How do I get Veterinary Technician Training?

Vicki Hogue-Davies

To work as a veterinary technician, you will need specific training and licensing. In the United States, you can get veterinary technician training through more than 150 accredited schools that offer two- or four-year degree programs. These schools are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Other countries have similar accrediting associations. You can find a school where you can receive veterinary technician training by contacting the accrediting association where you live.

Veterinary technicians who want to work with horses should get specialized training in equine health.
Veterinary technicians who want to work with horses should get specialized training in equine health.

People who complete associate degree programs are called veterinary technicians. Bachelor's degree graduates are called veterinary technologists, although they commonly are referred to as technicians. Both perform essentially the same duties, but one benefit of having a bachelor’s degree might be increased marketability in looking for jobs or more advancement opportunities later on in your career. There are relatively few four-year veterinary technology training programs offered, compared to the number of two-year programs offered.

During veterinary technician training, no matter the degree level, you will take classes in animal care, the sciences, aspects of veterinary businesses and more. You will also work directly with animals, either as part of specific courses or during internship or externship programs, or both. The titles of classes you take and order of classes can vary by schools. Just a few examples of common veterinary technician training courses include anatomy and physiology, anesthesia and surgical nursing, small and large animal health management and pharmacology and toxicology. Others include animal welfare, parasitology and clinical pathology.

Specific areas of interest that you have might affect your veterinary technician training program. If you are interested in specializing in an area, such as working with wild animals, for example, look for training programs with courses in zoology and internship opportunities at institutions that house wild animals. If you want to work with horses, look for programs with large animal specializations and the opportunity to do an internship for an equine practice.

The majority of veterinary technician training programs are in traditional classrooms. There also are a few accredited distance-learning programs. If you select a distance-learning program, you might be expected to be working in a veterinary office where you can practice what you learn. You also might be expected to undergo on-the-job training for a specific time period with a veterinarian in your area following the completion of coursework and before you graduate.

After you have completed your veterinary technician training, you will have to become licensed in your state by applying and passing an examination. The examination typically involves oral and written components. Upon passing the licensing examination, you'll be called either a certified veterinary technician, registered veterinary technician or licensed veterinary technician, depending on where you received your licensing. If you completed a four-year degree, you can substitute the word "technologist" for "technician" in these titles.

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