A veterinary technician provides supportive care and services to animals in a veterinary practice or hospital. Their role is to assist the veterinarian in the treatment of injured or ill animals and to implement the healthcare plan. There are two steps required to become a veterinary technician: post-secondary education and experience.
There are two types of veterinary technicians: large and small animal. Large animal technicians work with horses, cows, goats, livestock and working animals. Small animal technicians work with dogs, cats, birds and other pets.
There are three post-secondary educations programs available: two, three, or four-year programs. The two and three year programs are provided by community or career colleges, which issue associate’s degree in veterinary technology. The four-year program is available from select universities and provides a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology. Many states require veterinary technicians to complete a certification exam in order to be licensed for work in this capacity.
The certification exam is organized and issued by each state's Veterinary Medical Board (VMB) and there are specific duties that a technician is allowed to perform. Certified technicians are automatically enrolled as members of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America (NATVA). This association provides opportunities for networking, continuing education opportunities, and annual conventions.
Experience as a veterinary technician is a requirement for positions in most large facilities. This experience is often obtained through the work placement term that is part of the college and university programs. Additional experience can be obtained by volunteering or working as a veterinary technician assistant. Working as an assistant provides an opportunity to determine if this is the right environment for you.
A veterinary technician’s job provides a wide variety of interactions with both people and animals. There are also many opportunities for career advancement through the completion of advanced or specialized certificates. The specialties available include dentistry, cardiology, oncology, and anesthesiology.
Outside of North America, a veterinary technician is commonly known as a veterinary nurse. The role that they perform is the same, and many countries require licensing and certification for these positions. Explore opportunities for travel and career growth by looking at the types of positions available in other countries.
Many people feel that pet ownership is a requirement to become a veterinary technician. This is not the case. In fact, many high-skilled veterinary professional have never owned a pet. This career is ideal for people who are detail oriented and enjoy working with animals.