Vet Tech Students and the Educational Experience
Veterinary medicine is a field that is experiencing dramatic growth in the United States. From traditional veterinary clinics to zoos, research laboratories, wildlife management programs and farms, the importance of high quality animal care is greater than ever before.
Because of this, veterinary technicians are enjoying robust and continuing job growth. In fact, becoming a veterinary technician can be an excellent way to enter a career with excellent salary and employment prospects.
Entering a Veterinary Technology Program
There are many vet tech programs in the United States. In general, vet tech programs are offered by community colleges or vocational schools and take approximately two years for a full-time student to complete.
A student can enter a veterinary technology program immediately after graduating from high school or obtaining an equivalent degree of education, for example by taking the Graduate Educational Development (GED) test. In addition, many programs prefer that their students be at least 18 years of age due to legal issues.
Because vet tech programs have a heavy emphasis on math and science, students planning to become vet techs should focus on math and science courses in high school, in addition to any courses or clubs that will give them direct experience with animals. In addition, vet techs must be capable of understanding their instructions and writing effective reports for their supervisors, so a strong backing in English is also important.
Full-Time and Part-Time Vet Tech Programs
Most vet tech programs offer part-time and full-time schedules in order to better accommodate their students. In general, part-time programs allow students who are working or otherwise unable to attend a regular class schedule to complete the program at their own pace. This can be very useful for students who are currently working or who have family responsibilities.
In other cases, vet tech programs can offer online classes in order to accommodate their students. While not all courses can be taken online, this can radically reduce the amount of time the student will have to spend on campus.
Accredited Vet Tech Programs
It is very important that the vet tech program be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The AVMA evaluates vet tech programs and only accredits those that adhere to very high professional and educational standards. Many states and organizations will only accept work done at an accredited program, so the student should verify that his or her program is currently in good standing with the AVMA.
The Student’s Day at a Vet Tech Program
Most full-time students will spend most of their day taking classes at the vet tech program. Depending on the organization of the program, these classes may be offered several times during the week or be longer seminars that are scheduled once or twice a week. In most cases, the classes will be taught by instructors who are experienced in the field of veterinary medicine and who are usually licensed vet techs or veterinarians.
Academic classes will focus on the theory and practice of veterinary medicine, especially as it applies to the vet tech’s duties. These classes will include the following subjects:
- Animal biology, usually focusing on the most common pet types.
- Proper sterilization and antiseptic techniques in the context of veterinary care.
- How to understand veterinary terminology, especially in the context of reading or writing out reports and case logs.
- How to provide emergency first aid for animals.
- The proper methods for taking and storing biological samples for later testing.
In addition, many classes will include a lab component, where the students practice their new skills under the supervision of their instructors or other veterinary professionals.
In addition to classroom and laboratory work, many veterinary technology programs also include a clinical component, where the vet techs will work with actual animals. In some cases, the school itself may include a functioning veterinary clinic, while in other cases, the students will work at outside veterinary clinics that have entered into a relationship with the school. This instruction allows students to perfect their practical skills while still being evaluated and assisted by qualified veterinary professionals.
Internships and Externships For Vet Techs
Finally, some schools help their students find internships and externships in order to provide them with practical experience. Internships allow the student to work at a veterinary clinic or other organization for several months. In some cases, an internship may be a paid internship, which can allow students to focus solely on their internship rather than having to work at another job. While the student is treated as a worker, he or she is also evaluated and assisted by the supervisors and instructors alike.
An externship covers a shorter period, which can range from several days to a few weeks and is usually an unpaid position. Because of the shorter duration, the student usually is not granted the same level of responsibility as an intern. However, an externship can be a valuable way of gaining familiarity with the practical aspects of the veterinary field.
Completing a Vet Tech Program
When the student has completed all of the required courses, he or she will usually graduate with an associate’s degree. Depending on the state where he or she intends to practice, other steps may be required in order to obtain a vet tech’s license.
Some states require that the student pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), while other states may have their own examination requirements for licensure.
Once a student has completed a veterinary technology program, he or she will be prepared to enter a fast growing and well-compensated field. Whether the student entered the program directly after high school or is returning to school to improve his or her earning potential, a vet tech program is an excellent path to a rewarding career.
Are you a vet tech student? Let us know about your experience.