Acting as the veterinarian's right-hand man or woman, veterinary technicians wear many different hats. From recording each animal's health history to taking blood and stool samples, the vet tech gets plenty of hands-on time with each patient. Vet techs also fulfill other specialty duties including laboratory technician, radiography technician, anesthetist, surgical nurse and client educator. Women dominate the field of veterinary technicians, making up 96 percent of all vet techs, according to Steve Dale, pet expert and author of the nationally syndicated column "My Pet World." Along with two to four years of schooling, vet techs can opt for general certification or earn a specialty credential.
Certified Veterinary Technician
A vet tech can earn the certified veterinary technician credential by passing the National Veterinary Technician Exam offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. The multiple-choice exam consists of 225 questions and shows the vet tech is capable and ready for entry-level employment. Along with passing the NVTE, some states also require applicants to fulfill certain education requirements to earn certification. For example, in Florida, vet techs must graduate from an accredited vet tech school and pass the NVTE to earn the CVT designation. Instead of the CVT designations, some states use the licensed veterinary tech or registered veterinary tech designations.
Common Specialty Certifications
The main accrediting body for veterinary technician specialty certifications, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America approves 11 academies and four societies to offer specialty certifications. Specialties include dental, anesthetists, internal medicine, critical care, behavior, equine, nutrition and pathology. Each academy or society imposes its own certification requirements, which generally include fulfilling a certain number of professional hours and passing a certification exam. Some also require the tech to hold a current vet tech license or national certification.
Laboratory Animal Technicians
Some veterinary technicians opt to concentrate on working in animal laboratories, including independent labs and those part of a veterinarian practice. The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, another major group providing vet tech specialty certifications, offers three different levels of certification for vet techs, the Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician, Laboratory Animal Technician and Laboratory Animal Technologist. Each designation requires at least a high school diploma and a minimum number of years’ experience based on the highest educational level the candidate has attained. Additionally, each certification requires the applicant to take and pass a multiple-choice exam that covers animal husbandry, health and welfare, facility administration and management, and general lab knowledge.
Other Credentialing Sources
Along with the NAVTA and the AALAS, several smaller groups also offer specialty certifications for vet techs. These other groups include the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management and the Veterinarian Hospital Managers Association. Several states sponsor specialty certifications for vet techs as well. In Colorado, for example, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Foundation offers the Animal Emergency Management Program certification and Colorado Mountain College sponsors the Animal Shelter Management Certification.
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.