Veterinary Technician
Schools and Programs

Veterinary technician schools offer several different training paths and specialties. Even the savviest researchers can be quickly overwhelmed with the options, and varying state licensing requirements do not help. This guide offers prospective students a crash course in veterinary technician training programs, licensing considerations, and career paths.

Veterinary Technician Schools and Programs

Veterinary technicians could almost be described as the nurses of the animal world. When animals get sick or injured, vet techs examine them, administer first aid, collect laboratory samples, and perform certain tests under the direction of licensed veterinarians. Providing this type of hands-on animal care requires formal training and, in most cases, professional licensure. Candidates must graduate from veterinary technician schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam to be licensed.

The AVMA has accredited more than 200 veterinary technician schools in the United States, including a handful of online programs. Associate degrees are by far the most common training path, but some students can begin with certificates or earn bachelor’s degrees instead. The North American Veterinary Technician Association reports that demand for more specialized technicians has resulted in more programs offering targeted training in areas such as dental health, surgical technology, nutrition, zoological medicine, and more. Prospective students can visit the AVMA website for a complete list of accredited veterinary technician schools, including the following types of institutions.

Vocational Schools

Vocational and technician schools offer certificates, diplomas, and degrees designed with career readiness in mind. Program lengths vary, but some vocational schools offer accelerated programs that minimize general education requirements in favor of more industry-focused curricula such as animal anatomy, veterinary pharmacology, and parasitology. Most schools require students to complete internships with local veterinary practices, and vocational programs are no exception.

Because career schools are popular among working professionals, evening, weekend and even online classes are common. Prospective students can call or visit schools online to clarify learning options, program details, and accreditation status.

Community Colleges

Many community colleges offer veterinary technician certificates and associate degrees. Some even have career development and continuing education courses for practicing techs seeking re-certification. Because community colleges serve both university- and workforce-bound students, many veterinary technician students complete a balance of general education and specialized courses–a trend that makes these programs a solid fit for students mulling over advanced degrees in areas such as veterinary technology or veterinary medicine. Whatever students’ goals, community colleges offer much of the same veterinary technician training as career colleges, but with a public school price tag. Program lengths vary, but usually require two years or less of full-time study. Most community colleges publish veterinary technician curricula, course descriptions, and graduation requirements online for easy review.

Four-Year Schools

Some four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in veterinary technology, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that they are far less prevalent than the certificate and associate degree programs community colleges and vocational veterinary technician schools commonly offer. Nonetheless, the additional two years of study means students can hone a much deeper understanding of animal disease, veterinary radiology, surgical nursing, anesthesia, and other advanced topics. Additional courses in areas like lab animal science and clinical procedures can also help students qualify for careers as licensed veterinary technologists. Like community colleges, four-year schools usually require veterinary technicians to supplement this specialized coursework with general education classes in.

Veterinary Technician Schools

Independent veterinary technician schools are incredibly rare: vocational schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges account for almost all programs in the United States. There are, however, other options for students who do not have access to these institutions. The American Veterinary Medical Association has fully accredited a handful of online veterinary technician schools, though that number is likely to grow with time.

Alternate training routes are another option for students unable to complete formal education, but are state-dependent. In California, for instance, the California Veterinary Medicine Practice Act allows residents who do not have degrees but meet other requirements–such as having 300 hours of relevant education and nearly 4,500 hours of practical experience–to become registered veterinary technicians.

Top Veterinary Technician Schools 2016-2017

Those looking for an emotionally rewarding program that teaches them to care for sick and injured animals may consider pursuing a career as a veterinary technician. Since many businesses and organizations have a high demand for veterinary technicians, there are many academic options available for prospective students. Through extensive analysis, we have found the top veterinary technician schools to help students find the right program for them. Explore the best veterinary technician schools below.

Rank School Name Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-Teacher Ratio Grad RateDescriptionPlacement Services Counseling Services Credit for Experience
1
San Juan College
99.80 $$$$$ 28% 3 20:1 N/A

Located in Farmington, New Mexico, San Juan College offers a two-year program in veterinarian technology within their online campus. The veterinary technology distance learning program (VTDLP) lasts 12 weeks, and is accredited by the AVMA. The required prerequisite and general studies classes are based on a more-traditional 16-week semester. The flexible classes demand four to six hours of time per week, and students can expect to complete between one and four courses per semester. Graduates will receive an AAS degree and earn the right to take the VTNE test to qualify for Vet Tech certification.

