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How to Become a Vet Tech in California

A veterinary technician is a person who performs a number of different types of duties to assist a veterinarian in caring for animals--in essence, the vet tech is the equivalent of a nurse for animals. Although there are other lower-level jobs in a veterinary office that may not require a specialized training, the position of veterinary technician in California does require applicants to be licensed and to have completed specific training requirements. The specific credential that is awarded by the state of California is "Registered Veterinary Technician" or RVT.

Becoming a Veterinary Technician in California

Find an accredited veterinary technician training program in your area that is recognized by the Veterinary Medical Board of California (see Resources). All of the recognized programs in California are offered either by community colleges or universities. A few examples of schools with veterinary technology programs are California State Polytechnic University, Pierce College and San Joaquin Valley College.

Check whether the program you wish to attend requires you to complete prerequisites before applying. (Some do and others do not). Examples of courses you may need to take before applying might include biology, chemistry or college algebra.

Complete any necessary prerequisites and then apply to the program of your choice. Plan to spend two years or more working on your training, depending on whether you are attending full- or part-time.

Complete an application to take the Registered Veterinary Technician licensing exam. The application is available on the website for California's Veterinary Medical Board. (See Resources.) You will need to pay a fee and show proof that you have completed the required training.

Sit for and pass the board exam, which is offered twice a year. You will now be licensed to use the title of registered veterinary technician and to apply for available jobs in your area, which you can find by checking with local veterinary offices or looking at local employment ads.

Alternate Routes to Becoming Eligible for Certification as a Vet Tech in California

Complete a non-approved veterinary technician training program, such as a foreign school, and then obtain 18 months of practical experience under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian who is willing to sign off on your application.

Obtain a bachelor's degree in a field related to animal science, such as zoology or veterinary medicine, then find a licensed veterinarian who can train you on the job and sign off on your application after you have 12 months of practical experience.

Become a registered veterinary technician in another state, including a registration process that involves a written practical exam or other national licensing exam. After you have 36 months of experience in the other state, you can apply for recognition in California.

Have a college degree in another field, then find a licensed veterinarian who is willing to take you as an apprentice of sorts and train you on the job. The veterinarian will need to teach you to perform a specific list of procedures and then will need to sign off on your number of work hours and ability in performing procedures such as dental prophylaxis and veterinary surgical assisting. You may also need to take theoretical courses at a local community college, such as courses in chemistry and biology, if they were not included as a part of your original degree. Check with the Veterinary Medical Board for more information on this option.

Complete one of the above options and then fill out the application form to take the licensing exam to become a vet tech in California.


Kay Daniels is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience writing and editing online. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Excelsior College, a certificate in copy editing from University of California, San Diego Extension, and is in her second year of medical school.