Veterinary Schools

Veterinary technicians work right alongside veterinary doctors to provide top-notch care for the four-legged (and occasionally feathered or amphibious) members of our families. Most veterinary technicians work in the kind of animal clinics or hospitals you have likely visited with your own pets, though some may work in laboratories or zoos or even for the FDA. The wide scope of veterinary technology practice offers plenty of opportunities to specialize your own practice.

Expert Insight

""I would encourage it for anyone wants to help animals AND people... Being a vet tech means that your responsibility is to help an owner feel calm, trust your abilities and also to help them better understand the best way to care for their animal."" Read the full interview with Allison Stephens an experienced Vet Tech

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Top Vet Tech Schools

The field of veterinary technology continues to grow, right along with advances in care for the nation's millions of pets — cats, dogs, birds, horses, and all other kinds of critters. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of veterinary technologists and technicians will grow by 19 percent between 2014 and 2024. Part of this growth is due to the increased amount of responsibilities that vet techs are given, from general animal care to lab work.

Those interested in pursuing a career in this promising field can use our ranking below as a launch pad. We've gathered data across several key categories in order to curate this list of the top 10 vet tech schools — of the 120 in the country that offer both distance education and on-campus programs.

San Juan College

Coming in at No. 1 in our ranking is San Juan College, with a strong performance across all of our categories. The high score is especially for in-state tuition and instructional spending per full-time student. Within the veterinary technician distance learning program, students can pursue their associate degree or their certificate. However, only those pursuing the associate degree are eligible to sit for the National Veterinary Technology Examination.

  • Location: Farmington, New Mexico
  • Total enrollment: 8323
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $1,474
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 3
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 3
Windward Community College

This community college in Hawaii ranked no. 2 based on its high academic support spending and its low cost of books and supplies. Their associate degree includes classroom instruction and hands-on experience with live animals in a clinical setting. Subjects covered include pharmacology, radiology, anesthesiology, surgical assisting, dentistry and nutrition. They also offer a two-semester certificate program.

  • Location: Kaneohe, Hawaii
  • Total enrollment: 2,661
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,920
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 2
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 0
Bellingham Technical College

This technical college supports students by keeping tuition fees relatively low, according to the data we collected, and by keeping academic spending comparatively high. Graduates of Bellingham's veterinary technician associate degree program are trained to care for animals, protect the public, understand anatomy and diagnosis, and take their state and national certification exams.

  • Location: Bellingham, Washington
  • Total enrollment: 2,301
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $3,389
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 3
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 0
Eastern Wyoming College

Ranking in the top 20 percent for both in-state tuition and the amount of grant funding provided per full-time student, Eastern Wyoming comes in at No. 4 in our overall ranking of the best vet tech schools in the country. Their veterinary technology program leads to an Associate of Applied Science degree. Students in this program have access to a wide variety of live animals and high-tech equipment in the campus laboratory.

  • Location: Torrington, Wyoming
  • Total enrollment: 1,704
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,568
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 2
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 0
Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell

Eastern New Mexico University's Roswell campus makes vet tech on the job training affordable by offering low in-state tuition and ensuring that the cost of books and supplies stays low. Those wanting to pursue a pre-veterinary track should consider this university's bachelor's in animal science. This program puts students on a track for advanced vet tech work, or to pursue their educational training to become a veterinary doctor.

  • Location: Roswell, New Mexico
  • Total enrollment: 3,303
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $1,944
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 1
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 0
Northwest College

Our data shows that Northwest College has a strong track record for investing more in instructional and academic support than most schools. It also offers more grant funding per full-time students than most of the other schools on the list. Northwest's veterinary assistant associate degree focuses on animal handling skills, as well as the communication skills necessary to provide customer service and operate as a member of a vet care team.

  • Location: Powell, Wyoming
  • Total enrollment: 1,652
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,789
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 1
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 0
Yuba College

Ranking 3rd for its in-state tuition figures, and performing well across the other categories, ensured this college's place on our top 10 list. Yuba College's vet tech program leads to an associate degree and prepares students to become Registered Veterinary Technicians. This program specializes in the following areas: large animal care, shelter medicine, lab animal medicine, and public health.

