How to Become a Vet Tech

By Emma Riley Sutton

  • Overview

    Veterinary technicians are often compared to nurses; they have similar skills and perform many of the same tasks as nurses do, only their job involves animals instead of people. There are few veterinary technician programs in America and they are selective as to who they accept. Vet techs are dedicated to animals and their work. The decision to become a veterinary technician should not be taken lightly.
    • Step 1

      Start planning your career early. Veterinary technician programs are competitive, accepting only a few students each year. Priority is given to high school graduates and those who have experience working with animals. Volunteering will count towards your experience as well. Work as a veterinary assistant, kennel worker, or assistant in a pet store.
    • Step 2

      Know the difference between a veterinary assistant and a veterinary technician. Vet assistants are much like kennel workers and do not usually participate in medical or surgical procedures. Specialized education is not necessary and there is no certification needed. On-the-job training is all that is required. Veterinary technicians must complete formal education and training as well as pass a board exam to be certified. Veterinary assistants earn minimum wage or slightly above in most areas.

    • Step 3

      Find a certified program. There are few certified programs in America. Be careful of scams. There are correspondence courses offering education as a veterinary assistant; however these are not necessary. Many certified programs such as the one offered at Oklahoma State University-OKC, a community college offering technical Associate degrees, are linked to universities that offer degrees in veterinary medicine. See the Resource Section for contact information.
    • Step 4

      Choose your specialty. If you want to work in animal shelters and rescues, specialize in animal behavior. Many certified programs offer specialties that range from pediatrics to geriatrics as well as nutrition and reproductive help.
    • Step 5

      Finish your clinicals and classes. It is required by most programs you must complete all the requirements in a certain length of time. This is not a program that you can start and stop, hoping to finish at a later date. Many times, you would have to start over should you leave the program.
    • Step 6

      Pass the board exam. This is a difficult test for anyone to pass. You must study intensely to pass it. Do not think that because you did well in your coursework that the board exam will be a breeze to pass. Get involved in a study group or start one of your own. Some instructors will give you practice tests outside of class and clinicals. Take advantage of their generosity and take those practice tests as often as they are offered.
    • Skill: Challenging

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