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 to examine animals and help diagnose and treat illnesses, injuries and 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. Similarly, they can’t prescribe medication or perform surgery themselves, but 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, students earn a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. They study subjects like veterinary science, anatomy and physiology of domestic animals, disease and medicine principles for both small and large animals, animal behavior, animal handling, pharmacology, toxicology, radiology and surgical nursing. They will also complete coursework in math and natural science. Students 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 aspire 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 their interest in caring for them when they’re sick or injured – that prompts most veterinary technologists 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, compared 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

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris