Becoming a Vet Tech: Education, Skills, and Career Paths

Unleash your passion for animals and embark on a fulfilling career as a vet tech. Here's your paw-some guide!

As a growing field, veterinary medicine offers a variety of rewarding career paths. A vet tech is one such path that plays a crucial and heartening role. It is their role to educate pet owners about proper pet care and to assist veterinarians in diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries in animals.

This in-depth guide will cover the entire process of becoming a vet tech, from the education and training prerequisites to job duties plus areas of specialization. I will provide you with comprehensive information on different facets of a vet tech career so that you can decide if it is the right fit for you. 

Before discussing education, let’s clearly understand the similarities but, more importantly, the differences between a Vet Assistant, a Vet Tech, and a Veterinary Technologist.

Vet Assistant – Performs basic tasks such as sterilizing equipment, cleaning cages, and providing basic animal care. No formal education is needed, but you may receive certification through a brief training program.

You may also learn on the job. While possibly assisting with some medical tasks, your primary responsibilities are focused on animal care and the general support of the veterinary team.

Vet Tech – Provides medical assistance, surgical support, and nursing care to animals in veterinary clinics and hospitals while working closely with licensed veterinarians. An associate degree, the VTNE ( Veterinary Technician National Examination), or veterinary board certifications are required for vet techs. 

With these additional certifications, vet techs can perform more advanced duties, such as administering anesthesia, cleaning teeth, and assisting during surgery.

Veterinary Technologist – A bachelor’s degree and advanced coursework in animal biology and pathology are required to become a veterinary technologist.

Clinical procedures and diagnostics performed by veterinary technologists are often more advanced. In addition to performing more extensive animal tests, they may analyze lab results and provide more comprehensive treatments.

In summary, Veterinary technologists, veterinary technicians, and vet assistants share many similarities. Still, their responsibilities, education, and certification requirements differ significantly.


Diploma and Prerequisites

Receive a high school diploma or GED. 

NOTE: Some vet tech programs’ prerequisites include biology, chemistry, and math courses. 

Vet Tech Programs With Accreditation

Consider the duration, curriculum, tuition, location, and internship options of vet tech programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Hours of Externship and Clinical Work

Vet tech programs require you to complete a set amount of hands-on experience with a veterinary practice. The Vet Tech Institute, for example, requires 350 hours of externships to graduate. Here, you really get a taste of the profession! 

License Requirements

Upon completing your vet tech program, you must pass either the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) or a state-approved exam to receive state credentials. As part of your certification renewal process, you may also be required to complete continuing education courses based on your location. 


Skills in Technology

  • Medical Knowledge – As a vet tech, you need a thorough understanding of animal anatomy, physiology, and pathology. It is crucial that you know how the body works and what medications and treatments best suit them.
  • Diagnostic Skills: The ability to take X-rays, collect blood samples, perform urinalysis, and culture samples is essential.
  •  Lab Skills: Vet techs should be proficient in hematology, urinalysis, cytology, microbiology, and serology lab tests.

The Soft Skills

  • Detail-Orientation: A vet tech should have a keen eye for detecting subtle changes in animal behavior that may indicate a health problem.
  • Compassion: When communicating about pets’ health, you must show compassion and empathy toward their owners.
  • Client interaction: Good communication skills are essential when interacting with clients. You must be able to translate medical terms for clients and explain procedures to them in their language.
  • Handling multiple tasks: Taking care of animals, answering phone calls, and managing paperwork are all tasks that need to be addressed simultaneously.
  • Stamina: A veterinary technician often stands for long periods, lifts heavy animals, and works long hours. It would help if you had the physical endurance necessary for this profession.
  • Competency with computers: Computer skills are essential, including the ability to maintain electronic medical records, register patients, and bill clients.

Vet Tech Career Specializations

Whether you want to focus on a particular area or improve your job prospects, many options are available as a veterinary technician. 

Practice in the Clinic 

Vet techs perform many tasks in these settings, including providing nursing care to animals, administering medications, monitoring vital signs, and assisting with examinations and procedures.

Facilities for Research

Your responsibilities may include caring for animals, administering medication, collecting blood samples, and assisting with surgery.

The Teaching and Learning Process

You may work in academia as an instructor or researcher in this specialization. Alternatively, you may work in a veterinary hospital. In this position, you are responsible for helping coordinate and plan student clinical experiences in the technology program.

Medical Emergency and Critical Care

Your responsibilities will include assisting with emergency procedures, monitoring anesthesia, and performing life-saving interventions such as CPR. ( yes – CPR is done on animals too!)

Perspectives on Career Paths and Salaries

The job growth for veterinary technicians is expected to be higher than average; employment will grow 19.6% through 2031. As pet owners become more willing to pay for quality veterinary care, the demand for vet techs is increasing.

Furthermore, vet techs will always be needed to care for wildlife and zoo animals, increasing their employment opportunities.

Geographical differences also affect job prospects.

Become certified or specialize in a specific area of veterinary medicine. You can become more desirable and earn more money.

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, vet techs earn a median salary of $38,454 as of May 25, 2023. Salary ranges depend on experience level, location, and type of employer. In animal hospitals and clinics, vet techs earn lower salaries than those in research facilities.

In Summary

Ultimately, if you like working with animals and possess the required technical skills, then being a vet tech can be financially and personally rewarding.

Undoubtedly, the education and training requirements might seem challenging, but the skills you’ll gain and the opportunities for specialization will make the road worth taking.

A passion for animal care coupled with dedication, hard work, and a desire to help furry friends is all it takes to become a vet tech and make a positive impact on their lives.

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