Top Veterinary Technician Schools & Education

Thinking about becoming a vet tech? Here’s a sampling of vet tech schools and programs to look into.

Vet techs work in all kinds of environments. Sometimes you might even find them in places you never thought of before.

By 807MDSC (http://www.flickr.com/photos/807thpao/6020019016/) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If you are thinking about becoming a vet tech, chances are you know you need to find a good school to train you and help you prepare for the state exam. There’s a lot you need to consider to find the program that will be the best fit for your particular needs. Do you have the flexibility for an in person course that will give you plenty of hands-on experience or do you need the flexibility of an online program? Maybe a hybrid program that gives you the best of both worlds would be the best fit.

Some programs also give you the chance to specialize. If you really want to work with large animals, you might not want spend as much time learning about cats and dogs, but you will still need to choose a program that will give you the information you need to earn your certifications. Most techs who specialize study large animals, marine animals, birds, radiology, nutrition or dentistry. If you would rather generalize, it’s good to pick a program that will still give you a little experience with each.

It is also important to account for the location of programs you’re considering. Each state has its own procedure for licensing, so schools will tailor their program to their state’s particular program. It doesn’t mean you can’t study out-of-state, but you will need to make sure that you spend some extra time preparing for the exam you plan to work in. Often, your local community college will have a program available that meets the standards. But just because each state is different and there are thousands of accredited vet tech programs out there does not mean there are not a few that stand out.

Vet Tech Specialized Programs

Look no further than Nebraska’s College of Technical Agriculture. It has an excellent equine health care program that can supplement a veterinary technician associate’s degree. The two programs have a lot of overlap, and the school designed them to fit together for students who plan to work with horses. NCTA’s facilities really stand out. It has recently upgraded equipment and extensive animal housing facilities, so there is plenty of time to practice what you learn. They even have a surgery on campus to help you prepare for life after school.

As NCTA program overview states:

“Looking for an exciting profession centered around the health and well-being of animals? NCTA's Veterinary Technology program is for you. From cattle to llamas, dogs to exotic birds, you'll work with diverse animals and learn in state-of-the-art facilities. Expand your knowledge even more through internships, work at research facilities, or travel with the Safari Club.”

If you’d rather not be in Nebraska, but horses are still your thing, consider Otterbein University. If you go here, you’ll be earning a bachelor’s degree, which gives you more options when you finish school, but you’ll need to plan to spend at least four years working on your studies. Fortunately, that extra time also means you have the strongest background in sciences out there, and if you decide you’d like to become a vet later in your career, you will have already met the minimum requirements to apply to vet school. You will also find that studying at a university rather than a community college gives you more opportunities to find supportive clubs and activities on campus that can help you thrive. At Otterbein, you can join the equestrian team or join the pre-vet club to really hone your skills.

In-Person Veterinary Technician Programs

Obviously, NCTA and Otterbein both make this list, but may we also recommend Michigan State University in East Lansing? It offers both a certificate program and a bachelor’s degree, so you can decide whether you’d like to pursue the extra two years of education to have a more flexible academic background or if it makes more sense to finish up as quickly as possible. MSU stands out because it is actually uniquely committed to helping students in the school of veterinary medicine study abroad. You will need to be pursuing a bachelor’s degree to qualify, but it can be a great way to gain some new perspectives you would not ordinarily be exposed to if you studied strictly in the U.S. You also could have the opportunity to make a real difference for animals around the world. But be warned that the program at Michigan is competitive, and they only take new students in the fall, so prepare early if you are thinking about applying.

Being a vet tech isn’t all work; sometimes there are adorable kittens to brighten the day!

FLICKR: Austin Community College BY Austin Community College Vet Tech Program IS LICENSED UNDER CC BY 2.0.

Being a vet tech isn’t all work; sometimes there are adorable kittens to brighten the day!

You might be familiar with Purdue University for its football team, but did you know it also has a top-notch vet tech program? While you can earn your associate’s online, we recommend pursuing your bachelor’s on-campus because Purdue really emphasizes working with animals right away and even working with faculty on research. A lot of vets have ongoing research in their clinics, whether it is trying an experimental treatment on a particularly tough case or actually trying to produce publishable articles for the scientific community. Having research experience on your resume will help show that you really know what you are doing and that you will make a valuable asset for the team. Plus, more than 90 percent of Purdue students pass their certification exam on the first try.

So what specifically will you study at Purdue? According to their website:

“The Purdue Veterinary Technology program is fully accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and is a science based veterinary nursing program offering a Bachelors and Associate of Applied Science degrees.

As an integral part of the veterinary team, veterinary technicians and technologists perform a wide range of veterinary skills:

  • Radiology
  • Nursing care, including pre and post-surgical care
  • Anesthesia
  • Client education”

Vet Tech Programs Online

It can be tough to make a distance-learning program standout, since students are spread so far and the Internet severely limits students’ ability to practice their practical skills, but Cedar Valley College in Texas has managed to find a way. And the best part? You do not actually have to live in Texas to take advantage (but you will have to pay out-of-state tuition). Students at CVC have all the flexibility of an online program, but the professors also make themselves available by phone and email for individualized coaching through tricky material. CVC also focuses a lot of time on basic skills that you absolutely need to master before starting work. That focus on the fundamentals helps ensure that when students enter a vet clinic for the first time, they will not spent much time relearning things they should already know. And while you study with CVC, it is actually required that you spend time during your upper level coursework gaining hands-on experience at an approved vet’s office. That means that the college is making sure the standards stay high while students develop practical skills.

Vet techs work in all kinds of environments. Sometimes you might even find them in places you never thought of before.

By 807MDSC (http://www.flickr.com/photos/807thpao/6020019016/) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Vet techs work in all kinds of environments. Sometimes you might even find them in places you never thought of before.

Another excellent online option is St. Petersburg College, a community college based in Florida. Like all the other schools on this list, St. Petersburg College is specifically designed to prepare you for the Veterinary Technician National Examination, which allows graduates to work as certified vet techs. This online program stands out because it can easily be transferred for a bachelor’s degree, if you decide later on that more education is your best option. It’s especially exciting for us to see that 98 percent of St. Petersburg College graduates end up working in their fields, continuing their education, or serving in the military once they finish their degrees. It’s a tough job market out there, but St. Petersburg grads are ready to take it on. The curriculum is very general, but graduates of the program have been known to specialize in birds, large animals, and dentistry after graduation; they find that the required coursework provides a solid background for later specialization.

No matter where you study, working as a vet tech is a rewarding career path. The most important thing you can do to set yourself apart from the crowd is learn whenever and wherever you can and be committed to providing quality, compassionate care throughout your career.

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