Veterinary technician careers require a lot of knowledge and skills, which you will need to obtain by attending an approved program.
If you are thinking about becoming a vet tech, you most likely have a few questions pertaining to the career.
From training and testing to obtaining your license and applying for employment, you will find some of the most common FAQ pertaining to vet tech careers listed below.
1. What do the initials LVT, RVT and CVT mean?
For you to begin a vet tech career, you will need to attend an accredited school that offers an AVMA-approved program. You will also need to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam and obtain credentialing. Credentialed vet techs are known by three different names, and they are as follow.
- LVTs – Licensed Veterinary Technicians
- RVTs – Registered Veterinary Technicians
- CVTs – Certified Veterinary Technicians
Now, you know what the initials stand for. However, just what exactly do they mean? Basically, the only difference between these terms is that while some states may call their vet techs LVTs, others may call them RVTs or CVTs. Nevertheless, they are all the same and must undergo the same training and testing.
In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America do not use any of the above terms when referencing vet techs. Both of these organizations simply recognize trained veterinary technicians as credentialed vet techs.
2. What is the proper definition for veterinary technology?
Veterinary technology is the term that is used to reference the study of or participation in the procedures that are necessary for trained veterinary technicians.
Typically, this can include a large variety of procedures; however, some of the most common are listed below.
- Administering Anesthesia
- Taking and Developing X-rays
- Collecting Specimens and Performing Lab Tests
- Assisting with Surgery
- Administering Vaccinations and Medication
- Educating Pet Owners in Proper Pet Nutrition and Care
3. What does it take to become a licensed veterinary technician?
While licensing requirements for vet techs may vary a bit from one state to another, the main criteria is the same throughout the country. First of all, before you can become licensed in the field, you must obtain the proper training from an accredited educational facility.
After you acquire this training and earn at least an associate degree in veterinary technology, you must take the national licensing exam. This test is known as the Veterinary Technician National Exam, and if you pass it with a qualifying score, you can apply for licensing from your local licensing regulatory agency.
4. How long does a veterinary technology program take?
A veterinary technician must have at least an associate degree to practice in the field of veterinary technology.
Typically, it will take about 18 to 24 months for you to earn this degree. However, depending on your unique circumstances, it could take less or more time. For example, doubling up on classes could help you finish your program quicker.
On the other hand, if you score low on your initial placement exams, it could take you longer to complete your general education requirements and finish your program.
Furthermore, if you choose to specialize, you will need to complete additional coursework in your area of specialty, which could add another three to six months to your program.
5. What areas can I choose to specialize in as a vet tech?
Currently, there are ten specialties recognized for certification by the National Association for Veterinary Technicians in America. However, there are other areas you may choose to specialize in as well.
Choosing to specialize is a smart choice today as veterinary technician specialists often earn higher salaries than regular vet techs. Some of the most popular areas of specialization are as follows.
- Zoological Medicine
- Small Animal/Clinical Practices
- Exotic Pets (Not Currently Recognized for Certification)
- Equine/Large Animal Practices
- Internal Medicine
- Emergency and Critical Care
- Wildlife (Not Currently Recognized for Certification)
- Marine Life (Not Currently Recognized for Certification)
- Avian Medicine (Not Currently Recognized for Certification)
6. How much money does a veterinary technician earn?
Just as with any other career available today, the salaries of vet tech careers vary depending on such factors as location, employer, experience and qualifications.
For example, some states and employers pay more than others. Further, the more experience and qualifications you have, the more you will most likely get paid.
However, you can find some of the average salaries for the career listed here.
