How Do I Become a Veterinary Technician?

If you love working with animals and are thinking about pursuing a career as a veterinary technician, there are several steps you should take to get started on your fulfilling your dream. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) states that the path to become a veterinary technician is through obtaining a two-year degree from an accredited program that is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Have the Right Qualities

Veterinary technicians should possess certain qualities that will allow them to successfully complete their degree program and excel at their future job. Strong interpersonal skills will allow veterinary techs to smoothly handle upset and emotional animal owners. Being able to patiently educate others is important because veterinary techs must counsel and train animal owners on how to properly care for their pets. Similar to medical positions, excellent attention to detail will be needed for accurately recording data, performing diagnostic tests and administering medication to animals. Veterinary techs must feel naturally compassionate towards sick pets and worried owners, but they must be able to stay emotionally strong and make difficult decisions, such as when putting an injured animal to sleep.


Students should be prepared to meet the basic admission qualifications to be accepted into a veterinary technician degree program. Most programs require students to have already completed college-level courses related to biology, chemistry, zoology and microbiology (please see: Top 20 Most Affordable Health Science Degree Programs). Programs usually expect students to be familiar with nutrition, medical terminology and the veterinary sciences. Courses involving math are an important part of training because veterinary techs must frequently measure medications and determine dosages. English and communication classes will help students successfully complete their academic work. If possible, students should complete these ahead of time through distance education programs or a local community college.

Finish a Degree

When it comes to veterinary technician education programs, there are standard two-year associate’s degrees and short-term certification programs for those with previous, relevant experience and education. There are over 200 programs that are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Core veterinary courses include animal behavior, health, disease and pharmacology. Basic classes are offered in clinical practices, ethical guidelines and veterinary clinic management. Most programs require that students complete 15 to 20 hours of observation and hands-on training at a local veterinary clinic or facility. Once students earn their associate’s degree, they are eligible to take exams that are administered by the state’s veterinary medical board.

Obtain Licensure

Every state requires veterinary technicians to pass certification exams that include oral and written skills demonstration components. Most states use the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) that is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). The VTNE contains 150 multiple-choice questions regarding tasks, knowledge areas and domains of responsibility. Major topics include dentistry, anesthesia, pharmacology and diagnostic imaging. Additional topics include animal nursing, lab procedures, pain management and emergency medicine. The VTNE exam is usually offered twice a year at national testing centers.

In order to become a veterinary technician, students should seek accreditation through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS), which provides certifications such as Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT) and Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT).