What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming a Veterinary Technologist?

If you enjoy working with animals but are reluctant to invest the considerable time and money necessary to become a veterinarian, then a career as a veterinary technologist may be right for you. These healthcare professionals work with licensed veterinarians. They examine animals and help:

  • diagnose and treat illnesses
  • treat injuries
  • help with other medical conditions

They find employment in both veterinary practices and research laboratories, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. These professionals can enter the field with a bachelor’s degree instead of spending an additional four years of study in veterinary school.

Veterinary Technologist vs. Veterinarian

Like veterinarians, veterinary technologists work directly with animals to observe and record medical information. They don’t diagnose medical conditions, but they can do the work that helps veterinarians arrive at their diagnoses. They can’t prescribe medication or perform surgery themselves. However, they may administer prescribed medications and assist the veterinarian with surgery.

A Degree in Veterinary Technology

To learn the skills required to work as a veterinary technologist, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. You’ll study subjects like:

  • veterinary science
  • anatomy and physiology of domestic animals
  • disease
  • medicine principles for both small and large animals
  • animal behavior
  • animal handling
  • pharmacology
  • toxicology
  • radiology
  • surgical nursing

You will also complete coursework in math and natural science. You should expect to gain real-world work experience through an externship opportunity.

Four-year degree programs in this field can be tough to find. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) currently accredits just 22 of these programs, according to the BLS. However, eight fully accredited veterinary technology programs offer online courses, the AVMA reported. Even with relatively few accredited programs in the nation, you can earn a degree without making a major move or long commute.

After graduating, aspiring veterinary technologists must earn a license or registration in the state in which they intend to practice. This typically includes getting a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Examination. Candidates who want to work in research may seek certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.

Veterinary technologists earn a modest salary, $30,290 per year, the BLS reported. Those who work outside private veterinary practices earn the highest wages, with veterinary technologists in research and development making 35,810 per year and those in college and university settings earning $37,190. However, it’s their love for animals and caring for them that prompts most veterinary technologists to enter this personally rewarding career field. This field is experiencing rapid growth, with the BLS expecting job opportunities for veterinary technologists to increase by 30 percent over a decade. That compares to just 11 percent growth expected across all occupations. Factors like rapid job growth, fulfilling work and a low 0.4 percent unemployment rate led U.S. News & World Report to rank veterinary technologist 29th among the best health care jobs and 64th on its list of the 100 best jobs.

Brenda Rufener
Author

Julie McCaulley
Expert

Carrie Sealey-Morris
Editor-in-Chief