qualify for the VTNE exam. The exam is offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards and currently has an associated fee of $330. Vet techs can take the exam during any of three windows throughout the year.
Step 4: Apply for Certification in Montana (Timeline Varies) – Certification for vet techs is not offered through a national organization. Techs who have successfully completed the VTNE must apply for certification in Montana through the Big Sky Veterinary Technician Association (BSVTA).
Step 5: Renew Certification (Timeline Varies) – Certified vet techs must renew their certification every other year. Sixteen hours of approved continuing education credits are required upon renewal. In Montana, continuing education hours can consist of meetings, magazines, and online courses that are approved by AVMA, MVMA, AHHA, and RACE approved. Only four hours can be from alternative continuing education such as online or magazine courses.
Strong Demand for Vet Techs in Montana
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), the demand for vet techs is expected to grow by 16 percent from 2019 to 2029, making it a much faster-growing occupation than the average for all occupations (4 percent).
In Montana specifically, things look even brighter. According to Projections Central (2020), the demand for vet techs in Montana is expected to grow by 25.7 percent from 2018 to 2028, which means an expected additional 90 jobs for vet techs during that span. In addition, veterinary technologist and technician employment is the fourth fastest-growing occupation among those with associate’s degrees in MT (CareerOneStop 2020).
On a national scale, the BLS (May 2019) reported that there were 110,650 American vet techs with an annual average salary of $36,670. In comparison, Montana currently employs 470 veterinary technicians who make an average salary of $33,460 per year (BLS 2019). By percentile, here is the breakdown of annual salaries for vet techs in Montana and across the country:
|Number of vet tech professionals employed||110,650||470|
|Annual mean wage||$36,670||$33,460|
|50th percentile (median)||$35,320||$31,960|
With the exception of 10th percentile earners, Montana veterinary technicians had somewhat lower wages than national averages. Considering MT is thirty-seventh the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center’s (MERIC 2020) cost of living data series, MT vet techs may be wise to consider how far their dollar will go. While Montana residents pay less than the national average for utilities, transportation, and health, they pay more than average for housing and groceries.
National groups like the National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America (NAVTA) and local organizations such as the Big Sky Veterinary Technician Association (BSVTA) offer great opportunities for vet techs to find out about training opportunities, network with other vet techs and otherwise establish a sense of community within the profession. The BSVTA site offers information on continuing education opportunities and employment opportunities listed on the site, both assets for veterinary technicians trying to break into the field.
|Veterinary Career||Montana Jobs||Salary Data (BLS, 2019)|
|Low Salary (10th %ile)||Median Salary (50TH %ile)||High Salary (90th %ile)|
Accreditation and Certification for Vet Techs in Montana
There are no requirements for vet techs in Montana to become certified. Those that choose to do so must apply through the BSVTA and must meet at least one of the following requirements:
- You must have graduated from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited program and must have passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
- You must have worked consecutively in the capacity of a veterinary technician for five or more years, and must have passed the VTNE by December 31, 2006.
- Reciprocity is granted for technicians currently registered, licensed, or certified in another state.
AVMA accreditation means that a vet tech program meets the standards of the AVMA in terms of faculty, facilities, and curriculum. As vet tech education expands in Montana, it is hopeful that more than one CVTEA-accredited vet tech program will open up in the state in the future.