- Overall Average Salary (All Vet Techs) – $31,000 Per Year
- Behavior Vet Tech Specialists – $30,000 Per Year
- Vet Tech Surgery Specialists – $36,000 Per Year
- Vet Tech Anesthesia Specialists – $36,000 Per Year
- Zoo Veterinary Technicians – $40,000 Per Year
- Avian Veterinary Technicians – $38,000 Per Year
- Wildlife Vet Techs – $36,000 Per Year
- Vet Techs in Research – $34,000 Per Year
- Marine Life Vet Techs – $29,000 Per Year
- Veterinary Technician Nutritionists – $35,000 Per Year
- Government Veterinary Technicians – $37,000 Per Year
- Veterinary Dental Technicians – $27,000 Per Year
- Emergency and Critical Care Vet Tech Specialists – $46,000 Per Year
- Large Animal/Equine Vet Techs – $48,000 Per Year
- Small Animal Vet Techs – $28,000 Per Year
- Vet Techs Specializing in Internal Medicine – $34,000 Per Year
7. What tasks are veterinary technicians responsible for performing?
Veterinary technicians can be found performing a large variety of tasks in every area of many animal clinics, hospitals and other veterinary facilities.
The exact tasks you may be responsible for as a vet tech will depend on where you work. However, some common tasks that vet techs are often found performing are listed below.
- Preparing Animals for Surgery
- Assisting in Surgery and Sterilizing Surgical Equipment
- Administering and Monitoring Anesthesia
- Collecting Specimens and Performing Lab Tests
- Collecting and Recording Medical Histories
- Collecting and Recording Vital Signs
- Administering Medication and Vaccinations
- Performing and Developing X-rays
- Cleaning Teeth
- Clipping Nails and Expressing Anal Glands
- Educating Clients on Basic Pet Care Issues
- Restraining Animals for Examinations and Procedures
- Feeding, Bathing and Exercising Animals
- Cleaning Examination Rooms and Other Areas of the Facility
- Performing Various Clerical Tasks
8. What is the difference between vet assistants, vet techs and veterinarians?
The biggest differences between vet assistants, vet techs and veterinarians are the training required for each profession and the tasks that each one can legally perform. For example, there are no formal requirements to become a vet assistant. Typically, these professionals obtain their skills through on-the-job training.
On the other hand, for you to become a vet tech or veterinarian, you must have a formal education. The minimum requirement to work as a veterinary technician is a two-year associate degree. However, to work as a veterinarian, it can take anywhere from six to eight years to earn your doctor of veterinary medicine degree.
Additionally, as stated above, the tasks that each of these professionals can legally perform vary as well. Veterinary assistants are usually only able to perform tasks such as answering phones, scheduling appointments, handling payments, restraining animals and various cleaning duties.
Due to their specialized training, vet techs can handle all of the above tasks in addition to several medical-related procedures. Some of the procedures that these professionals can conduct include drawing blood, administering vaccinations, performing lab tests, cleaning teeth and assisting in surgery.
Veterinarians are the most qualified individuals in veterinary medical practices. These professionals are legally able to perform all of the tasks mentioned above. However, they are also able to examine patients, diagnose problems, administer treatments, perform surgery and prescribe medications. Vet assistants and technicians are not legally able to perform any of these procedures.
9. Why does a veterinary technician program need to be approved?
In reading about veterinary technician programs, you may have read that the program you choose must be approved by the AVMA. But do you know what this means? The American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, sets the standards for all training required to work in the field of veterinary medicine.
This not only includes veterinarians, but it includes veterinary technicians as well. Furthermore, licensing agencies will only accept those applicants who have completed a training program that has been approved by the AVMA. In this way, they know that the applicant has acquired all of the skills and knowledge necessary to work in the field.
10. Can a veterinary technician become a veterinarian?
Although many people will say that working as a veterinary technician will not help you pursue a career as a veterinarian, there are ways that it can help.
First of all, some of your general education coursework can be transferred to a pre-vet program. However, there may be additional general education courses you will be required to complete.
Additionally, professional veterinary programs typically require two or three letters of recommendation.
If you have been working as a vet tech, this requirement should be easy to fulfill. Finally, working as a veterinary technician will give you some valuable experience in the field of veterinary medicine.
