The Benefits of Attending a Distance Learning Veterinary Technician Program
With the rising importance of the veterinary care sector in America, the field of veterinary technology is expanding at a sustained and robust pace. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has estimated that the number of available vet tech positions are likely to increase by at least 52 percent between 2010 and 2020.
When coupled with attrition from retirement and other factors, this makes it plain that the job opportunities for newly credentialed vet techs will be quite promising. Because of this, a rising number of schools are offering distance learning programs for those students who desire to become veterinary technicians.
Distance Learning Programs for Vet Techs
While many veterinary technology programs use traditional classroom based instruction, a growing number of schools have adopted various types of distance learning programs.
Distance learning involves the use of the Internet in order to allow a student to attend classes remotely without having to be physically present.
These distance learning courses have a number of advantages when compared to traditional classroom instruction methods:
- The student can study at home or in another area where he or she feels comfortable.
- Most web based distance learning courses allow the student to review the material at any time.
- Distance learning reduces travel related costs for the student.
- For those individuals who are currently working or caring for family members, the flexible scheduling inherent in distance learning allows them to complete the program at their own pace.
In addition, modern distance learning programs are interactive. The student can communicate with the instructors via email or chat in order to ask questions about the material. Many programs also allow the student to directly interact with his or her instructor via a webcam, allowing them to have real time conversations. This allows the student to benefit from a direct and personal relationship with his or her instructors, in addition to the other benefits distance learning provides.
Types of Distance Learning Programs
Depending on the specific school, there are a variety of types of distance learning programs. In most cases, distance learning programs are offered on both a part and full-time basis in terms of the number of units the student can take in any given semester or quarter.
In general, the time it takes the student to complete the program will range from about two years for a full-time student to somewhat longer for part-time students, depending on the number of units they take during the year.
Lab Sessions, Tests and Clinical Work
While many classes can be completed without physically attending classes, this is not always the case. Some schools will have classes with a laboratory or clinical component that requires the students to be physically present. Distance learning students are usually afforded a great deal of flexibility in determining when they attend these classes and many schools offer weekend or evening sessions for those students who are working or otherwise unable to attend on a traditional class schedule.
Additionally, some schools require that their students take certain tests in person, in order to ensure that they are not receiving outside help in completing the test. As with labs and clinical work, these tests are scheduled in such a way as to ensure that all students can easily attend them.
Graduating From a Distance Learning Program
In most cases, completing a distance learning program awards an associate’s degree to the graduate. In addition, the school may be required to directly send transcripts of the graduate’s grades to professional associations or state licensure authorities in order to provide proof of the student’s progress and graduation. For this reason, graduates should always maintain up to date contact information for their school.
Evaluating a Distance Learning Program
There are several important factors to consider before joining a distance learning program. Among the most important are the following:
- Does the program allow the student to have two-way contact with the instructors?
- Does the program include any class components that the student must attend in person, such as laboratory or clinical work? If so, how flexible is the scheduling for these classes?
- What type of student aid is available, if any?
- Does the program have a minimum number of units that the student must take every semester in order to maintain his or her status?
Finally, it is very important that the potential student make certain that his or her program has been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). AVMA accreditation ensures that the program complies with the highest educational and professional standards. In addition, the AVMA periodically reviews accredited programs in order to make certain that they are up to date with the modern practice of veterinary medicine.
Many states and professional bodies require that all candidates for licensure or certification have completed their work at an accredited program. Those who attended a non-accredited program may have to provide additional proof of competency in order to be licensed. In some cases, they may also have to repeat some or all of their coursework. For this reason, a student should make certain that any distance learning program is currently accredited and in good standing with the AVMA.
Distance Learning and Becoming a Licensed or Certified Vet Tech
Accredited distance learning programs are treated in the same way as other programs for the purpose of becoming a licensed or certified vet tech. In those states that require vet techs to be licensed before they can work in the state, candidates will be required to complete the following steps:
- Be able to provide documentation of their graduation. They will also usually be required to have their school send the student’s transcripts to the state licensing board.
- Take and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). This comprehensive examination evaluates the candidate’s practical and academic skills as a vet tech.
- Many states require the candidate to also take and complete a jurisprudence examination. This exam tests the candidate’s knowledge of the state’s laws regarding the practice of veterinary medicine.
- Submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check.
- Pay the applicable licensure fees.
In addition, most state licensure programs require all vet techs to obtain a varying amount of continuing education (CE) units in order to be allowed to renew their license. A vet tech should check with his or her distance learning program, as many programs also offer valid CE courses that can be used to fulfill this requirement.
In those states that do not require licensure, it is possible for the graduate of a distance learning program to obtain certification from a variety of professional veterinary technician associations. In general, the steps required to obtain and maintain a vet tech’s certification are similar to the requirements for licensure. While this is not required to practice, a vet tech should strongly consider obtaining a certification for the following reasons:
- Certification can improve the vet tech’s earning and career potential.
- Certified vet techs often find it easier to obtain a license if they should move to a state that requires licensure for vet techs.
- Certification allows the vet tech to demonstrate a high level of professional development in the field of veterinary medicine.
Distance learning programs are an excellent option for those interested in becoming a vet tech. Their flexible schedules and skilled instructional staff make these programs ideal for individuals who desire to complete a veterinary technology program at their own pace. Finally, by attending an accredited distance learning vet tech program, the student can position him or herself to enter a growing and vibrant career field in America’s veterinary care sector.
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