Careers in Transition: Moving From A Career In Nursing To A Vet Tech - Vet Tech Guide

Careers in Transition: Moving From A Career In Nursing To A Vet Tech

Many registered nurses (RNs) find themselves developing an interest in entering another field at some point during their professional career.

While nursing is a well-compensated and respected field, it is also one that suffers from a high degree of job-related stress. For this reason, many nurses find themselves suffering burnout in the course of their career.

When this occurs, a modern RN may consider leaving nursing, either on a permanent or temporary basis, in order to explore other professional options. One popular choice is to become a licensed or certified veterinary technician.

nurse to veterinary technician

The modern field of veterinary medicine is showing robust and sustained growth and nowhere is this truer than among veterinary technicians. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of job openings for vet techs are expected to increase by at least 52 percent between 2010 and 2020.

As of May 2012, there were over 83,000 vet techs currently working in the United States, demonstrating that the field is enjoying excellent job growth potential.

This makes becoming a vet tech an excellent choice for a RN who wishes to transition to another field without running the risk of a prolonged period of unemployment.

Becoming a Vet Tech

A nurse cannot simply become a vet tech without obtaining the education and certification required to obtain a vet tech license.

However, the schooling required to become an RN is considerably more complex than that required to become a vet tech, so an RN is very well equipped to easily complete any type of vet tech program he or she decides to enter.

In addition, nurses are well grounded in math, biology and effective record keeping techniques, which makes them highly qualified to enter a vet tech program.

In general, a nurse would have to complete the following steps before he or she could obtain a vet tech license:

In most cases, vet tech licensure is handled by the state’s licensing board. The candidate should contact his or her state licensing board in order to determine if there are any other requirements that must be fulfilled in order to obtain a veterinary technician’s license.

Vet Tech Programs

Most vet tech programs are offered by community colleges, vocational training centers or adult education programs. In general, it takes approximately two years for a full-time student to complete a vet tech program.

Depending on the type of education the nurse received while becoming an RN, he or she may be able to reduce this time due to already having completed some prerequisite classes.

Many programs offer part-time and online options for their students. This can be especially useful for a candidate who desires to complete his or her training while still working as an RN.

In many cases, it is possible to complete most of the course work without having to physically attend the school, although some classes, such as lab and clinical sessions, may require the student’s physical presence.

A nurse should make certain to ensure that the class schedule is compatible with his or her current job schedule.

Attending an Accredited Program

One of the most important parts of finding a qualified vet tech program is to ensure that the program is accredited by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). The AAVSB helps ensure that all American vet tech programs conform to the highest professional standards.

More importantly, most states will not permit coursework completed at a non-accredited school to be used for licensure purposes.

For those RNs who have completed a foreign vet tech program which is not accredited by the AAVSB, many states offer an evaluation process to determine if the program is substantially equal to a program accredited by the AAVSB.

However, this process can take a considerable amount of time, so it is important that any individual who has completed a foreign vet tech program promptly contact his or her state licensing board.


The VTNE is a national exam that is provided to all vet tech candidates in order to verify their practical and academic qualifications to practice as a veterinary technician. In most cases, this examination will be familiar to an RN, as it is similar in format to some of the examinations that are required to become a registered nurse.

However, the VTNE is a complex examination that requires a great deal of knowledge to pass, so even those candidates who are already RNs should not underestimate the examination’s difficulty.

In addition, should an individual fail to pass the VTNE, his or her licensure process will be delayed. Some states currently put a limit on how many times an individual may attempt the VTNE, and failing to pass it within the allowed number of times may force the candidate to undertake remedial training or even bar him or her from ever becoming a vet tech in that state.

Furthermore, many states count all failed attempts to pass the VTNE, not simply those within the state, so an individual who has to repeat the VTNE multiple times may find that his or her professional options have been severely restricted.

Other Examinations

In addition, many states currently require that anyone seeking to become a licensed vet tech successfully complete a state jurisprudence exam.

Unlike the VTNE, these examinations primarily focus on the legal rights and responsibilities of a vet tech.

While many of these tests are open book, it is important to take them very seriously, as a vet tech who violates his or her state’s regulations can face substantial professional and legal penalties.

Other Licensure Requirements

In addition to the testing requirement, many states have a number of other requirements for their application process. The most common requirements include the following:

  • Completion of a criminal background check.
  • Submission of a properly completed application and application fee.
  • Some states require the submission of one or more letters of recommendation by a veterinary professional or educator.

Sharing Careers

One advantage for those RNs choosing to become a vet tech is that working as a vet tech does not prevent them from also working as a nursing professional.

In fact, due to the higher salary many part-time nurses enjoy, an individual who chooses to work as a full-time vet tech while also working as a part-time RN may enjoy a substantially higher salary than an individual who is solely employed as a vet tech.

This can be an ideal choice for RNs who feel that they are at risk of becoming exhausting, but who still desire to remain involved in the nursing sector.

Nurses as Vet Tech: Employment Options

An RN who obtains a vet tech license will be in an excellent professional position. Due to the ability of RNs to work under pressure, any employer will feel that a licensed vet tech with experience as an RN will be well able to work in a veterinary clinic or other facility.

Some veterinary practices may also feel that having an RN on the premises may provide an extra layer of security for patrons and employees alike should a human health emergency occur.

For example, an RN who is working as a vet tech could provide emergency assistance to an individual who has suffered a dog bite.

Ultimately, transitioning from a career in nursing to working as a licensed vet tech, whether it is on a part-time or full-time basis, can be an excellent choice for those individuals seeking to expand their career options.

By doing so, not only can they enhance their job satisfaction, but they can also continue to provide a professionally and personally rewarding service to the community.