Veterinarian Lab Tech Education and Career Facts

Veterinarian lab techs comfort and care for animals, assist during surgeries and perform routine lab work. Find out about the courses required in a degree program, and learn about mandatory and voluntary certification. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Educational requirements for veterinarian lab techs include an associate's degree or bachelor's degree, depending upon the career path you choose. Coursework often includes lab work and hands-on training with animals.

Degrees Associate degree or a bachelor's degree
Courses Animal biology, chemistry, anesthesiology, care and handling of large and small animals
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 20% growth, much faster than average (veterinary technologists and technicians)
Median Salary (2017) $33,400 (veterinary technologists and technicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Are the Prerequisites to Become a Veterinarian Lab Tech?

You can begin preparing for a veterinary tech degree program by taking biology, science and math courses in secondary school. It's also important for you to develop good communication skills. Working in animal clinics often requires you to communicate information clearly and compassionately to pet owners who might be worried or upset. To become a veterinary lab technician, you could need to earn an associate degree; a bachelor's degree might be required to become a veterinary lab technologist.

What Programs Are Available?

Several schools offer 2-year associate degree or 4-year bachelor's degree programs in veterinary technology accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). In many states, you might need to graduate from an AVMA-accredited program to qualify for the state exam to become a registered veterinary technician (RVT).

A veterinary technology program prepares you to work with both small and large animals in clinical, laboratory, surgical or other animal care settings. During your coursework, you might have access to clinical and lab facilities, where you can participate in hands-on training with live animals. Veterinarian technology programs usually require you to complete at least one clinical rotation or internship. Courses in a veterinary technology program might include:

  • Animal science
  • Microbiology
  • Clinical pathology
  • Care and handling of small/large animals
  • Anesthesiology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy and physiology

What Will My Job Duties Include?

Under state certification criteria, veterinarian lab techs are generally not allowed to diagnose conditions, prescribe medications or perform surgeries. According to the BLS, veterinary lab technician and technologist duties vary slightly, though as a technologist, you could have more opportunities to work in research as well as private practice (www.bls.gov). Depending on the place of employment, your job might include the following tasks:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Collecting and analyzing specimens
  • Preparing for surgeries
  • Assisting the veterinarian during surgeries
  • Treating and caring for animals
  • Administering medication to animals
  • Communicating with pet owners
  • Preparing reports and record keeping

How Can I Further Prepare For My Career?

After earning your veterinary technology degree, you'll need to check with your State Board of Veterinary Examiners or a comparable agency for registration, certification or licensing requirements. In most states, you'll take the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam to meet regulation requirements. Some facilities, such as research laboratories, encourage you to pursue additional certification through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). Depending on your area of interest, you could become certified in farm animal research, animal health or management.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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