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2
Athens Technical College
98.94 $$$$$ 1% 2 13:1 N/A

Athens Technical College, located just over an hour northeast of Atlanta, offers an associate degree in veterinary technology, training students to assist veterinarians in private clinics, non-profit animal rescue facilities, emergency pet clinics, and animal hospitals. Vet techs will learn to work with not just cats and dogs, but other types of pets, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, cattle and primates. Opening in 1958 as the Athens Area Vocational Technical Institute, ATC offers Georgians affordable, quality education, with a faculty that boasts real-world, hands-on experience. Graduates will qualify to stand for both state and national Veterinary Technician certification.

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3
Windward Community College
98.63 $$$$$ 27% 2 23:1 N/A

Veterinary Technicians may pursue an Associate in Science at the University of Hawaii's Windward Community College, a degree program that combines classroom instruction, practical experience with live animals, with hands-on laboratory experience. Training includes nutrition, dentistry, anesthesiology, radiology, pharmacology, and surgical assisting. The program, fully-accredited program (AVMA), is the only college in Hawaii to offer this degree program for veterinary healthcare professionals. Students intern at three of WCC's 20+ clinics and shelters, working alongside industry professionals, being evaluated, and networking for future employment opportunities. Located in Kaneohe, WCC makes a special commitment to support Native Hawaiians.

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4
Chattanooga State Community College
98.52 $$$$$ 9% 2 18:1 N/A

The veterinary technician curriculum at Chattanooga State Community College is a five-semester, full-time program culminating in an associate of applied science degree. The regionally-accredited, Chattanooga, Tennessee-based institution with two satellite campuses in Dayton and Kimball offers students the veterinarian equivalent of a registered nurse program for animals. The degree plan is fully-accredited through the AVMA, with graduates qualified to stand for the VTNE exam, to become a licensed veterinary medical technician. Students will focus on practical vet skills, including assisting in surgeries, radiology, dentistry, lab testing, pharmacology, treatments and preventative care.

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5
Northshore Technical Community College
98.32 $$$$$ 18% 3 21:1 N/A

The veterinary technology degree program at Northshore Technical Community College prepares students for employment with veterinary clinics, animal shelters, emergency animal hospitals and doctors in private practice. Located across southern Louisiana, and north of Lake Ponchitrain, Northshore prepares graduates of this six-semester, two-year program the opportunity to take the VTNE certification exam to become a licensed veterinarian technologist. The fully COE-accredited career-oriented school focuses on practical knowledge and real-world skills. Students will work under the supervision of veterinarians and working vet techs with a variety of both domestic pets and farm animals.

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6
Lone Star College
98.09 $$$$$ 13% 2 18:1 N/A

Lone Star College has over a half-dozen campuses across the greater Houston, Texas metro area. Offering affordable classes, this accredited school provides credits that transfer to a four-year institution, saving students the high cost of tuition towards a bachelor's degree in agribusiness or animal science. Their two-year veterinary technology program results in an associate of applied sciences degree, and prepared them for exams to become certified vet techs, with a 99.98% passage rate. Working with both domestic and farm animals, graduates will be qualified to work in a variety of roles, on farms, ranches, in clinics, and animal hospitals.

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7
Southern Regional Technical College
97.81 $$$$$ N/A 2 12:1 N/A

The veterinary technology discipline at Southern Regional Technical College is designed to prepare students at vet techs with veterinary hospitals, emergency care facilities, on farms and ranches, and with vets in private practice, treating both domestic and farm animals. After passing a combination of classroom instruction, labs, and hands-on clinical work, graduates earn an associate of applied sciences degree, and become eligible to take exams to certify them as a registered veterinary technician. The six semester-long program is analogous to training to be a registered nurse to assist physicians and human patients.

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8
Front Range Community College
97.66 $$$$$ 9% 2 20:1 N/A

With a goal of training students for careers in the real world, Front Range Community College offers a two-year associates degree in applied science with a concentration on veterinarian technology. With four locations across Colorado, FRCC's vet tech degree covers topics including anatomy, anesthesia, medical and surgical nursing, pharmacology, physiology, and parasitology. Students will complete classroom, labs and clinical studies, working with a variety of household pets, farm animals, and exotics. Graduates of the program will be prepared to take exams that will allow them to become a certified vet tech in the state of Colorado.

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9
Arkansas State University - Beebe
97.04 $$$$$ 34% 1 17:1 N/A

Class size for Arkansas State University's Associate of Applied Science Degree in Veterinary Technology program is limited to 40 students. Eligibility to take the Veterinary Technology National Examination is one of the program outcomes. Adults who pass the exam become certified veterinary technicians. Other program outcomes include skills to examine and treat animals, including wildlife and farm animals. A reference letter should accompany student applications. To get into the program, students should also have completed at least 20 hours of work or observation at a veterinary clinic. All applicants are interviewed as part of the admissions process.

