Vet Tech Programs in Tennessee

Dog flu has been a veterinary healthcare struggle in Tennessee for a long time. In 2007, Tennessee was one of only two states in the U.S. with reported H3N8 dog flu outbreaks. Over 12 years, one or both strains of the highly contagious dog flu (H3N8 and H3N2) have hit the state of Tennessee, and every other state in the U.S. except North Dakota, Nebraska, Alaska, and Hawaii. The highly contagious flu infects 80 to 90 percent of exposed dogs, kills 8 percent of those infected, and causes severe symptoms in 20 percent of those infected.

For animal-lovers interested in being a part of the solution to dog flu—and for those interested in a rapidly growing career with a relatively quick entry-level education—attending one of the quality veterinary technician schools in Tennessee (TN) can be a rewarding choice.

In Tennessee, vet techs must be licensed prior to seeking employment and this state has more rigorous restrictions on the scope of practice in this profession than other areas. As proof of point, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a table detailing how the scope of practice of vet techs varies by state. While many common surgical, diagnostic, and dental procedures must be completed under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian, vet techs in Tennessee can float animals’ teeth (i.e., file or contour them) without oversight.

Additionally, managing veterinarians in this state are held legally responsible for the conduct of their employees—including vet techs—and therefore they seek to hire the most qualified, dependable, and skilled individuals for the role.

So how does a person become a veterinary technician in Tennessee? Here is one possible path to joining this career:

  • Graduate from high school, completing coursework in biology, chemistry, and algebra (in addition to taking on volunteer work in animal care hospitals or centers if possible).
  • Complete a two- to four-year veterinary technology program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA).
  • Pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
  • Apply for licensure through the Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

The Tennessee Veterinary Technicians Association (TNVTA) offers continuing education (CE) conferences, quarterly newsletters, scholarships, and local legislation memos to members. Adding to the TNVTA’s description of responsibilities for veterinary technicians, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) provides an extensive checklist of necessary skills, including instruction in animal restraint, anesthesia, operating room duties and sterilization, pharmaceuticals, necropsy, diagnostic imaging, and clinical pathology. Generally, these animal healthcare professionals are tasked with providing emergency care or first aid to animals; restraining veterinary patients; collecting case histories; and assisting veterinarians with common surgical, dental, diagnostic imagery procedures.

In addition to the generalist veterinary technicians in Tennessee, there is a wealth of specialties in this field such as avian, large animal, small animal, equine, marine, dental, nutritional, psychological, radiological, anesthesiological, zoological, dermatological, and other types of veterinary technicians.

Read on to learn more about the career outlook for vet techs in Tennessee, as well as what to know about CVTEA-accredited programs and professional certification.

Career Outlook for Vet Techs in Tennessee

There’s a lot of good news for aspiring veterinary technicians in Tennessee. First, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) predicts that job openings will increase 19 percent nationally between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the growth rate expected of all professions during that time period (5 percent). This expected addition of 21,100 vet tech jobs around the country will fuel opportunities in this field in the decade to come.

Among its 110,650 veterinary technicians and technologists nationwide, the BLS (May 2019) found an average annual salary of $36,670. While in Tennessee, this figure decreased to $31,920, it’s important to note that the cost of living varies substantially by region. In fact, it’s substantially cheaper to live in TN than in many other US states. As proof of point, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) found that TN ranked seventh among American states with respect to affordability, especially in the realm of housing.

Veterinary technicians in Tennessee are employed in a range of facilities such as veterinary hospitals, private veterinary clinics, kennels, pharmaceutical companies, laboratory research facilities, zoos, wildlife preserves, aquariums, government agencies, non-profit organizations, universities, farms, pet sanctuaries, and more.

While many choose traditional roles in animal healthcare, others work in areas including food safety, disease control, and biomedical research. The Tennessee Veterinary Technicians Association (TNVTA) maintains an active list of jobs in this field with openings at facilities such as Memphis Veterinary Specialists, McGehee Clinic for Animals, and Appalachian Animal Hospital.

