Becoming a vet tech can be an excellent career choice for those individuals who are interested in working in America’s fast growing veterinary care field.
By choosing to become a certified or licensed vet tech an individual can enjoy a secure career that is both professionally and personally rewarding.
However, there are certain career limits that those planning on becoming a vet tech should consider.
Becoming a Vet Tech
Currently, most states require that a vet tech be licensed before he or she can practice. Those states do not require licensure often have an optional certification process that a vet tech may choose to complete in order to demonstrate a superior level of professionalism.
In most cases, an individual must fulfill the following requirements in order to become a licensed or certified veterinary technician.
- Be at least 18 years of age and have graduated from high school or its equivalent.
- Complete an accredited veterinary technician program.
- Complete a veterinary technician examination, usually the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
- In some cases, the state may also require that a vet tech complete a state jurisprudence examination in order to demonstrate that he or she understands the legal rights and responsibilities of a veterinary technician.
- Some states require that all applicants submit to a criminal background check.
In addition, certified or licensed vet techs must regularly renew their license. In most cases, the vet tech must be able to provide proof that he or she has taken continuing education courses in the field of veterinary technology in order to renew the license or certification.
Vet Tech Career Limits
The primary limitation a vet tech faces is the fact that he or she cannot act as a veterinarian. In many states, a vet tech must work under the direct supervision of a veterinarian whenever he or she is providing veterinary care.
In general, a vet tech is forbidden from providing the following services:
- A vet tech may not independently diagnose an animal’s illness or condition. While a vet tech may perform tests on the animal, evaluating those tests and determining the underlying health issue is the veterinarian’s responsibility.
- Prescribing medication. A vet tech cannot independently prescribe medication for an animal.
- Conducting surgical procedures. While vet techs often assist the veterinarian before, during and after a surgical procedure, they themselves cannot independently operate on an animal. However, in some states the vet tech may independently carry out certain specific surgical procedures.
In addition, many states have specific limits on what types of duties a vet tech may perform. For this reason, anyone intending to be a vet tech should obtain information about what limitations vet techs may face from their state licensure board.
Furthermore, it is wise for even currently employed vet techs to regularly check the current status of their state’s regulations in order to remain current with any regulatory changes.
Vet Tech Specialties
One route that many vet techs take as a part of advancing their career is to become a certified specialist in a certain veterinary medicine subfield. A vet tech who becomes a certified specialist can generally command a higher salary, will enjoy greater job security and will find his or her services in greater demand.
In general, a veterinary technician specialty focuses on supporting the veterinarian by achieving a high degree of skill in a single specialized area of veterinary medicine.
Because of the effort required to become certified, very few vet techs are certified as specialists in more than one area.
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognizes a number of specialty areas.
Among some of the most commonly used veterinary technician specialties are the following:
- Dental technology.
- Emergency care and first aid.
- Internal medicine.
- Veterinary nutrition.
- Surgical technology.
- Clinical pathology.
These specialties require that the candidate complete a number of steps before he or she can be certified as a specialist vet tech. In most cases, the vet tech must be able to meet the following requirements:
- Be a currently certified or licensed vet tech in good standing.
- Be able to document his or her work experience in the specialty field.
- Provide a varying number of case studies and in depth cease reports, demonstrating his or her professional skill in the selected specialty.
- Successfully complete a professional examination in the specialty.
- Be able to provide letters of recommendation by qualified veterinary professionals who can attest to the candidate’s skills.
As with a vet tech’s general certification, most specialty certifications must be regularly renewed. The vet tech will be required to complete a varying amount of course work in order to be eligible to renew his or her certification.
Finally, a vet tech should always check with NAVTA in order to ensure that his or her information regarding the specialty certification process is up to date. In many cases, the requirements for certification may be changed in order to better reflect the changing nature of the veterinary care field.
Becoming a Veterinarian
The primary career limitation for most veterinary technicians is the inability to work as a veterinarian.
Although most of the coursework required to become a vet tech cannot be directly applied to becoming a veterinarian, the experience a vet tech can obtain while working at a veterinary clinic can be very useful when studying to become a veterinarian.
In addition, those vet techs who are interested in becoming a veterinarian can use the professional and personal connections they have made at their workplace to improve the probability of being accepted to a veterinary medicine program. Finally, a vet tech can continue to work while studying, reducing his or her need to obtain student loans.
While a vet tech’s career does have some limitations, most vet techs find that there are a wide range of professional development options open to them.
Whether a vet tech desires to become a certified specialist or hopes to enter a veterinary medicine program, his or her experience and skills will prove to be a valuable investment in the future.