In Mount Rushmore State, there’s no shortage of people and organizations focused on the well-being of animals. The Sioux Falls Area Humane Society has been in operation since 1919 and its mission is to connect animals with permanent homes, provide advocacy for creatures that can’t speak for themselves, and educate people on the best treatment practices.
The esteemed no-kill shelter at Western Hills Humane Society saves, enhances, and protects the lives of neglected, abused, lost, or forgotten animals. One way for animal-lovers from South Dakota to become involved in the provision of optimal care for furry, scaly, and feathered animals is to become veterinary technicians.
According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), vet techs nationwide play an invaluable role in veterinary healthcare environments by assisting licensed veterinarians with various procedures (e.g., dentistry, diagnostic imaging, laboratory tests, post-surgical monitoring, anesthesia); maintain veterinary patient records; educate pet-owners about best practices for animal healthcare; process and analyze biological samples; keeping veterinary equipment and facilities sterile; giving first aid and immunizations to animals; and helping out with vet office clerical duties.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA 2021) also lays out the scope of practice in the vet tech profession based on the state of residence. To qualify as a veterinary technician in South Dakota, a candidate must have a high school diploma or GED; proof of “good moral character” from two reputable people; an interview with two members of the South Dakota Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners; the completion of a Board-approved vet tech program; and a score of at least 75 percent on a written or oral Board exam.
In South Dakota and across the US, there’s expected to be a wealth of opportunities for veterinary technicians into the future, including for those interested in online programs.
Keep reading to discover the projected growth in openings in this occupation, the salary prospects, the accredited vet tech programs in SD, and how to become a registered vet tech (RVT) in the state.
Demand for Vet Techs in South Dakota
In South Dakota and other states, there is a very bright career outlook for people in the veterinary technology field. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) expects vet tech openings nationwide to swell 15 percent between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the average growth projected for all occupations during that time (8 percent).
Projections Central (2021) offers more granular data on the future of vet techs in SD. It found that openings for veterinary technicians and technologists are expected to increase at a slightly lower rate (10.3 percent) than what’s anticipated nationally.
Where Do Vet Techs in South Dakota Work?
Veterinary technicians in SD may seek employment in a variety of environments that offer animal healthcare such as veterinary hospitals, farms, kennels, food inspection organizations, specialty animal clinics, rescue centers, sanctuaries, zoological research institutes, biomedical facilities, aquariums, laboratories, governmental regulatory groups, parks, and wildlife centers.
While some South Dakotans in this field may work traditional business hours, others may be asked to work evenings, holidays, or weekends to serve the needs of their veterinary patients.
If the traditional job-seeking websites are any indication, there should be plenty of opportunities in this field in the coming years. By illustration, Indeed (November 2021) posted job openings for vet techs at places such as All City Pet Care West, Best Care Pet Hospital, Box Elder Vet Clinic, and Cooper Animal Clinic. Monster (November 2021) had additional postings in SD at Synchrony and Dells Veterinary Services.
The South Dakota Veterinary Medical Association (SDVMA) provided job postings for vet techs at places such as Southern Hills Animal Clinic, Nebraska Veterinary Services, Prairie Creek Pet Hospital, Animal Clinic of Rapid City, Dakota Large Animal Clinic, Cooper Animal Clinic, and Northern Plains Animal Health, PC. There’s no shortage of openings in this career field in SD.
One way in which an SD vet tech can stand out from the crowd of job applicants is to become a veterinary technician specialist (VTS). The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes many subfields of veterinary technology, including dermatology, equine science, laboratory animals, clinical pathology, dentistry, zoological medicine, and anesthesia.
To this end, there are various societies and academies, some of which offer professional accreditation in the field, including the Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians and the Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians. To qualify as a VTS, candidates typically need to have at least 1,000 hours of experience in their subfield and pass an exam. To learn more about the VTS pathways, check out the vet tech careers page.
Vet Tech Salary in South Dakota
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020), the 109,490 veterinary technicians nationwide had an annual average salary of $37,860 and the 240 veterinary technicians in SD had an annual average salary of $35,190.
The table below is a comparison of national and state salaries of veterinary technicians.
|United States||South Dakota|
|Number of Veterinary Technicians Employed||109,490||240|
|Annual mean wage||$37,860||$35,190|
|50th Percentile (Median)||$36,260||$35,320|
Although the salary averages and percentiles for SD vet techs were somewhat lower, it’s important to note that the ‘Rushmore State’ is also more affordable than roughly half of US states. As proof of point, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) reported that SD is the 27th most affordable state nationwide, offering savings in transportation and utilities relative to the national index.
It’s important to note that these figures also varied based on the source of data. By illustration, Indeed (November 2021) found an average annual salary of $24,230 among SD veterinary technicians, and Payscale—a data aggregator of self-reported salaries in common occupations—found national figures which differed from the BLS.
By illustration, Payscale (November 2021), found the following percentiles nationally:
- 10th percentile: $27,000
- 50th percentile (median): $36,728
- 90th percentile: $51,000
Vet Tech Schools in South Dakota
For aspiring veterinary technicians in South Dakota, there are various training options available, although it’s strongly recommended to pursue at least a two-year associate degree in the field.
According to O*NET (2021)—a data partner of the US Department of Labor—26 percent of vet techs nationwide hold associate degrees, and 41 percent have HS diplomas. This composition will likely change in the coming years toward increased education as the profession becomes more regulated nationwide.
The main organization which accredits vet techs training schools is the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). To qualify for an AVMA-accredited program, applicants typically need to submit the following:
- Official high school transcripts with proof of specific coursework (e.g., chemistry, English, biology)
- Personal statement (500-600 words)
- Proof of health insurance and immunizations
- Application fee
While most vet tech programs do not require test scores, background checks, or interviews, there are exceptions. Also, it is advisable for aspiring veterinary technicians in South Dakota to work or volunteer in an animal healthcare setting to give them an edge in the application process.