In addition to traditional job hunting websites—Monster, CareerBuilder, and Glassdoor—the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) also maintains an active database of local openings in this field. Lastly, due to the nature of healthcare jobs, some veterinary technicians have to work evenings, weekends, and holidays to monitor the condition of their furry, feathered, and scaly patients.

School Website main address online program Avma Accredited
Austin Peay State University 601 College St, Clarksville, Tennessee, 37044NoYes
Chattanooga State Community College 4501 Amnicola Hwy, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 37406-1097NoYes
Columbia State Community College 1665 Hampshire Pike, Columbia, Tennessee, 38401NoYes
Lincoln Memorial University 6965 Cumberland Gap Pky, Harrogate, Tennessee, 37752-9900NoYes
University of Tennessee at Martin 554 University Street, Martin, Tennessee, 38238NoYes
Volunteer State Community College 1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, Tennessee, 37066-3188NoYes

AVMA-Accredited Vet Tech Schools in Tennessee

In the state of Tennessee, there are six campus-based programs accredited through the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), the predominant accrediting body for vet tech programs in the country. Four of these boast full accreditation and the other two are in the initial stages of the process. For more information on accreditation, please reference the section below.

Typical requirements to gain admittance to a two- to four-year vet tech program include sending one’s official high school transcripts; completing specific coursework (e.g., biology, chemistry, algebra, English); submitting test scores from the SAT, ACT, or TOEFL (for non-native speakers of English only); passing a background check; showing proof of immunizations and health insurance; and paying an application fee. Some competitive programs—particularly at the bachelor’s level—also call for observation hours or voluntary service in a veterinary setting.

Austin Peay State University (APSU) offers a 120-credit hour CVTEA accredited bachelor’s of science in agriculture with a concentration in veterinary technology. In addition to general education requirements, students in this program learn about livestock, domestic animals, farm animals, companion animals, animal nursing, animal nutrition, and more.

In addition to coursework, APSU offers engagement in agriculture through their pre-vet club, beef cattle show team, agricultural honor societies, agricultural fraternities, and professional development organizations. Earning it’s initial accreditation in 2019, APSU’s VTNE pass rates are not currently available.

Chattanooga State Community College offers a CVTEA-accredited associate of applied science (AAS) degree in veterinary technology. With courses such as animal nursing, clinical pathology, and general educational requirements, this 70-credit program encourages students to apply what they learn in supervised internships across local veterinary clinics, hospitals, and farms. Between 2016 and 2019, an impressive 91 percent of Chattanooga’s graduates passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) on their first attempt.

Columbia State Community College similarly provides a fully accredited, 21-month AAS program in veterinary technology featuring courses in pharmacology, livestock management, and an introduction to animal science. Average cohort sizes at Columbia are 30 people. Columbia reported a 61 percent first-time VTNE pass rate between 2016 and 2019.

Lincoln Memorial University of Harrogate has two CVTEA-accredited programs: a two-year associate of science (AS) and a four-year bachelor of science (BS), both in veterinary medical technology.

The AS program has advanced instruction in diagnostic imaging, animal husbandry and nutrition, medical technology, and pharmacology and anesthesia, as well as several lab sections to apply didactic lessons. Between 2016 and 2019, Lincoln Memorial reported a 73.5 percent first-time pass rate among its graduates on the VTNE.

The 66-credit BS program—open to those with relevant associate degrees—goes more in-depth with coursework in probability and statistics, animal behavior, equine management, advanced anesthesia, and emergency and critical care. Also, scholarships from NAVTA, TVTA, the Knoxville Veterinary Medical Association are available for qualified students.

The University of Tennesee Martin offers a vet tech program where the veterinary health technology option is a part of the animal science concentration of a bachelor of science in agriculture. In addition to general education requirements, students enrolled in the 120-credit hour UT Martin program will take coursework in animals, exotics, and pocket pets, exotic and companion animal management, behavior of farm and companion animals and more. Seventy-two percent of UT Martin VTNE test-takers passed on the first try between 2016 and 2019.