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10
Cosumnes River College
96.87 $$$$$ N/A 2 30:1 N/A

A strong biology background is beneficial when applying for admittance into Cosumnes River College's Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology degree program. The college recently intensified its biology prerequisite, requiring applicants to complete an advanced biology course. The more rigorous prerequisite is in keeping with the program's core curriculum. Classes are challenging throughout the program. In addition to hands-on experience, students learn how to perform surgical, dental and emergency care on animals. What they learn in class prepares them to pass a state certification board exam. The program is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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11
Hinds Community College
96.81 $$$$$ 22% 1 18:1 N/A

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12
Tulsa Community College
96.65 $$$$$ 39% 1 17:1 N/A

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13
Eastern Wyoming College
96.52 $$$$$ 63% 2 17:1 N/A

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14
Bellingham Technical College
96.51 $$$$$ 14% 2 22:1 N/A

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15
Crowder College
96.37 $$$$$ 18% 1 15:1 N/A

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16
Cedar Valley College
96.19 $$$$$ 2% 2 26:1 N/A

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17
Mesa Community College
96.17 $$$$$ 25% 1 20:1 N/A

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18
Murray State College
96.06 $$$$$ 30% 1 16:1 N/A

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19
Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College
96.01 $$$$$ 9% 1 18:1 N/A

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20
Gwinnett Technical College
96.00 $$$$$ N/A 2 20:1 N/A

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21
Northeast Community College
95.82 $$$$$ 38% 1 17:1 N/A

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22
Jefferson College
95.74 $$$$$ 12% 1 19:1 N/A

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23
Truckee Meadows Community College
95.72 $$$$$ 22% 1 19:1 N/A

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24
Northwest Mississippi Community College
95.65 $$$$$ 26% 1 23:1 N/A

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25
Western Iowa Tech Community College
95.65 $$$$$ 46% 1 17:1 N/A

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26
Alamance Community College
95.49 $$$$$ 16% 2 15:1 N/A

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27
Owensboro Community and Technical College
95.45 $$$$$ 4% 1 13:1 N/A

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28
Delaware Technical Community College-Owens
95.38 $$$$$ 15% 1 13:1 N/A

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29
Blue Ridge Community College
95.31 $$$$$ 15% 2 21:1 N/A

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30
Weatherford College
95.22 $$$$$ 16% 1 18:1 N/A

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31
Hillsborough Community College
95.05 $$$$$ 9% 1 23:1 N/A

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32
Middlesex Community College
95.01 $$$$$ 28% 1 17:1 N/A

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33
Columbus State Community College
94.90 $$$$$ 20% 1 19:1 N/A

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34
Delgado Community College
94.67 $$$$$ 2% 1 19:1 N/A

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35
Iowa Lakes Community College
94.53 $$$$$ 47% 1 15:1 N/A

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36
Eastern Iowa Community College District
94.40 $$$$$ 17% 1 17:1 N/A

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37
College of Southern Idaho
94.30 $$$$$ 46% 2 21:1 N/A

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38
Pierpont Community and Technical College
94.23 $$$$$ 14% 1 15:1 N/A

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39
Norwalk Community College
94.09 $$$$$ 26% 1 19:1 N/A

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40
Volunteer State Community College
94.07 $$$$$ 10% 1 21:1 N/A

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41
Gaston College
94.06 $$$$$ 1% 1 20:1 N/A

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42
Harcum College
93.97 $$$$$ 94% 1 15:1 N/A

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43
Jefferson State Community College
93.95 $$$$$ 15% 1 20:1 N/A

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44
North Shore Community College
93.83 $$$$$ 14% 1 15:1 N/A

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45
Linn-Benton Community College
93.79 $$$$$ 4% 1 19:1 N/A

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46
Ogeechee Technical College
93.73 $$$$$ N/A 2 16:1 N/A

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47
Central Oregon Community College
93.56 $$$$$ 8% 1 20:1 N/A

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48
Genesee Community College
93.53 $$$$$ 14% 1 17:1 N/A

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49
Northeast Iowa Community College-Calmar
93.49 $$$$$ 12% 1 14:1 N/A

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50
Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture
93.45 $$$$$ 66% 2 15:1 N/A

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Rank School Name Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % Total Programs Student-Teacher Ratio Grad RateDescriptionPlacement Services Counseling Services Credit for Experience
1
Colorado Mountain College
99.73 $$$$$ 36% 2 13:1 N/A

Colorado Mountain College operates a 2600 square foot animal hospital. The college also operates a 220-acre outdoor facility near the Elk Mountains. Training for the Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology takes place at the Spring Valley campus. Students work in outdoor pens, a six stall barn and a science lab. Types of animals that students care for at the facilities are dogs, cats, horses, cows and sheep. Classes prepare students to become veterinary technicians who work with licensed veterinary doctors. To graduate, students are required to meet American Veterinary Medical Association task standards.

