The requirements for becoming a licensed veterinary technician (LVT) vary from state to state. Generally speaking, in order to be licensed an aspiring vet tech must enroll in a veterinary technician school, complete an externship at a veterinary hospital and pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE).
However, each state has different requirements for LVTs, so please contact your local licensing board to make sure you are complying with state requirements. When choosing a veterinary technician school it is important to consider some of the following points to ensure the school you attend is the best fit for you.
Attending an accredited veterinary technician school is of utmost importance. One of the largest accrediting bodies for vet tech schools is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The AVMA accreditation for veterinary technician schools is called CVTEA.
In the US, there are 209 institutions with this accreditation, 20 accredited schools offering a four year degree and nine offering a distance/online vet tech school option. At this time, no CVTEA accredited schools are located in Alaska, Hawaii, District of Columbia, Montana or Rhode Island.
At an AVMA accredited school, you may qualify for federal financial aid, while at non accredited schools you will not, as only programs that have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education are eligible to receive federal funding grants. Additionally, credits transfer easily between accredited schools, so should you need to move or change schools you will not need to start over.
While attending an accredited school is necessary to become a LVT in most states, there are currently four states that allow veterinary assistants to take the national exam after completing a set number of years working as an assistant. Washington, Delaware, Wisconsin and Alaska each have this on the job training program. If you think this may apply to you or are interested in this opportunity, please contact your state office for more details.
There are several types of specialization that a veterinary technician can choose to pursue after completing their basic study. The most typical areas of focus are in small animal practices – meaning cats and dogs – and large animal practices for horses, cows, goats, sheep, etc. There are combined practices but most of these are in more rural areas.
A less popular field, and typically additional duty to a tech who is already working within another specialty is the duty of caring for exotic animals, or the “pocket pet technician”. This technician will be called to assist with the occasional guinea pig, bird, amphibian or reptile.
Most vet tech schools and online vet tech schools are going to cover the same classroom topics. Veterinary technician candidates who wish to pursue a specific department (such as small or large animal) should research externship options. Asking potential schools about the externship opportunities and explaining what type of hospital experience you hope to have can help you determine what school to attend.
Degree programs offeredMany vet tech schools and online vet tech schools are associates degree programs, meaning they require two years of study. Upon graduation with an associates degree in Veterinary Technology, the student is fully prepared to work in a veterinary hospital as an assistant and prepare for the licensing exam. Typical requirements to enroll in an associates program for veterinary technology is a high school diploma and 16-20 hours of observation at a veterinary practice.
An important part of an associates degree program is the practical application of skills. Many schools require an externship at a local veterinary practice during your last semester of college. Several schools assist in placing their students in externship programs. Some states require a high number of hours, and in this case the externship should be done in between the first and second years of class.
A four year degree in Veterinary Technology is also available. Students who graduate with their Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology are eligible to sit for the VTNE, or may continue on in their studies to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).
Students who have graduated from vet tech school but have yet to pass the VTNE are still able to work in veterinary hospitals as vet assistants. There are certain procedures that they are not allowed to perform, but working as an assistant while preparing for the test is a good way to gain practical knowledge and skills in the while still earning money.