11. What are the admission requirements for veterinary technician programs?
The admission requirements for veterinary technician programs often vary from one school to another. Nevertheless, in any case, there are some requirements that are common to most facilities today. You will find this criteria listed below.
- High School Diploma of GED
- Official High School or GED Transcripts
- ACT/SAT Scores
- General Education Placement Exams
- Enrollment Application and Fee
- First Year Orientation or Interview
- Updated Vaccinations (Tetanus and Rabies Recommended)
12. What general education classes will I need to take during my vet tech program?
Before you begin your veterinary technician program, you will need to complete a number of general education classes. These courses will consist of various classroom lectures and laboratories.
While the exact courses you will need to take may vary depending on your placement exams, some good examples are as follows.
- College Success and Study Skills
- Mathematical Measurements
- Expository Writing
- General Organic and Biochemistry with Lab
- Humanities or Fine Arts Elective
- Social/Behavioral Science Elective
- Professional Research and Reporting
13. What career-related classes will I need to take during my vet tech program?
After you finish your general education coursework, you will be able to begin your vet tech curriculum. This curriculum will contain a variety of classroom lectures, labs and clinical training. Although the required courses often vary from one educational facility to another, you will find some typical courses listed here.
- Introduction to Veterinary Medical Technology
- Animal Breeds and Husbandry
- Veterinary Medical Terminology
- Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology
- Veterinary Diseases I and II
- Veterinary Parasitology
- Veterinary Office Practices
- Veterinary Lab Techniques I through III
- Veterinary Clinical Practices I through III
- Veterinary Pharmacology
- Large Animal Clinical Practices
- Animal Nutrition
- Internship/Externship or Co-op
14. How do I find a vet tech internship, externship or co-op?
As part of your veterinary technician program, you will need to complete an internship, externship or co-op. In many cases, you school will place you in one of these programs.
However, some schools allow you to choose your own program to fulfill the requirement. If you need to find one of these programs on your own, there are several ways you can locate one as listed here.
- Check School Bulletin Board Listings.
- Apply for an Internship/Externship with a Local Veterinary Clinic or Hospital.
- Apply for an Internship/Externship with a Local Animal Shelter or Humane Society.
- Check Online for Vet Tech Internships/Externships in Your Area.
15. What does a vet tech internship, externship or co-op involve?
If your school does not offer co-op work experience, do not fret! There is a vast array of facilities that offer vet tech internships or externships. In addition to local animal clinics and hospitals, this also includes various zoological parks, animal shelters, marine life centers, aquariums, aviaries and wildlife centers.
As such, what you will need to do during this hands-on part of your training will depend on the facility you choose for your internship/externship. However, much of your time will be spent observing experienced professionals as they perform medical procedures on animals.
Nevertheless, some of your time will also be spent participating in such tasks as bathing and feeding animals, cleaning living quarters, restraining animals, and providing basic medical care to them. In most cases, you will not be paid for your services, but many facilities do provide room and board if needed.
16. What is the career outlook for veterinary technicians?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of veterinary technology is expected to grow by as much as 30 percent until the year 2022.
This is much faster than the expected growth for all occupations nationwide. This is due mainly to an increased awareness of the importance of regular pet healthcare.
17. Where can I work as a veterinary technician?
One of the best things about becoming a veterinary technician is that you will have a vast array of employment opportunities to choose among after you complete your training.
Vet techs can be found working in many different work environments including the following facilities.
- Small Animal Clinics and Hospitals
- Emergency Animal Clinics
- Animal Shelters and Humane Societies
- Large Animal Practices
- Wildlife Parks and Centers
- Zoological Parks
- Aquariums and Marine Life Centers
- Aviaries and Avian Parks
- Research Facilities
- Educational Facilities
- Pharmaceutical Companies
18. What will my schedule be like working as a vet tech?
The hours you will need to work as a vet tech will vary depending on the facility you choose to work within. For example, if you choose to work for an animal clinic or hospital, you will most likely work regular daytime business hours.