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2
St Petersburg College
98.94 $$$$$ 23% 3 22:1 N/A

St. Petersburg College's undergraduate veterinary technician programs prepare adults to work at a variety of locations. Among these locations are zoos, emergency hospitals, animal clinics, research laboratories, animal control departments and private veterinary facilities. Available degrees are the Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology, the Bachelor of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology and the Veterinary Practice Management certificate. The certificate is a bachelor's level credential. It's possible to complete the associate degree on campus or online. Hands-on training is gained at a 32,000 square foot facility. The facility consists of new classrooms, kennels, x-ray rooms, a surgery center and laboratories.

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3
Lincoln Memorial University
98.18 $$$$$ 97% 2 13:1 45%

At Lincoln Memorial University, veterinary training is comprehensive and challenging. The school offers a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Health Science and an Associate of Science in Veterinary Medical Technology. In addition to working at private veterinary centers, students who graduate from the programs could treat house pets and wild and exotic animals at zoos, hospitals, research centers and animal clinics. Work that they perform could also impact public animal health initiatives. Animal behavior, biology, anesthesia and diagnostic research are types of classes that students can expect to take. To apply for the program, students must complete a university application and an application that is specific to the veterinary medicine program.

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4
Becker College
97.84 $$$$$ 100% 2 16:1 29%

Becker College administers its veterinary technician training programs through its School of Animal Studies and Natural Sciences. The associate degree is in animal care. The bachelor of science degree is in equine studies, a program that also offers a vet science concentration track. Other areas that students can specialize in are laboratory animal management, veterinary technology and clinical and laboratory animal medicine. On campus is a veterinary clinic. A few miles from campus is the Becker Equestrian Center. The center is spread across 30 acres and includes a horse barn and animal boarding facilities.

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5
Medaille College
97.30 $$$$$ 77% 2 17:1 45%

Instructors of Medaille College's veterinary medicine degree programs are experienced veterinarians. Mentoring and real life animal care training is provided during the college's Associate in Applied Science in Veterinary Technology program. The program offers experiential learning. Accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the degree program is taught at the Rochester campus. Comparative anatomy, veterinary clinical laboratory techniques, animal care and management and health sciences are examples of classes built into the curriculum. Classes extend across a seven week term. It takes 70 credits and 2.5 years to graduate as a full-time student.

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6
SUNY College of Technology at Canton
97.23 $$$$$ 16% 2 17:1 32%

SUNY College of Technology at Canton takes a comprehensive approach with its veterinary technology programs. In addition to classroom, laboratory and field training, the program has a residency requirement. To meet the residency requirement, students complete the VSCT 2011 and 9 or more hours of coursework. The Associate in Applied Science in Veterinary Technology degree prepares students to work as technicians at places like animal hospitals, clinics, zoos, government facilities and animal parks. The associate degree also prepares students to enter the college's Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology program. Admittance into the programs includes three vaccinations, one which is the pre-exposure rabies vaccination.

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7
University of Alaska Fairbanks
96.61 $$$$$ 43% 1 14:1 33%

Admission into University of Alaska Fairbanks veterinary technician program is selective. Classes are kept small to allow for personalized training and question and answer sessions with instructors. Basic and advanced skills are provided during the training that covers areas like biology, animal anatomy, veterinary science, x-rays and animal management. Graduates of the program have worked in zoos and on wildlife animal parks located in the United States and abroad. The school recently rolled out a Professional Veterinary Medical program in conjunction with Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The new program aims to help reduce the shortage of veterinarians in Alaska and other parts of the United States.

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8
Murray State University
96.58 $$$$$ 70% 1 16:1 54%

A Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Veterinary Technology is offered at Murray State University. Several buildings on campus have dedicated space for the training. Agriculture portions of the training take place in the Oakley Applied Science Building and at the equine instructional facility. Veterinary technology training takes place at the Carman Animal Health Technology Center. Learning environments include kennels, a pharmacy, laboratories and farm complexes. Specific topics that students learn about include horse science, small animal diseases, animal anatomy, equine reproduction and animal nutrition.

