Licensed veterinary technicians have received an Associate’s Degree from a 2-year program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
These programs include lectures as well as a heavy dose of clinic and lab work with live animals, to give students hands-on experience that prepares them for real-world work environments.
Do I Need a Vet Tech Degree?
In some rare cases it is possible to become a tech without a degree, but this path affects job outlook and salary. In the near future, this may no longer be an option for those seeking entry into the vet tech profession.
Some states do allow vet techs to be hired and trained on the job without any formal academic study. This route, however, is becoming less and less common as lawmakers strive to regulate the profession and make licensure mandatory.
Unlicensed vet techs are also in less demand and are paid less than licensed technicians. Typically they are referred to as “vet assistants,” not techs.
Getting Your State License & Certifications
In 2009 there were nearly 160 veterinary technician programs in 45 states that had full or partial accreditation from the AVMA.
Completing an AVMA-accredited vet tech program allows students to take the credentialing exam in any state. If you pass the exam you become a licensed vet tech in that state.
Most states use the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam. Techs can usually have their passing scores transferred from one state to another, so long as both states use the same exam.
Licensed vet techs are given the title of RVT (Registered Veterinary Technician), LVT (Licensed Veterinary Technician), or CVT (Certified Veterinary Technician) depending on which state they pass the board exam in. They are essentially all the same position, only the title is different.
The tests generally require students to demonstrate competency with oral, written, and practical portions.
For students who are interested in research facility positions as a vet tech, most employers recommend they pursue American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) certification. AALAS offers certification for three levels of technician competence, with a focus on three principal areas: animal husbandry, facility management, and animal health and welfare.