On the other hand, if you choose to work for an emergency facility, you will need to work night hours, weekends and holidays.
Furthermore, some facilities require you to work overtime during peak seasons. This often includes such facilities as zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks and marine life centers. Additionally, some facilities such as large animal practices may require you to be on call at all hours of the day and night.
19. Is there a fee for the Veterinary Technician National Exam?
As of 2014, the fee for taking the Veterinary Technician National Exam is $300. You can pay your fee with a debit or credit card online when you apply for a testing seat by visiting the American Association of Veterinary State Board’s website.
This fee is non-refundable and must be paid each time you take the exam.
20. When can I take the Veterinary Technician National Exam?
The American Association of Veterinary State Boards administers the VTNE during three time periods of each year. Each period lasts approximately one month, and you must apply for a seat 30 days prior to your desired testing date.
As of 2014, the testing periods available for the VTNE are as follows.
- March 14 to April 15
- July 15 to August 15
- November 15 to December 15
21. What is the ATT notification letter?
After you have submitted your VTNE application to the AAVSB, it will need to be processed.
This typically takes a few weeks. If your eligibility is confirmed, you will receive what is known as an Authorization to Test letter, or an ATT notification letter.
Your ATT letter will come through regular mail and will include the date, time and location of your VTNE.
22. When will I receive my VTNE scores?
Before you leave your testing center, you will be able to find out if you passed or failed the VTNE. However, you will not be able to see your exact score at this time.
Your actual score report will be emailed to you within about four weeks after completing the exam.
23. What if I fail the Veterinary Technician National Exam?
You are allowed to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam a total of five times. If you need to take the exam a sixth time, you will need to obtain approval from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.
Additionally, in some cases, you may be required to complete a specified amount of continuing education courses.
Furthermore, each time you wish to take the VTNE, you must complete a new examination application and pay the current exam fee.
However, so long as you apply within the current specified time frame, you will not need to resubmit your college transcripts. To find out exactly what you will need to do, you can check with the AAVSB.
24. Are there any states that do not require an associate degree to become a vet tech?
Currently, there are only four states that do not require an associate degree to work as a veterinary technician.
According to the AAVSB, these states are Wisconsin, Washington, Alaska and Delaware.
However, these states do require alternate educational pathways, and you can contact their veterinary medical boards to find out their current requirements.
25. How do I obtain specialty credentialing as a vet tech?
If you would like to specialize as a veterinary technician, you will still need to complete a vet tech program and obtain an associate degree in veterinary technology. However, you will also need to complete various continuing education courses relating to your area of specialization.
Additionally, before you can earn a specialty credential, you will need to work as a regular vet tech for two or three years depending on the specialty you choose.
You must provide at least two or three letters of recommendation to the specialty organization of your choice as well. Currently, there are 10 recognized specialties, and their national organizations are as follows.
- Academy of Veterinary Technician Anesthetists
- Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians
- Academy of Internal Medicine for Veterinary Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Zoological Medicine Technicians
- American Association of Equine/Large Animal Veterinary Technicians
- Academy of Veterinary Technicians in Clinical Practices (Small Animals)
- Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians
26. How do I renew my veterinary technician license?
Veterinary technician licenses are typically valid for one to two years.
In most cases, when your license is about to expire, you will receive a notice telling you that it is time to renew.
However, even if you do not receive a notice, you can easily find out if you need to renew by checking with your local veterinary state board.
Simply go online and go to your state’s board of veterinary medicine. Once there, find the license renewal option. Fill out the renewal application and pay the current renewal fee.
In some cases, you may need to complete a specified amount of continuing education courses and submit proof of attendance.
27. How do I transfer my vet tech license to another state?
In most cases, you may be able to easily transfer your vet tech license to another state through reciprocation. To find out if this is an option, you will need to contact your new state’s veterinary state board.
