It takes great dedication and a passion for animals to work as a veterinary technician. Typically, you need an associate's degree in a veterinary technician program of study accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. In addition to a two-year degree, you must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, or AAVSB. You may then need to be certified and licensed before working in the field, depending upon the state where you gain employment.
A veterinary technician starting out in an entry-level position usually has little to no formal experience. Although your primary job function as a tech is to provide skilled medical assistance to the veterinarian, at this level, you may spend a good bit of time helping out with general office duties. Filing, typing, billing and answering phones are often part of the duties of a vet tech. More experience in this field equals more responsibility -- prepping animals for surgery, taking x-rays, collecting case histories, drawing blood and assisting the veterinarian in surgery.
Vet techs who want to become experts in a certain area can apply for VTS -- veterinary technician specialist -- training. Areas of specialty include dentistry, anesthesiology, internal medicine, emergency and critical care and animal behavior to name only a few. To reach specialist status, a tech generally needs 3-to-5 years of work experience beyond her education. She must apply for admission into a NAVTA-approved specialty program and submit examples of the work she's performed -- usually in the form of a case log. If accepted, she must complete the qualifications and pass the exam to become a certified specialist. Becoming a veterinary technician specialist may not lead to a higher salary right away, but it's a smart career step for those who want to advance within the field.
Certification requirements vary from state to state. In Minnesota, for instance, to become a CVT, or certified veterinary technician, you must graduate from a vet tech program that is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and must pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam. From there, it's a simple process of filling out the application for certification and paying the fee. Upon applying to work in another state, you may have to meet additional requirements -- Florida requires all out-of-state CVTs to take the Florida Practical Examination before entering the field. It's interesting to note, as well, that you must continue your education to become re-certified each year.
Obtaining a License
Some states, such as New York, require a vet tech to become licensed. In this state, you must have obtained a four-year degree either as a part of your veterinary training, or in addition to it, to become eligible. To become licensed, you must apply to take the state exam and pass it with an acceptable score. There are no other requirements involved with becoming an licensed veterinary technician, in fact, certification, licensing and registration -- at least in the field of veterinary technician -- are almost interchangeable. While there may be slight variations in requirements from state to state, becoming a credential veterinary technician always requires a college degree and a passing score on the VTNE.
2016 Salary Information for Veterinary Technologists and Technicians
Veterinary technologists and technicians earned a median annual salary of $32,490 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, veterinary technologists and technicians earned a 25th percentile salary of $26,870, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $38,950, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 102,000 people were employed in the U.S. as veterinary technologists and technicians.