How Long Does it Take to Become a Vet Tech
For those seeking a career in healthcare which combines veterinary technology and healthcare, and that can be achieved in a relatively short amount of time, a Veterinary Technician career might be a great professional match! How long does it take to become a Vet Tech? The short answer is two to four years depending on your previous educational background and academic goals.
Apply to Vet Tech Programs
To become a Vet Tech, learners can begin setting themselves up for educational success as early as high school. They can get ahead of their peers by electing to take certain classes, including those focused on science, mathematics and animal science (if offered). These classes will strengthen a high school student’s transcript, and assist them in gaining acceptance into the veterinary technology program of their choice.
When selecting a veterinary technology program, learners should then consider a number of factors to ensure that their educational needs are best met. First and foremost, this means finding a program that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. This will help ensure that the program’s faculty are licensed and have significant experience.
Furthermore, applicants should determine which learning style works best for them, and then they must find a program which will cater to that style. For example, some learners perform better in classroom settings, whereas others may perform better via distance education courses. Something else to consider is that some veterinary technology programs will offer more clinical and hands-on animal experience than others. Don’t be afraid to inquire about a program’s clinical exposure up-front!
Lastly, many learners prefer to find programs which offer career advisement and career placement services. These services can help ensure that students get the most out of their educational experience, while also boosting the program’s overall placement success rate. When a program meets all of the qualifications discussed above, the enrolling student can feel confident that they are on the right path to their intended healthcare career.
Typically, Vet Tech programs result in either a 2-year associate’s degree in veterinary technology, or a 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. However, there are substantially less bachelor’s degree programs available compared to associate’s degree programs.
What do Vet Tech programs teach? Once enrolled in a veterinary technology program of choice, students can expect to take classes including biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, basic animal care and anesthesia training. They will also learn about animal diseases, pathology and pharmaceuticals.
In combination with clinical laboratory experience, a veterinary technology program provides students with the information, skills and experience necessary for them to succeed on their own within the field. In the case of some programs, externships are considered to be another element of the comprehensive learning experience. They will help the student begin networking and making professional connections across the industry.
After completing the number of required credits and clinical hours, prospective Vet Techs will need to pass a credentialing exam and become registered, licensed or certified (depending on the state in which they intend to practice). This can be achieved by passing the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE), offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.
While much of the expected learning to become a Veterinary Technician involves studying topics specifically related to veterinary technology, developing certain qualities can be imperative as well. This is because a career as a Vet Tech involves a great deal of interpersonal communication with Veterinarians, animal owners and other veterinary healthcare staff members.
Thus, communication skills are invaluable. Vet Techs must be prepared to interpret symptoms and conditions as explained by animal owners, and to explain tests and procedures to them. In some instances, they may also have to try and calm pet owners, or assist them in restraining an animal.
Under all of these circumstances, a Vet Tech must greet a pet owner with both compassion and kindness. They must also be sensitive when communicating with owners of ill or injured pets. This helps to develop rapport with the owner, and thus they will be more likely to return for additional animal services. Strong communications skills are largely beneficial in this role, and although not taught during veterinary programs per say, they are undoubted necessary before gaining employment as a Vet Tech.
Prospective Veterinary Technicians must also be detail-oriented to ensure that no ailment goes unnoticed. This helps ensure that each patient receives quality care and a thorough examination. To be a Vet Tech, professionals must further be able to maneuver instruments with strong manual dexterity and potentially be up on their feet for long periods of time. Last but not least, the ability to problem solve and help determine the root of an illness or condition is a quality that in invaluable within the realm of veterinary medicine, and healthcare in general.
Having received in-depth instruction on veterinary technology principles and having had time to hone their skills and develop these important qualities will enable Vet Techs to be truly successful. Once they have completed their veterinary technology program, obtained the appropriate certification or licensure and developed themselves as a professional, Veterinary Technicians are ready to take on the field first-hand!
Where to Seek Out Employment
The last step in the process of becoming a Vet Tech is to secure employment in the profession. Ideally, Vet Techs who have spent their time during their post-secondary education simultaneously networking will land their first position within the field soon after graduation. However, for others, the road to employment may take a little longer.
To help ensure that the employment search and application process is as seamless as possible, Vet Techs should first consider applying to the industries which are known to employ the largest number of Veterinary Technicians. These employers include veterinary services, social advocacy groups and academic settings (junior colleges, colleges, universities and state, local and professional schools).
While most Vet Techs will go on to work for private clinics and animal hospitals, alternative options include scientific research centers, developmental services, laboratories, humane societies and other personal services. The industry with the highest concentration of employment in this occupation is (by far) professional, scientific and technician services, but they are followed by social advocacy organizations, research and development outlets and support activities for animal production.
By networking and regularly searching job boards, credentialed Vet Techs should not have an issue establishing employment. This is especially true now, as pet owners and animal lovers have placed a greater emphasis on preventative and comprehensive care than ever before! Want to learn more? Check out this national Vet Tech career outlook!
Career Pathway Timeline
In conclusion, after graduating high school having taken veterinary medicine prerequisites, the path to becoming a Vet Tech involves a post-secondary program, a learning curve and a search for employment. On average, this will take between two and four years to complete. However, some prospective Veterinary Technicians are able to complete these requirements much faster, while for others the process may exceed five years. The timeline will truly depend on the professional’s time availability and level of commitment!
Once employed, Vet Techs can look forward to a rewarding medical career involving the observation of animal behavior and conditions. They will be tasked with administering anesthesia to animals, monitoring their reaction to medications or procedures, performing imaging and non-invasive tests and collecting and recording animal histories as well. For those less interested in spending years and years enrolled in school, and who want to get out in the field as soon as possible, becoming a Vet Tech is an amazing occupational opportunity.
There is no better time than now to become a Veterinary Technician! This career is something to be proud of. If you aspire to work in healthcare, help make a difference in animals lives and constantly keep learning and evolving as a professional, you will love a career in veterinary medicine!
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook
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