Veterinary technicians, or vet techs, assist veterinarians in a variety of capacities. They help with animal care and laboratory procedures. To perform this job, certification often is required. In the United States and Canada, for example, certification, licensing or credentialing is required in approximately 40 states and provinces. To become a certified vet tech requires the passing of written and oral examinations administered by a government agency of veterinary examiners.
To be allowed to test for certification and become a certified vet tech, a two-year or four-year degree from an accredited school normally is required. In the United States, veterinary technician programs are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). There are more than 100 programs available. The majority of programs are at community colleges and result in associates degrees. There are fewer four-year programs available.
Having a two-year veterinary technician degree typically will gain you an entry-level position. The title "veterinary technician" commonly is used for anyone accredited in this occupation. The AVMA defines "veterinary technician," however, as someone receiving a two-year degree and "veterinary technologist" as someone with a four-year degree.
Whether you plan to study for two years or four years, preparing for a veterinary technician program can begin as early as high school. Taking classes in biology, zoology and other sciences and higher-level math courses will help you get accepted into a program and will benefit you after you are in college to become a certified vet tech. Even though there are a relatively large number of schools offering vet tech programs, class sizes typically are small, so admission can be competitive. Taking classes in language and communication while in high school or college also can be helpful, because veterinary technicians often must communicate with pet owners and others.
Additional certification might be required depending on the area of veterinary medicine in which you want to work. There are specialties within the veterinary technician profession that include internal medicine, emergency and critical care, dental care and others. If you decide to work with laboratory animals in the United States, as an example, you also will need to take certification exams through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. It is common for people, after they have become certified vet techs, to work in the field for a while before deciding whether they will pursue a specialty.
Having a sympathetic and empathic personality to work with sick animals and distraught pet owners is important in this job. Being emotionally strong and mature to function in sometimes distressing situations also is necessary. Being organized and attentive to details is helpful.