  • Location: Marysville, California
  • Total enrollment: 6,640
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $1,144
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 2
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 0
Northwest Mississippi Community College

This community college keeps costs low for students — it ranked 5th out of 120 schools for its low cost of books and supplies and 18th for in-state tuition fees. Their associate of arts degree in veterinary technology provides training in both classroom and clinical settings. Students are given the opportunity to practice what they have learned by caring for live animals.

  • Location: Senatobia, Mississippi
  • Total enrollment: 7,559
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,550
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 1
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 0
Cosumnes River College

Out of the 120 colleges we assessed for this ranking, Cosumnes River College came in 1st in the low in-state tuition category. It also ranked 15th for its retention rate. The associate of science in veterinary technology covers animal behavior, restraint, nutrition, nursing, anesthesia, dental care, surgical assistance and laboratory procedures. Graduates are trained to work as Registered Veterinary Technicians.

  • Location: Sacramento, California
  • Total enrollment: 14,467
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $1,104
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 2
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 0
Owensboro Community and Technical College

This school rounds out our list of the top ten vet tech schools, with a 10th place ranking in institutional grants and 27th place in graduation rate, out of the 120 schools we assessed. In Owensboro's Associate of Applied Science program, future veterinary technologists will learn client relations, anatomy physiology, microbiology, radiology, pharmacology and anesthesiology, among other disciplines.

  • Location: Owensboro, Kentucky
  • Total enrollment: 4,156
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $3,624
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 1
  • Total number of distance education programs offered: 0

Veterinary Technician Specializations

Your clinical experience or personal interest may lead you to pursue a veterinary technician career specialization. Some schools may offer the opportunity for specialized study or continuing education. Training, certification and credentialing in veterinary technology specializations is offered through veterinary academies and societies. Veterinary technicians can specialize in:

  • Dentistry (avdt.us)
  • Anesthesiology (avta-vts.org)
  • Emergency and critical care (avecct.org)
  • Surgery (avst-vts.org)
  • Animal behavior (avbt.net)
  • Internal medicine (aimvt.com)
  • Zoological medicine (avzmt.org)
  • Equine nursing (aaevt.org)
  • Clinical practice (avtcp.org) for canines & felines, avian & exotic animals, and production animals
  • Nutrition (nutritiontechs.org)
  • Pathology (avcpt.net)
  • Management (vhma.org)

Veterinary Technician Certification

Veterinary technician schools offer a two-year associate degree for veterinary technicians. While this is the most common path to becoming a veterinary technician, some states do allow a combination of a high school diploma or GED and on-the-job training.

Most states require veterinary technicians to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam. Additionally, veterinary technicians who want to work in a laboratory setting will need certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (aalas.org). A number of veterinary academies and societies offer you the opportunity to become trained and certified in veterinary specializations.

Becoming a Vet Tech: Expert Q&A

To learn more about entering into the veterinary field, we spoke with Allison Stephens. She has been a vet tech for many years, specializing in emergency and shelter medicine. She has worked as a vet tech in Louisiana and New Mexico, encountering a variety of hospital environments. Currently, she is starting her own vet tech business ""Happy at Home"" in Santa Fe, N.M., and helps students interested in the field by providing some career-related guidance below.

About The Expert
Allison Stephens is an experienced vet tech, specializing in emergency and shelter medicine.

What is the typical educational path to become a veterinary technician/assistant?

One of two ways...

  1. Go to school and become a licensed veterinary technician
  2. Start out working at a hospital and with enough time and experience you can possibly become certified with that alone, depending on what your state regulations are.

In most vet clinics I've worked at, the majority of people were not certified. However, you don't make quite as much being un-certified.

How long does it take to complete education for this job?

Most programs are around 18 months.

Why would you encourage someone to pursue this career?