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9
Madison Area Technical College
96.41 $$$$$ 15% 1 11:1 N/A

Madison Area Technical College's Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology program is taught at the Madison campus and at the Truax campus. Students must submit an application and have a high school diploma or transfer credits from another accredited institution. To take the classes, students must also be able to lift and carry at least 50 pounds. Good vision, hearing and color recognition are also required. Full and part-time classes are offered in subjects like diagnostic imaging, animal nursing, animal disease and animal care and management. Outcomes include knowledge and skills to become a certified veterinary technician and the ability to give animal medications, collect samples, conduct laboratory exams and provide general care for animals.

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10
Daytona State College
96.12 $$$$$ 24% 1 18:1 N/A

Classroom and distance education training is available through the Daytona State College associate veterinary technology program. The program operates in partnership with St. Petersburg College. The distance education portion of the training is administered through St. Petersburg College. Training for core courses is in person at Daytona State College. Allowed GPA is 2.0 or higher. The program is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Skills and work functions that the training prepares students to complete include x-raying animals, treating wounds, helping to diagnose diseases and educating pet owners on how to care for injured animals.

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11
Pensacola State College
95.90 $$$$$ 23% 1 21:1 N/A

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12
Eastern Florida State College
95.81 $$$$$ 9% 1 24:1 N/A

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13
Mississippi State University
95.80 $$$$$ 68% 1 19:1 58%

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14
Siena Heights University
95.70 $$$$$ 99% 1 11:1 43%

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15
Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City
95.64 $$$$$ 10% 1 19:1 N/A

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16
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
95.58 $$$$$ 48% 1 20:1 36%

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17
University of Maine at Augusta
95.30 $$$$$ 26% 1 17:1 13%

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18
Miami Dade College
95.24 $$$$$ 24% 1 23:1 N/A

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19
University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash College
95.16 $$$$$ 32% 1 18:1 N/A

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20
New England Institute of Technology
94.75 $$$$$ 73% 1 13:1 N/A

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21
North Dakota State University-Main Campus
94.49 $$$$$ 37% 1 19:1 53%

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22
Baker College of Flint
94.12 $$$$$ 84% 1 24:1 10%

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23
Baker College of Port Huron
94.10 $$$$$ 74% 1 19:1 32%

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24
Baker College of Muskegon
93.87 $$$$$ 80% 1 33:1 18%

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25
Baker College of Clinton Township
93.59 $$$$$ 85% 1 25:1 14%

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26
Purdue University-Main Campus
90.01 $$$$$ 47% 2 12:1 70%

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27
Morehead State University
89.73 $$$$$ 70% 2 18:1 43%

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28
Michigan State University
89.08 $$$$$ 44% 2 17:1 79%

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29
Navajo Technical University
87.77 $$$$$ 1% 1 14:1 N/A

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30
Fort Valley State University
87.73 $$$$$ 8% 1 17:1 29%

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31
Otterbein University
87.63 $$$$$ 99% 1 10:1 59%

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32
University of Alaska Anchorage
87.48 $$$$$ 44% 1 19:1 26%

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33
Vermont Technical College
87.25 $$$$$ 49% 1 10:1 52%

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34
SUNY College of Technology at Alfred
87.08 $$$$$ 81% 1 18:1 52%

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35
Tuskegee University
86.83 $$$$$ 24% 1 13:1 46%

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36
SUNY College of Technology at Delhi
86.77 $$$$$ 77% 1 17:1 57%

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37
Kent State University at Tuscarawas
86.42 $$$$$ 35% 1 21:1 18%

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38
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
86.39 $$$$$ 69% 1 21:1 65%

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39
Brigham Young University-Idaho
86.23 $$$$$ 36% 1 25:1 52%

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40
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus
86.00 $$$$$ 64% 1 19:1 78%

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Veterinary Technician Schools Must-Have Checklist

With so many different program options available today, some aspiring veterinary technicians may find it challenging to find the perfect program. There are hundreds of accredited veterinary technician schools in the United States, and a small-but-growing share of online programs makes training even more accessible. Each school strives to be unique, which means no two are ever truly alike. Degrees, courses, learning platforms, and even student services vary. What should savvy researchers look for when weighing their options? The following criteria are a good start.

Accreditation.

Accreditation refers to a process by which independent organizations review and certify that veterinary technician schools’ curricula, resources, policies, and practices meet set program and quality criteria. Most students must earn a degree or certificate from an accredited program in order to be licensed, but even those not subject to such requirements can use accreditation as a measure of program quality and consistency. There are several state and national accrediting agencies, but AVMA is by far the most widely recognized organization. Prospective students can visit the AVMA online to review approved programs.