If you find this is not an option, you can still transfer your license.
However, you will need to meet the requirements of the new state. Typically, this will involve completing a specified amount of continuing education courses.
28. What do I do if there is a lapse in my vet tech license?
If there has been a lapse in your vet tech license, you may still be able to renew your license without any problems. First, you need to check you local veterinary medical board and find out if they allow a grace period for renewals. If they allow a grace period and you are within the specified time frame, you can renew as usual.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that you may need to pay a late fee if you are renewing after your specified renewal date. If your state does not have a grace period or you have passed the grace period, you may still be able to renew. In these cases, you will need to check the requirements for late renewals.
Depending on how much time has lapsed since your actual renewal date, you might need to complete a certain amount of continuing education courses. Additionally, if there has been a long lapse in your licensing, you may be required to complete the Veterinary Technician National Exam again.
29. Can I work as a vet tech if I am pregnant?
Working as a veterinary technician involves using chemicals and performing tasks that can be hazardous to someone who is pregnant.
If you are pregnant and would like to continue working, it would probably be best for you to find out if you can perform desk work until you have your baby.
Some of the hazards for pregnant women in this career are as follows.
- Injuries that Involve Lifting Heavy Objects or Animals
- Exposure to Radiation
- Risk of Falling
- Exposure to Q Fever
- Exposure to Influenza
- Exposure to Toxoplasmosis
- Exposure to Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus
- Exposure to Anesthetic Gases
- Exposure to Various Pharmaceuticals
30. How do I deal with euthanasia as a vet tech?
Euthanasia is never an easy procedure to deal with, especially when the animal to be put down is perfectly healthy.
Unfortunately, it is a procedure that many vet techs have to deal with on a daily basis.
When you have to perform this procedure, keep in mind that it may be for the best.
Allow yourself a little room to grieve when you go home for the night.
Additionally, remember that although you may have had to end an animal’s life, you are also doing everything you can to help countless other animals live healthy lives each day.
31. What should I include in my vet tech resume?
After finishing your vet training, you will want to create an effective resume. If you cannot afford to pay for a professional resume service, there are still some ways you can make your resume stand out.
Since your resume will most likely be the first thing a potential employer will see, you will want to include such information as follows.
- A Cover Sheet that Includes Your Career Goals
- Contact Info to Include Name, Address, Phone Number and Email
- All Relevant Education and Degrees
- Any Memberships with Relevant Organizations
- Any Relevant Employment Including Volunteer Work
- Internships/Externships and/or Co-ops
- Any Relevant Hobbies
- At Least Three Professional References
32. How do I dress for a veterinary technician interview?
Although most veterinary technician positions require you to dress casually or in scrubs, you will want to dress in formal clothing for a job interview.
Additionally, be sure to comb your hair, trim any facial hair and keep jewelry to a minimum. Never wear revealing clothes and cover any visible tattoos.
33. How can I prepare for a veterinary technician job interview?
Before going to a vet tech interview, check online for some typical questions you may be asked. After compiling a list of common questions, practice answering them in front of a friend or family member. You will also want to review your resume so that you will be prepared to answer any questions pertaining to your education and employment.
34. What should I do on the day of my job interview?
It is best to arrive at your job interview at least 15 minutes early.
In this way, you will have time to relax and practice your questions one last time before meeting with your potential employer. When it is time to meet with your interviewer, try to smile and make sure that you offer your hand for a firm handshake.
Answer all questions to the best of your knowledge and try to remain calm. Do not fidget or stutter. If you have any questions pertaining to the job, do not be afraid to ask.
This will show that you are truly interested in the position. After the interview, thank the interviewer for his or her time and offer a handshake again.
With excellent starting salaries and an abundance of job opportunities, choosing a vet tech career is a smart choice today. Of course, before you begin training for your new career, you most likely have several questions pertaining to the job.
Listed above are the most common FAQ and answers pertaining to vet tech careers today.