Veterinary Technician Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Class Info

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Associate's and bachelor's degrees in veterinary technology can lead to careers in veterinary medicine. Get the truth about the requirements, courses, and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Veterinary Technology: Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

For animal lovers, veterinary technology may seem like an ideal career path. It offers the ability to work with animals in a rapidly growing field; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 52% increase in employment of veterinary technologists and technicians between 2010 and 2020. An associate's degree can help qualify you for a career assisting veterinarians as a veterinary technician, while a bachelor's degree can get you a similar job with more responsibilities as a veterinary technologist.

On the other hand, aside from veterinary technologist/technician, few job positions have a degree in veterinary technology as a hard requirement. Other animal-related fields require no more than a high school diploma, while others prefer a more specialized degree.

Every state requires licensing of veterinary technicians, though specifics vary between states. Be sure to look into licensure requirements for your state. It is often necessary to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination in order to acquire licensure.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those interested in aiding veterinarians with examinations, animal care, and lab work Those interested in more in-depth knowledge of veterinary care and more job responsibilities
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Veterinary assistant ($24,000)*
- Veterinary technologist/technician ($32,000)*
- Veterinary technologist performing scientific research ($38,000)*
- Wildlife rescuer (salary unavailable)
Time to Completion 2 years (full-time) 4 years (full-time)
Common Graduation Requirements - Lecture and lab courses
- Internship or externship
Associate's degree requirements, plus:
- Business courses
- Courses in specialized areas of veterinary medicine
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Hybrid programs available Very rare

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Associate's in Veterinary Technology

An associate's program in veterinary technology lets you study the basic principles of healthcare in a veterinary setting. You will learn skills needed to aid a veterinarian in the handling, diagnosis, and treatment of animals. Coursework may include hands-on training with veterinary and lab equipment, or your hands-on experience may come in the form of a practicum.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The veterinary technology field is a fast-growing job market
  • You could enter a career in veterinary medicine with just a 2-year degree
  • If you're an animal lover, you'll be able to provide care for pets, livestock, or rescued animals

Cons

  • Average pay is lower than that of many other health-related jobs requiring associate's degrees
  • As a veterinary technician, you may be required to work evenings, weekends, or holidays
  • Job may require both physical and emotional stamina

Common Courses and Requirements

Courses for the program cover a variety of diagnostic and treatment sciences, as well as training in interpersonal communication and technical writing. In addition to taking lecture courses, you'll spend time in hands-on laboratory courses. Finally, an internship or practicum is usually required to graduate.

Common courses you might take include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Surgical procedures
  • Anesthesiology

Online Degree Options

Online programs for this degree cover all of the knowledge that would be covered in an on-campus program. While didactic courses may be taken online, hands-on experience may be acquired in local veterinary offices. You may also be required to take exams at an on-site location. There are also online programs for individuals who are already working for veterinary clinics. These programs allow individuals to use a combination of work experience and online study to acquire a veterinary technology degree.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

One way of setting yourself apart with this degree is to take electives that teach extra skills in areas vital to the veterinary field. Electives taken in mathematics and the sciences, particularly biology, will help broaden your skills in many areas essential to a veterinary technician.

Animal shelters and zoos are potential sources of experience while you're still in school. Many such places offer volunteer opportunities which can be used to set you apart as possessing more practical experience than your peers.

Bachelor's in Veterinary Technology

A bachelor's program in veterinary technology expands upon the skills learned in the associate's program. You might learn skills needed to manage veterinary clinics and hospitals, provide advanced emergency care, and provide more detailed care for large animals. In addition, a bachelor's degree may involve more research- and business-oriented courses than an associate's degree program.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Earning a bachelor's degree can qualify you for veterinary technologist and research positions
  • Different track options are available to tailor your degree program to your interests
  • Programs require business courses in addition to clinical courses, which can prepare you for additional careers in veterinary office management or administration

Cons

  • If your goal is to conduct research related to animals, other careers that require a bachelor's degree for entry pay much more (zoologists and wildlife biologists working in scientific research earned an average of approximately $70,000 in May 2011 vs. $38,000 for veterinary technologists in the same industry)*
  • Having to euthanize animals may take an emotional toll
  • Veterinary technologists and technicians experience on-the-job illness and injuries at a higher-than-average rate

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Common Courses and Requirements

This degree has the same coursework as the associate's degree, with the addition of courses in more specialized topics. Some courses may focus on research. Additional courses you may encounter are:

  • Equine care
  • Hospital management
  • Nutrition
  • Large animals

In addition, some programs require a capstone project to complete your bachelor's degree. The capstone allows you to apply the skills obtained throughout your program to the field. Depending on your interests, the project may be based on coursework, an internship, or research.

Online Degree Options

Though there are online programs for this degree, they are very rare and it is not clear whether all requirements can be completed online. Course content is much the same as for on-campus programs. As with online associate's degree programs, practical experience may be gained in-person through a practicum at a veterinary clinic or as a continuing experience in a lab or clinic. Online programs may not be able to provide instruction in all states, due to state regulations. Be sure to check whether or not a given school can provide distance education in your state.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If you are interested in working in a research lab, focusing your electives on courses that will help in a lab setting, such as pathology and nutrition, will help you develop a specialty in the area. Additionally, seeking certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science will help you prove your capabilities in a variety of areas necessary in dealing with animals in a lab setting. Different levels of certification are available and requirements to become certified include having work experience and passing an exam.

Popular Schools

  • Oklahoma City, OK

    Oklahoma State University

  • Blue Ash, OH

    University of Cincinnati

  • Marysville, CA

    Yuba College

  • Yakima, WA

    Yakima Valley Community College

  • Kaneohe, HI

    Windward Community College

  • Gallatin, TN

    Volunteer State Community College

  • Randolph Center, VT

    Vermont Technical College

  • Augusta, ME

    University of Maine at Augusta

  • Stone Ridge, NY

    Ulster County Community College

  • Tulsa, OK

    Tulsa Community College

Featured Schools

Yuba College

Yakima Valley Community College

Windward Community College

Volunteer State Community College

Vermont Technical College

University of Maine at Augusta