Certificate & Degrees.

The field of veterinary medicine has no shortage of degree and certificate options, but some are better for veterinary technicians than others. The BLS reports that the vast majority of veterinary technology schools offer associate degrees. Most states and employers require these two-year credentials, and those that do not will likely follow suit in the near future. This shift means most certificates are now more suitable for veterinary assistants who perform little to no clinical work. Four-year bachelor’s degrees are rare, but generally cater to future veterinary technologists in clinical laboratories. Some veterinary technician schools offer special career certificates, not to be confused with postsecondary certificates.

Specializations.

Like human medicine, veterinary medicine spans several different areas. Some veterinary technician schools allow students to specialize in one or more of these areas through certification programs and targeted associate degree tracks. Employer demand for this specialized training is so fierce that the NAVTA launched a Committee on Veterinary Technicians Specialties to address it. The Committee, recognized by the AVMA, awards Veterinary Technician Specialists designations to techs with focused training in areas such as veterinary dental care, anesthesia, zoological medicine, clinical practice and surgical technology, among others. Prospective students should consider their options and choose tracks that meet their personal and professional interests.

Resources & Facilities.

Veterinary technicians perform vital tests and exams, often times using sophisticated equipment, on scared patients, many of which have claws and fangs. Everyone involved benefits when techs know how to use these tools in a way that minimizes fear, injury, and other risks. Schools that offer hands-on experience using these tools with live animals give graduates an edge in this area. That being said, prospective students should research schools’ facilities, including labs equipment, and look for opportunities that will put them in touch with live animals. The latter is especially important for students specializing in zoological or exotic animal care.

Internships & Coordination Services.

Learning how to perform various procedures and tests is a big part of veterinary technician training, but doings so in a busy practice with paying customers is its own special skill. Internships offer precisely this type of clinical training. In fact, internships are considered such an essential part of training that the AVMA only accredits veterinary technician schools that require them. Even online schools must follow suit, though students can usually complete an internship at a local practice. Internships are a valuable part of any school’s curricula, but finding them can be tricky. Excellent coordination and support services minimize this stress. Future students should consider internship components and related services when comparing schools.

Veterinary Technician Degrees and Certificates

Veterinary technician schools offer a wide range of credentials. Certificates are the most basic, conveying the most fundamental skills and knowledge. This means that they may be more suitable for veterinary assistants who perform few clinical tasks. Associate degrees are by far the most common training path. These programs usually require about two years of study and focus on the skills that veterinary technicians will put into practice every single day while on the job. Almost all states require veterinary technicians to earn associate degrees to practice.

Bachelor’s degrees the least common and tend to be clinical programs geared towards veterinary technologists. In fact, according to the BLS, most of these four-year programs target veterinary technologists working in scientific laboratories–not technicians in veterinary practices. These programs may nonetheless appeal to technicians looking for a competitive edge or considering more advanced careers in the field.

Veterinary Technician Associate Degrees

Associate degrees are hands-down the most popular credential that schools offer for vet techs. Associate of Science (A.S.) and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees in Veterinary Technology, Veterinary Science, or Animal Science are just a few examples of academic options. Some associate programs also offer concentrations in NAVTA-approved specialties. At this level, 75 to 80 credit hours is typically the norm, which equates to approximately two years of full-time study. Accelerated options, however, can reduce this time to 18 months or less. Most veterinary technician schools require students to take general education classes in areas such as math, social science, and English in addition to core veterinary coursework. Laboratory classes and practical internships round out the degree program.

Here is an inside look at actual courses from real associate-level veterinary technician programs:

Clinical Veterinary Experience

This course includes requires both classroom and laboratory work. The former introduces students to basic veterinary medical terminology, animal behavior and nursing care. The laboratory component provides hands-on experience handling and treating live animals through a local or campus-based clinic. Biology is a common prerequisite.

Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals

Students enrolled in this class study and compare the anatomy and physiology of dogs, cats, birds, mice, horses and other domestic animals. They learn about individual organs and biological systems, including skeletal, circulatory, digestive and respiratory systems.

Veterinary Pharmacology

This class introduces veterinary medicines, their practical application and common side effects. Students will study when to use what medications, and with which species. They will also learn to properly administer, handle and properly dose medications.

Externship

This required component gives students practical, hands-on experience in real veterinary practices under the direction of licensed veterinarians. Students must successfully complete at least 200 hours of externship and a campus-based seminar to graduate.