Vol State Community College offers an associate of applied science (AAS) in veterinary technology. The program at Vol State prepares vet techs for careers in agricultural businesses, veterinary practices, research facilities, wildlife rehabilitation and more. A competitive program of only 24 students per year, potential students must complete 20 hours of observation before applying. Vol State’s first-time VTNE pass rate between 2016 and 2019 was 55 percent.

For some students with familial, professional, or distance-based difficulties attending a program, there are some online veterinary technician schools available. These programs typically involve web-based classes and clinical work to be completed at approved preceptor sites located close to a student’s home. In addition to the five CVTEA-accredited, on-campus programs in TN, there were ten approved online vet tech programs across the US as of April 2020.

For instance, Colby Community College based in Kansas provides an online associate degree in veterinary technology with classes such as math for veterinary technicians, medical records and veterinary office skills, basic nutrition of domestic animals; and veterinary parasitology, among others. Classes begin in January, June, and August, and students also have the opportunity to join the Student Veterinary Technician Association (SVTA), a group which offers professional resources and community service opportunities. The SVTA also takes annual field trips sponsored by the college.

Purdue University of Indiana offers a CVTEA-accredited, distance-based associate of applied science (AAS) degree in veterinary technology. In a heady combination of 17 targeted clinical mentorships and 35 didactic courses such as small animal nursing and health management, imaging for veterinary technicians, and principles of anesthesia for veterinary technicians, this rigorous program is one of the more competitive online program options. In the web-based program between 2016 and 2019, 67 percent of Purdue’s graduates passed the VTNE on their first attempt, compared to 78 percent of the campus-based graduates.

For more information on distance-based programs, please visit the online veterinary technician programs page.

VETERINARY CAREER TENNESSEE JOBS SALARY DATA (BLS 2019)
LOW SALARY (10TH %ILE) MEDIAN HIGH SALARY (90TH %ILE)
VET TECH 1950 $20,730 $30,930 $46,740
VET ASSISTANT 2720 $18,020 $24,150 $33,230

Licensing for Vet Techs in Tennessee

As mentioned above, the state of Tennessee requires vet techs to be licensed prior to employment. The Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is the main professional credentialing agency for these animal healthcare specialists in the state and calls for the following:

  • Passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)
  • A notarized application
  • An $85 application fee
  • Two passport-style photographs
  • Proof of US or Canadian citizenship (e.g., birth certificate copy)
  • Official transcripts from a CVTEA-accredited veterinary technology program
  • Criminal background check

Additionally, this credential must be maintained annually following the completion of 12 hours of continuing education (CE). A maximum of four of these hours can be “multi-media courses” (i.e., completed online). The Tennessee Veterinary Technicians Association (TNTVA) provides a list of upcoming conferences and CE opportunities with additional resources provided by:

  • North American Veterinary Technicians Association (NAVTA)
  • VetMed Team
  • Veterinary Support Personnel Network (VSPN)

Vet Tech Program Accreditation

To qualify for professional licensure, certification, or registration in most states—including TN—an aspiring vet tech must typically complete a two- to four-year program accredited by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA), the program approval body established by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

The CVTEA—a programmatic accreditation body—weighs several factors in its program evaluation process such as institutional accreditation, comprehensiveness of curricula, student outcomes, quality of facilities and equipment, availability of student support services, and program finances.

Finally, Purdue University provides a detailed checklist of vet tech skills recommended by the AVMA which must be included as part of the curricula in any approved program.

Becca Brewer (Writer)

Becca is the co-founder of Limitless: An Adventure to Build a Better Future on a Thriving Earth. Limitless exists to inspire everyday people to join the millions of people across our planet who are already taking small and mighty steps to heal our earth in their everyday lives. To move people into action, Becca and her travel partner, Léandre Deryckere, share the life stories of everyday earth healers and impart what they learn as they tackle environmental projects around the globe. You can follow the adventure on Instagram at @LimitlessEcoAdventure, and join the project at Limitless.Eco.