Overview of Online Vet Tech Programs
Online veterinary technician programs prepare studentsto assist veterinarians in animal hospitals, animal shelters, veterinary clinics, kennels, zoos, or rescue facilities as veterinary technicians (vet techs). These animal lovers are responsible for a wide range of duties, including monitoring the progress of animals, administering anesthesia and medication, creating X-ray imaging, preparing animals for surgical procedures, and keeping track of patient history.
Like traditional on-campus programs, vet tech online programs require clinical internships in the student’s local community. Depending on the school, a vet tech school may require students to already have employment in a veterinary setting or have a clinical location in mind. Other vet tech programs online work to place students in clinical externships at a location that reflects their particular veterinary specialization.
Accreditation is one of the most important considerations before applying to college. Students seeking accredited online vet assistant schools should consult the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
All schools that offer vet tech programs must be accredited by the AVMA. Accreditation helps ensure that online degrees are respected just as much as their on-campus counterparts.
There are different college levels to choose from to work in the field of animal health, but most online vet tech schools offer associate level programs. This is the most common degree level for vet techs per each state's requirements to work as a professional.
In most cases, an associate degree is the only education requirement to becoming a vet tech while working under an actual veterinarian.
In order to be accepted into such a program, students must possess a high school diploma. Some online vet schools may require students to have completed courses in biology and mathematics. If you are wondering how many years of school it takes to be a vet tech, the answer is usually around two years. This is the typical amount of time required to complete an associate degree.
Students who are enrolled in a vet tech online program at the associate level will learn how to assess the health of different animals and perform various procedures, such as prepping the animals for surgery and administering medication. Common courses include Animal Anatomy and Physiology, Small and Large Animal Medicine, and Pharmacology for Veterinary Technicians.
Graduates of a veterinary technician associate degree are set up to take the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) — a four-hour, 200-word test — before becoming a certified vet tech in their state. Keep in mind each state has different requirements in addition to passing this test. In most cases, an associate degree is the only education requirement to becoming a vet tech while working under an actual veterinarian.
Alongside associate degrees, an online vet tech program may also earn a certificate. While certificates aren't a requirement, they can help boost your career potential once you pass your VTNE and meet the other requirements from your state. Certificates usually take one to three years to complete.
Certificate programs can come from educational institutions or private organizations. Students can increase their specialized understanding of a variety of related topics, including zoology, animal diseases, and veterinary clinical techniques. There are also more nuanced certificates such as veterinary forensics, canine rehab, and pet loss and bereavement.
Certificate admissions requirements vary from program to program. Most are designed for working professionals that have already completed their state-certifications and have work experience under their belt. Others may be available for pre-vet students or interns.
How To Become a Veterinary Technician
There are three major steps to becoming a veterinary technician. While each state has different requirements, they all involve completing a proper education program and applying for and passing all necessary exams.
Upon graduation, apply for the VTNE, as mentioned above. Each state's eligibility requirements can be found on AAVSB's website. Some states have alternative pathways, such as on-the-job training or alternate degrees.
After passing the exam, students must meet further state requirements for certification. In California, for example, students must pass the VTNE as well as the California Veterinary Technician Examination (CVTE). They must also submit a copy of their diploma and fingerprints.
More Information About Licensure
In order to become a licensed vet, students must complete a bachelor's degree and an additional four-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. In total, licensed vets need eight years of education before they can apply for the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). Only upon completion of this exam, and any other state-specific exams, can one become a licensed veterinarian.
How Much Does a Vet Tech Make?
The median annual wage for veterinary technologists and technicians is $36,850. This falls well under the annual wage for all occupations nationally which, as of May 2021, sits at $45,760.
Importantly, although this number is provided by the U.S. government, it may be misleading to lump these categories together because veterinary technologists require a higher level of schooling than veterinary technicians. Since veterinary technologists usually have bachelor's degrees, their median salaries may be slightly higher, skewing the data. The BLS also states that the lowest 10% of earners in this category make less than $28,370.
Is Being a Vet Tech Worth It?
As mentioned, vet techs make a lower salary than the average American. It's important to keep in mind that these are entry-level roles, and many vet techs go on to earn their veterinary license and become animal doctors. Even so, becoming a vet tech may be worth it for many reasons that don't relate directly to earnings.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of vet tech schools online:
Save the lives of animals
This is the most obvious and important benefit for many aspiring vet techs. Their work directly translates to the betterment of animals and their owners.
Have job stability and positive growth
According to the BLS, veterinary technicians can expect to see a 20% job growth, with 15,500 new roles opening each year through 2031.
Work in a collaborative environment
Vet techs work under the supervision of animal doctors and alongside vet assistants. Therefore, their job success is directly tied to their ability to work as a team and communicate effectively with their clinical colleagues.
Younger veterinary professionals experience higher levels of burnout than their older colleagues. According to a 2020 from Veterinary Integration Solutions, new vet techs have a "dangerously low level of job satisfaction".
Some vet techs may have to perform euthanasia. The Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy (CAETA) reports that 10 states allow vet techs to perform this procedure, either with or without direct supervision from a licensed vet.