Veterinary Technician and Technologist Bachelor’s Degrees

Though rare, some schools do offer bachelor’s degrees, but these programs generally tend to be more tailored toward future veterinary technologists in medical and scientific laboratories. Vet techs may still enroll in such programs, whether to boost their resumes or open doors to more advanced careers in the near future. Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees in Veterinary Technology, Veterinary Science or Animal Science are common options. These programs typically require about 120 credit hours, or four years of full-time study, but special completion programs can minimize requirements for students with relevant associate degrees.

Students seeking bachelor’s degrees complete a balance of general education courses, core courses, and specialized electives in both classroom and laboratory settings. Upper division courses can be highly technical and commonly include mandatory capstone projects or practicums. Some programs offer targeted specialty tracks in areas such as veterinary, clinical, and hospital management.

The following table features typical classes from actual veterinary technology bachelor’s degree programs.

Safety and Regulatory Compliance

This course introduces students to the safety and regulatory laws and best practices that impact veterinary technologists in medical and scientific settings. Units typically cover personal and patient safety; human resources; license and permit requirements; occupational health regulations; and ethics.

Introduction to Veterinary Technology Research

This mandatory course offers students a high-level understanding of the role and scope of research in the field of veterinary technology. Common themes include basic research strategies, methodologies and design.

Veterinary Technology Leadership

Students enrolled in this core course learn leadership theories, concepts and principles relevant to veterinary technology management. Topics include leadership development, communication, organization and behavior.

Veterinary Technology Capstone Project

This course requires students to apply what they have learned in a professional capacity, usually through internships or supervised research projects. It is usually offered during students’ final semesters; students must earn a C or higher to graduate.

Veterinary Technician Certificates & Diplomas

Stricter state licensing standards have made veterinary technician certificates and diplomas virtually extinct. Only experienced techs “grandfathered” into licensure or living in states that permit alternative training paths can get by with anything less than an associate degree. Most certificates are now in veterinary assisting, which has fewer clinical responsibilities.

It is important to distinguish postsecondary certificates from professional certificates. Professional certificates are designed for trained and licensed veterinary technicians who want to become Certified Veterinary Technicians (CVTs), or wish to be certified in a NAVTA-approved specialization. These are generally awarded by organizations within the field and help demonstrate professional expertise. Postsecondary certificates, on the other hand, are awarded by colleges and universities after a student completes an academic program in a specific area of knowledge.

Veterinary Technician Toolbox

So far this guide has emphasized the importance of veterinary technician schools and degrees, but formal training is not the only thing vet techs need to succeed. This section breaks down many of the skills that really set veterinary technicians apart, including those that cannot be learned in a classroom.

  • Professional knowledge.

    All veterinary technicians need certain practical skills to do their jobs well. These include knowing how to how to:

    Examine and monitor animal health

    Select and administer medications, vaccinations and other treatments

    Administer and monitor animals under anesthesia

    Collect specimens and perform certain laboratory tests

    Use, sterilize, and maintain medical instruments and equipment

    Handle and restrain animals during exams, procedures, and tests

    Administer basic first aid

    Keep and interpret paper or electronic medical records

    Explain procedures, tests, and other health indicators to animal owners

  • Workplace skills.

    Veterinary technicians benefit from having other key skills that may or may not be taught in the classroom. Among them are:

    Basic computer skills

    Knowledge and proper use of medical software, including electronic recordkeeping Familiarity with common office tools, including telephones, copy machines and fax machines

    Advanced math skills

    Strong communication skills, both verbal and written

    A warm disposition and bedside manner

  • Personal qualities.

    Some of the qualities that really set veterinary technicians apart are more innate, including aptitude in the following areas:

    Critical thinking

    Working independently and in teams

    Deductive and inductive reasoning

    Judgment and decision-making

    Problem solving

    Active listening

    Verbal and written expression

    Auditory and reading comprehension

    Keen eyesight and strong attention to detail

    Information ordering and prioritization

  • Other key resume-builders.

    All veterinary technicians must be properly trained to practice, but employers also consider other factors when reviewing candidate resumes. Among them are:

    Current licensure or registration, depending on the state

    Voluntary certifications and specializations

    Continuing education units

    Membership in educational and professional organizations

    Extracurricular and community service activities

    Practical experience, on-the-job or via externships

    Work history

    Personal and professional recommendations

Vet Technologists and Technicians: Is there a difference?

