If you have a pet, you are probably well acquainted with both your veterinarian and the technicians at the animal clinic. You may even be wondering if this might be a good career choice. Veterinary technicians, or vet techs, are the equivalent of nurses in a doctor’s office with the primary difference being that their patients typically have four legs.
If you love animals but are reluctant to commit to a full veterinary medicine program, you have options. Like many other types of health care professions, vet techs are required to earn a college degree and pass a state or national certification exam, but without the years of study for a medical degree. Students complete either a two-year associate's degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree, but both types of programs are heavy on the science and math.
Be ready to jump into science-based coursework as soon as you begin your studies. First year bachelor’s degree students enroll in chemistry, biology and algebra or trigonometry. English or composition coursework along with humanities and communications rounds out a liberal arts education. In the first semester or two expect to complete introductory classes in animal science and veterinary technology, which are intended to test your commitment. If you enroll in a bachelor’s degree program, your official vet tech coursework begins in the second year while associate’s degree students hop right into animal sciences.
Vet Tech Coursework
After making it through the basic sciences and humanities, students begin the official coursework to prepare as vet techs. Classes include animal anatomy, physiology and nursing. Students spend time learning about animal nutrition and pharmacology. Topics in dentistry, imaging and pathology are introduced along with microbiology and parasitology. Even more exciting, clinical rotations begin along with observing and working with animal patients. At this point in their studies, vet tech students get hands-on experience by completing a practicum in a clinic under the supervision of veterinarians.
The Last Year
Once students complete the practicum component, they have decisions to make. Do you apply for the associate’s degree and graduate, or do you continue on with more advanced studies and additional liberal arts courses? Bachelor’s degree candidates continue on with classwork in management, animal welfare, and additional clinical rotations. Education is rounded out with a variety of traditional undergraduate electives, such as literature and writing, more science or general business.
If you prefer to focus your studies on particular types of animals, such as exotics or birds, or in specific types of animal organizations, such as animal shelters and humane societies, you have opportunities to select advanced and elective coursework and practicum sites later in your studies. Surgical nursing, ophthalmic procedures and anesthesia offer options for specialization. You might find animal behavior coursework a good choice or look to zoo medicine if your tastes run to wild side.
- Michigan State University: Bachelor of Science Degree: Veterinary Technology Program
- Purdue University: College of Veterinary Medicine: Veterinary Technology Bachelor of Science Curriculum
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians: How to Become One
Stephanie Maatta has been a writer for more than 10 years, with articles published in professional journals including "Library Journal" and "Reference Librarian." Many of her publications focus on professional development and career advising. Maatta holds a Ph.D. and Master of Science in library and information science from Florida State University.