Veterinary Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Veterinary technicians must have a high school diploma. High school students who excel at math and science have a strong foundation on which to build. Those who have had pets or who simply love animals and would like to work with them also fit the profile of a veterinary technician.

Postsecondary Training

The main requirement is the completion of a two- to four-year college-based accredited program. Upon graduation, the student receives an associate's or bachelor's degree. Those who earn an associate's degree are considered veterinary technicians (who often work in private clinical practices under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian). Those who complete a bachelor's degree are typically known as veterinary technologists. Many technologists work in advanced research-related jobs, usually under the  supervision of a scientist and sometimes a veterinarian. Veterinary technology programs are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). AVMA-accredited programs are found in most states. A few states do their own accrediting, using the AVMA and associated programs as benchmarks.

Most accredited programs offer thorough course work and preparatory learning opportunities to the aspiring veterinary technician. Typical courses include mathematics, chemistry, humanities, biological science, communications, microbiology, liberal arts, ethics/jurisprudence, and basic computers.

Once the students complete this framework, they move on to more specialized courses. Students take advanced classes in animal nutrition, animal care and management, species/breed identification, veterinary anatomy/physiology, medical terminology, radiography and other clinical procedure courses, animal husbandry, parasitology, laboratory animal care, and large/small animal nursing.

Veterinary technicians must be prepared to assist in surgical procedures. In consideration of this, accredited programs offer surgical nursing courses. In these courses, a student learns to identify and use surgical instruments, administer anesthesia, and monitor animals during and after surgery.

In addition to classroom study, accredited programs offer practical courses. Hands-on education and training are commonly achieved through a clinical practicum, or internship, where the student has the opportunity to work in a clinical veterinary setting. During this period, a student is continuously evaluated by the participating veterinarian and encouraged to apply the knowledge and skills learned.

Other Education or Training

To keep abreast of new technology and applications in the field, practicing veterinary technicians may be required to complete a determined number of annual continuing education courses. Professional development seminars, webinars, workshops, and classes are provided by the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians, American Veterinary Medical Association, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) determines the majority of the national codes for veterinary technicians, but state codes and laws vary. Most states offer registration or certification, and the majority of these states require graduation from an AVMA-accredited program as a prerequisite for taking the Veterinary Technician National Examination or a similar state or local examination. Most colleges and universities assist graduates with registration and certification arrangements. The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science offers certification to veterinary technicians who are interested in working in research settings. The American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians and the Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians and Nurses also offer certification.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Completion of a postsecondary degree and a clinical practicum are required to become a veterinary technician.  

As a veterinarian technician, you should be able to meet, talk, and work well with a variety of people. An ability to communicate with the animal owner is as important as diagnostic skills. In clinical or private practice, it is usually the veterinary technician who conveys and explains treatment and subsequent animal care to the animal's owner. Technicians may have to help euthanize (that is, humanely kill) an animal that is very sick or severely injured and cannot get well. As a result, they must be emotionally stable and able to help pet owners deal with their grief and loss.