Becoming a Registered Veterinary Technician in California
The California veterinary care sector is enjoying dynamic and sustained growth. With a growing number of private individuals and businesses requiring high quality animal care, the need for veterinary professionals is higher than it has ever been.
Because of this, becoming a vet tech in California can be an excellent choice for newly graduated adults in addition to those individuals seeking to transition to a more rewarding career.
Vet Tech Opportunities in California
California has a rapidly growing veterinary care sector, ranging from small rural practices to large urban clinics. In addition, pet owners are increasingly demanding high quality care for their pets, which has made obtaining a highly trained staff vital for veterinarians and veterinary practices.
California also has seen a rapid expansion in the wildlife management, zoo management, and veterinary research sectors, all of which demand qualified veterinary technicians.
Because of this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates nearly 9,000 veterinary technicians are currently employed in California.
In addition, the median pay for California vet techs stands at nearly $36,000, far superior to the national annual median of under $30,000.
When coupled with the fact that the BLS has predicted a 52 percent increase in the field’s size between 2010 and 2020, it is plain that becoming a California vet tech is an excellent professional choice.
Becoming a Vet Tech in California
In order to become registered veterinary technician (RVT) in California, the candidate must complete several steps designed to ensure that he or she is capable of providing effective service as a registered veterinary technician.
California differs from many other states in that it has its own examination, the Registered Veterinary Technician Examination (RVTE). Because of this, it is important to ensure that all candidates are in compliance with the California Veterinary Medical Board’s requirements.
The primary route to becoming an RVT includes the following steps:
- Complete an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited program.
- Take and pass California’s RVTE.
- Submit to a comprehensive criminal background check.
Veterinary Technician Programs
Most veterinary technician programs are offered by community colleges, universities, and some vocational educational institutions. These programs provide the students with the education that they will require to become highly qualified veterinary technicians.
In addition to classroom work, most veterinary technology programs include lab and clinical instruction, in order to provide the student with the practical experience he or she will need in order to be able to carry out the duties of a veterinary technician.
In most cases, a full-time student will take about two years to obtain his or her associate’s degree from a vet tech program. Part-time options are offered for those students who cannot attend on a regular schedule and many programs also offer distance-learning options to allow students to take some classes from home. However, part-time and distance learning students may have to attend some classes, especially those with a lab or clinical component, in person.
It is extremely important that all candidates ensure that their program has been accredited by the AVMA. The AVMA’s Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTA) ensures that all accredited programs conform to strict professional and educational standards. In addition, the AVMA re-evaluates programs on a regular basis in order to make certain that they remain up to date with the current status of veterinary medicine.
A non-accredited program will not be accepted by California without the addition of other qualifying work. This usually requires extensive supervised experience, in addition to the non-accredited class work. Because of these factors, a student should always make certain that their schools are currently accredited and in good standing with the AVMA.
Taking the RVTE
The RVTE is a California specific examination that is administered by the state through private test providers. In order to become a California registered veterinary technician, the student must pass the RVTE. This examination is a comprehensive exam that covers both the academic and practical aspects of a veterinary technician’s duties.
Candidates who fail the RVTE may retake the test every six months, but must wait until a new form of the test is granted. Because of this, no candidate will ever take the same style of test twice. In addition, candidates must resubmit their application and fees when retaking the test, so it is wise to only take the RVTE when the candidate is confident he or she can pass the examination.
Because vet techs are in a position to access controlled substances, in addition to their responsibility for the welfare of those animals they work with, California requires that all RVTs submit to a background check. This background check must be completed prior to taking the RVTE and is administered by the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ).
If the candidate has committed any crime that may have a bearing on his or her fitness to be an RVT, he or she must attach an explanation of the nature of the offense to the application. In addition, the candidate must reveal any disciplinary action taken while working in the veterinary field. In either case, the candidate should seek legal advice as to whether the offense or infraction will bar him or her from the practice of veterinary technology.
Other Pathways to Becoming an RVT
California has a number of other ways to become an RVT. In most cases, these methods are for individuals who were not educated in California or who obtained their education at a non-accredited institution.
1. The first method allows an individual to use a mixture of a non-accredited courses and practical experience. He or she must have at least 4,416 hours of practical experience under the supervision of a licensed California veterinarian. In addition, he or she must have completed at least 300 hours of instructional experience under a qualified instructor. California also mandates that the 300 hours of instruction cover a variety of veterinary areas in order to fulfill the requirements for registration.
2. Secondly, out of state licensed or registered veterinary technicians with at least 4,416 hours of experience may qualify to take the RVTE if they can fulfill the following requirements:
- Have a letter from every state they have practiced in showing that they are in good standing with the relevant state authorities.
- Verification that they passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) or an equivalent state examination.
- Pass an FBI and DOJ background check.
Ultimately, becoming a registered veterinary technician in California can be an excellent professional choice. In addition to the financial benefits that vet techs enjoy, they also are part of a highly valued profession.
Registered veterinary technicians enjoy a great deal of respect from their coworkers, supervisors, and the public they help serve.
Whether it is an individual’s first professional career or the result of a decision to enter into a more rewarding profession, becoming a vet tech is both a professionally and personally rewarding choice.