Veterinary Technician to Veterinarian
The transition from Veterinary Technician to Veterinarian does not happen overnight. Instead, this career progression will span the course of many years. This is because both careers in healthcare involve the passing of an accredited academic program, a license and registration. The process of successfully gaining employment first as a Vet Tech and then later as a Vet typically encompasses a full decade. Here are the details on how to get started:
What is a Veterinary Technician
Before becoming a Veterinary Technician, interested professionals must first learn what exact this occupation entails. As a Vet Tech, these caregivers are tasked with observing the behavior and condition of animals. They are essentially the “right hand” of their supervising Veterinarian(s).
In fulfilling this role, Vet Techs will often be asked to collect and record animal’ case histories, prepare instruments and equipment for procedures and surgeries and restrain animals during exams or procedures. Their obligations which are more hands-on include providing grooming care (bathing animals, cutting their nails, brushing them, etc.), conducting imaging tests, administering medications and performing laboratory examinations. Furthermore, some Vet Techs will be asked to provide emergency first aid as needed, and to administer anesthesia to animals and monitor their responses.
Become a Vet Tech
Once a learner fully understands the role of a Veterinary Technician, the first step toward entering this medical career is to enroll in a post-secondary education program. There are many different program options, the two most popular of which is an associate’s degree program. Students interested in a career in veterinary technology should have an aptitude for general science, math and biology and demonstrate basic language and communication skills. Therefore, prerequisites to these programs normally include high school courses in anatomy, biology, physiology and mathematics.
These programs take about two years to complete, and can be taken through a community college or vocational school. Ensuring that a selected program is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) is important, as this credential will expand employment opportunities later on. Accredited programs are offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.
Alternatively, some learners seeking to become Veterinary Technicians will enroll in a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Through these programs, students can obtain their bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Across the United States, there exists only about two dozen colleges or universities which offer a bachelor’s degree program in veterinary technology.
Regardless of their chosen educational program, upon completion a prospective Vet Tech will be required to pass a credentialing examination. Then, depending on the state in which they live and intend to practice, the final step to becoming a Veterinary Technician is to become licensed or certified.
In addition to these educational and registration qualifications, there are a few interpersonal qualities that a prospective Vet Tech should possess as well. For example, Veterinary Technicians should exhibit kindness and compassion to both their animal patients and their owners. They should also be precise and manually dexterous to be able to maneuver instruments during tests and procedures.Furthermore, strong problem-solving skills help enable Vet Techs to know when to act during emergency situations.
What is a Veterinarian
Another extremely important role in the realm of veterinary medicine is that of Veterinarians. They are responsible for examining animal patients, assessing their conditions, diagnosing ailments and performing procedures and surgeries. They will also treat and dress wounds, administer vaccinations and prescribe medications.
In other instances, Vets may use their skills to conduct clinical research on human and animal health problems. These endeavors are designed to protect humans against diseases which are known to be carried by certain animals. Others will opt to work in basic research settings where they focus their work on broadening the knowledge of animals and medical science. In applied research veterinary occupations, Veterinarians may alternatively spend their days developing new ways to use veterinary knowledge and medicine.
As a Vet, professionals must be prepared to communicate with animal owners and advise them on best practices and at-home treatments. Conveying medical conditions to pet owners must be done in a way that they can easily understand. In some circumstances Veterinarians must also be prepared to perform euthanization. While performing this procedure is not one of the more enjoyable aspects of work as a Vet, the act remains a relied upon element of the healthcare career.
Become a Veterinarian
Is working as a Vet Tech before beginning the path to becoming a Vet beneficial? Definitely!
Often, entering the field of veterinary medicine as a Vet Tech is a great first step on the road to becoming a Veterinarian. This is because Vet Tech programs typically result in either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. While a bachelor’s degree is required to apply to veterinary school, an associate’s degree is already halfway there!
During undergraduate degree programs, students will receive instruction in science and mathematics courses which will help prepare them for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This exam is a prerequisite for admission to one of the 30 accredited Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree programs across the United States.
Interestingly, the “Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris” (VMD) degree is an alternative degree which is awarded to Veterinarians by the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA. This degree is equivalent to the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree awarded by all other United States veterinary schools.
Note: Admission to veterinary programs is extremely competitive. Formal experience prior to applying to these programs, such as previous work with Veterinarians, healthcare professionals or scientists can give students an advantage over their peers.
Once enrolled, these programs take four years to complete and involve classroom, laboratory and clinical components. During these separate educational components, students will have the opportunity to take courses on animal anatomy and physiology, as well as disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
The final year is typically when clinical rotations in a veterinary medical center or hospital are completed. They will also learn about the different specialties of veterinary medicine. Currently, there are 22 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organizations comprising 41 distinct specialties. These specialties include:
- Animal Welfare
- Emergency and Critical Care
- General Care
- Internal Medicine (Including cardiology, neurology and oncology)
- Laboratory Animal Medicine
- Preventive Medicine
- Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
- Surgery (Including orthopedics and soft tissue)
After the completed of a veterinary school, prospective Vets must become licensed in the state which they intend to practice. Licensing requirements will vary from state to state, but all states require future Veterinarians to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. Ultimately, graduates of a veterinary program can begin practicing as soon as they receive their license.
At this point, some Vets choose to enter an internship for residency program to gain increased experience and an edge over their colleagues. Although certification is not required for in this field, this advanced credential can also demonstrate exceptional skills, expertise and determination. Employers of Veterinarians, including veterinary clinics, private practices, the federal government, academic institutions and research facilities, all value advanced credentials and experience.
Along with education and experience, compassion, decision-making skills and resourcefulness are critical in this career in healthcare. These qualities are essential to discussing patient recommendations, explaining results and treatments and giving instructions to Vet Techs and other staff members. At the end of the day, Veterinarians are healthcare leaders and must be confident and precise in their decisions.
Overall, now is a great time to become a Veterinary or a Veterinary Technician! Both careers are 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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