“Vet techs” can include veterinary technicians and technologists, but these are two distinct groups. Key differences:

Vet Technician Vet Technologist
Education Associate degree Bachelor’s degree
Work setting/Environment Veterinary practices and offices or zoos Research labs
Type of Patient Pets and livestock Laboratory animals
Supervision Supervised by licensed veterinarian Supervised by scientist
Interaction with people Daily, including colleagues, veterinarians, and pet owners Technologists rarely work with the public

Veterinary Technician Specializations

Many veterinary technician schools teach students how care for and treat a wide breadth of animals in an even wider breadth of medical disciplines. This training works because most veterinary practices are more general in scope, but what about tech who work in clinics delivering more specialized care, such as an emergency room, surgical center, or exotic animal practice? Even vet techs who do not work in these settings may become more experienced with (or passionate about) certain fields of care. Pursuing a specialization can help established professionals as well as current or prospective students hone their skills on a particular area of personal and professional interest.

There are two ways veterinary technicians can become more specialized–the first of which is by enrolling in a program that offers the desired area of concentration. Students who want to work in emergency clinics or zoos, for instance, might pursue associate degrees with concentrations in surgical technology or exotic animal care. Because bachelor’s degrees are often designed for veterinary technologists, concentrations tend to be more research- or management-oriented.

The second common path to specialization is professional certification. Professional certifications allow new and practicing vet technicians to become certified in certain NAVTA-approved areas, usually by meeting certain education requirements and passing a national exam. Vet techs can be certified in several different areas; for example, anesthesia, critical care, zoological medicine, and equine nursing. For a full list of approved specializations, visit the NAVTA.

Interview with a Veterinary Technician

Brita Fordice did not get her start as a veterinary technician. Like many techs, she was a vet assistant who advanced her career through hard work, training, and a fortunate licensing break. In the following Q&A, Brita shares lessons learned, experiences gained, and valuable insights for the next generation of veterinary technicians.

Andrea Holley
What inspired you to work in veterinary care?

I love the medical field, but didn’t want to go through medical school, and definitely didn’t want to work on humans.

What was your first step?

I was a vet assistant. The photo [I shared] was taken on my first day at a clinic in (Washington State) where I started as an entry-level assistant with my new puppy, Chesney.

How did you eventually become a veterinary technician?

I attended a few veterinary technician schools around 2001–the Bel Rea Institute of Veterinary Technology and Bryman College online–but was “grandfathered up” to technician after three years of clinical work as a veterinary assistant. I was eligible to take the [Veterinary Technician National Examination] after my residency changed from Alaska to Washington. I studied McCurnin’s textbook for Veterinary Technicians to get my pharmacology and epidemiology up to par for the exam. It was very useful. My college biology background helped immensely as well.

Can you tell us about the rest of the licensing process?

It was fairly painless. The most annoying part was getting all paperwork together. All prior certificates, continuing education courses, test results, and work history. There was a ton of things to keep track of and submit.

What is the best thing about being a veterinary technician?

The bond you develop with coworkers in a high-pressure environment and the fact that [you can] work three 13s (three 13-hour shifts) and get the rest of the week off. And essentially getting to wear pajamas to work daily.

After Veterinary Technician School: What’s Next?

The first thing many new veterinary technician school graduates do is become licensed. All states require vet techs to be licensed, but specific licensure requirements vary. In most cases, candidates must have associate degrees and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Candidates can visit the AAVSB website to learn more about the test and related requirements. New vet techs may also pursue Certified Veterinary Technician designations or other, more specialized certifications. These voluntary credentials can be a major resume boost, but may require specialized training or experience few recent graduates have. Veterinary technicians can research professional certification requirements and keep them in mind when applying for new positions.

Most new veterinary technicians begin work in private clinics and animal hospitals, but some head to boarding kennels, animal shelters, or zoos. Those working in practices that treat livestock may even work in the field. Duties vary, but usually include examining animals, administering basic medical care, and performing laboratory tests and procedures. Techs may also assist veterinarians in surgery and teach animal owners how to properly care for their pets. The work can be gratifying, but stressful–especially for techs in busy clinics or settings that handle a lot of abused, unwanted, or critically ill animals. Aggressive and scared animals can also bite, scratch and kick, a hazard the BLS says subjects veterinary technicians to higher-than-average rates of illness and injury.

The best way to learn more about the veterinary field is experiencing it first-hand. Internships, entry-level clerical or vet assisting jobs, and volunteer work are all excellent starting points.

Advice from a Veterinary Technician

“Get a job in a clinic as vet assistant or kennel assistant! Many
clinics are more likely to train someone than hire someone fresh out of school with no work experience outside the lab.”

Brita Fordice