As of November 2021, there were no CVTEA-accredited programs in the Rushmore State. Students who live near the state border can pursue a CVTEA-accredited program in Fargo, North Dakota (profiled below).
Southeast Technical College offers an associate of an applied science degree program in veterinary technician preparing students to aid veterinarians in the treatment and evaluation of small and large animals. Graduates of this program will be able to assist biomedical researchers or other scientists and gain an educational background for assisting in surgeries, taking X-rays, and processing tissue samples.
Made up of 65 credits, the curriculum explores topics such as introduction to veterinary technology, veterinary medical terminology, veterinary laboratory, imaging, anesthesiology & pain management, veterinary dentistry, and surgical assisting, among others. Students will also have the opportunity to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam.
The program prepares high-quality and competent technicians that are job-ready and capable of being vital assets to the veterinary industry in both the research and clinical setting. They will be able to find careers in a wide range of settings, including labs, research facilities, agricultural production facilities, clinics, and animal hospitals.
- Location: Sioux Falls, SD
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
- Estimated Tuition: $255 per credit
North Dakota State University offers a bachelor of science program in veterinary technology preparing students for a career in animal health care. Students may choose to work in a large, small, exotic, or lab animal veterinary practice.
Comprising 120 credits, the program includes courses such as introduction to animal sciences, introduction to animal nutrition, introductory microbiology, veterinary diagnostic imaging, veterinary clinical pathology, veterinary hematology, veterinary pharmacology, veterinary anesthesiology, and large animal techniques.
At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as serving as research technicians, working with industry associations, veterinary practice management, animal‑related business management, or veterinary sales & marketing.
- Location: Fargo, ND
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
- Estimated Tuition: North Dakota Residents ($8,951); Montana, South Dakota, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan Residents ($10,741)
Distance-based Vet Tech Programs
For residents of more rural regions of South Dakota or those with various time commitments which prevent them from attending an on-campus program, there are also ten CVTEA-accredited online programs. These involve a combination of online coursework and clinical training which are completed at approved veterinary facilities close to a student’s home.
One exemplary, fully accredited, online vet tech program is available at Penn Foster College preparing students for an in-demand career in veterinary healthcare. Self-paced, online courses of this vet tech associate degree allow students to study on their own time and prepare them to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). It’s worth noting that between 2018 and 2021, 75.86 percent of program graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt.
The program also includes two clinical externships where students will work alongside licensed veterinary technicians and veterinarians for practicing the skills and knowledge covered across four semesters.
Consisting of 73 credits, the curriculum includes courses such as animal anatomy and physiology, surgical nursing for veterinary technicians, pharmacology for veterinary technicians, laboratory animal medicine & nursing, small & large animal medicine, and clinical parasitology for veterinary technicians.
Penn Foster also offers a bachelor of science degree in veterinary technology that is designed specifically for students who have already earned an AVMA-accredited associate degree.
- Location: Scottsdale, AZ
- Accreditation: AVMA-CVTEA; Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
- Expected Time to Completion: Associate degree (16 to 24 months); BS (36 to 48 months)
- Estimated Tuition: $59 per month
Additionally, St. Petersburg College of Florida provides an associate of science (AS) in a veterinary technology program that can be completed online, in the classroom, or in a blended format. The program trains students in a wide variety of skills including nursing, radiology, surgical preparation, dentistry, clinical laboratory tests, and anesthesia.
This program also prepares students to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Between 2017 and 2020, an impressive 82 percent of St. Petersburg’s vet tech graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt.
The program consists of 73 credits including coursework in areas such as animal nursing; animal physiology; animal anesthesia; emergency medicine; lab procedures; pharmacology; and avian & exotic pet medicine.
Conveniently, credits from the AS program may be transferred to the school’s competitive bachelor of applied science in veterinary technology program. This veterinary technology bachelor of applied science program comprises 120 credits and can be completed entirely online.
- Location: St. Petersburg, FL
- Accreditation: AVMA-CVTEA; American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)
- Expected Time to Completion: AS degree (36 months); BAS degree (48 months)
- Estimated Tuition: Lower division (Florida residents: $111.75 per credit; out-of-state residents: $386.90 per credit); upper division (Florida residents: $122.70 per credit; out-of-state residents: $425.79 per credit)
To learn more about the array of distance-based programs available, check out the online vet tech programs page.
Registration For Vet Techs in South Dakota
In order to become a registered veterinary technician (RVT) in SD, candidates must apply through the South Dakota Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, submitting the following:
- Completed application with a signature from vet tech program
- A recent photo
- Proof of a high school diploma or GED
- Two affidavits from qualified people testifying to the candidate’s moral character
- Transcript or copy of degree from a Board-approved veterinary technician program
- Passing Veterinary Technician National Examination scores (at least 425 points)
- Application fee ($20)
RVTs in South Dakota must renew their registration every two years with a minimum of 12 hours of continuing education (CE) credits. There are various web-based resources available for online CE, including:
Accreditation for Vet Tech Programs
Finally, aspiring veterinary technicians in South Dakota are encouraged to seek out programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) program-approval body: the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). This organization evaluates many factors in its process, including:
- Management of school & program finances
- Organizational effectiveness & resources for students
- Quality of facilities, faculty & curriculum
- Availability of libraries & student resources (e.g., campus groups)
- Admissions procedures
- Student outcomes (e.g., Veterinary Technician National Examination pass-rates among graduates)
For a complete breakdown of how the AVMA evaluates veterinary technician programs, check out the CVTEA accreditation standards page.