I would encourage it for anyone wants to help animals AND people. A lot of vet techs I have worked with chose that career so that they wouldn't have to work with people and that is not what this job is about. Being a vet tech means that your responsibility is to help an owner feel calm, trust your abilities and also to help them better understand the best way to care for their animal.

It is a job that you have to have a calling and a passion for. It is not an easy career physically or emotionally. It also does not pay as much for how hard you work, which is why you have to be passionate about it. Clients do not understand your job and are usually worried/concerned for their pet — with that emotions can get heated very quickly and you have to learn a lot of grace and patience.

The biggest disadvantage is you cannot stop an owner from making a bad decision. It is ultimately their choice for what they want to do with their pet. For example: in the emergency hospital, we had a 16-week old lab mix come in with a fracture in its cervical spine, very painful. Poor dog was crying in so much pain. The owner denied pain medication because they did not want ""chemicals"" in their dog's system and they waited for their ""holistic veterinarian"" to open. Her business was out of her house and I doubt she was a licensed vet.

Anything else rewarding about being a vet tech?

For me, there is no better feeling then seeing a client and patient walk out the door knowing with the utmost confidence that you did everything you could for them. I love taking the time to make sure they understand all of the medication, side effects, when to come back in, and to not ever hesitate to call with any questions.

Also getting to see an animal that has been on IV fluids for days, transferred from specialty doctor to specialty, able to walk out the door on its own and knowing that it was because you worked as hard as you did.

Some say that it is a thankless job, and that can sometimes be true, but in my experience your team of fellow technicians and doctors do a great job of making sure that your talents and skills are noted. We spent most of our shifts building up our coworkers so that no one would get burned out. An almost non-existent environment in other career areas. The friends I've made working as a tech are friends I will have for life.

Do you have any advice for young people who are just starting out in this career?

Try it first. Volunteer if you have to at varying clinics. A clinic out in a rural area can be a whole different type of job compared to busier one. I'd say give it a try for six months or so before deciding to agree to the expense of getting certified.

Are there any additional certifications or classes you'd recommend?

Not when starting out. There are additional certs you can get if you're going to be working in shelter medicine. To improve job prospects, I would say the best thing you can do is get experience in fields other than just cats and dogs. Find a wildlife rehabilitator to shadow or try and find a veterinarian that works with exotics. It is very helpful knowing how to handle and restrain as many species as possible.

Veterinary Technician Salary and Career Info

While some students follow their hearts into this field, salary and job potential are important pieces of information to have before committing to a career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), there are three main tiers in the veterinary field. Here's what to expect in terms of average national salaries, job availability, and growth for those three veterinary-related careers:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean WageProjected Job Growth Rate
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers79,99026,8109
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians99,39033,87018.7
Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Increasingly, veterinary practices are coming to rely on the veterinary technicians to provide quality animal care. For those who love working with animals, veterinary technology schools can be the first step to a long-term career with solid job potential and a two-year pathway to an associate degree.

Top School Ranking Methodology

We ranked a set of schools offering undergraduate programs in veterinary on several criteria pertaining to cost, program availability, and student success, among other factors, using the following data points and the weights specified.

  1. In-state undergraduate tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015: 25%
  2. Estimated cost of books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015: 5%
  3. Total number of degree and certificate programs in veterinary offered at the bachelor’s level or below, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015: 15%
  4. Admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 10%
  5. Total institutional grants relative to enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 5%
  6. Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 7.5%
  7. Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 5%
  8. Graduation rate in 200 percent time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014:7.5%
  9. Flexibility, based on the following seven factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014 and 2015: 20%
  • Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
  • Whether the school offers credit for life experience
  • Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
  • Whether the school offers remedial services
  • Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
  • Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
  • Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
  • American Association for Laboratory Animal Science, https://www.aalas.org
  • American Association of Veterinary State Boards, http://www.aavsb.org/VTNE/
  • National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, http://www.navta.net/
  • Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm
  • Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292056.htm
  • Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Projections Central: Long-Term Projections, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
  • Interview with Allison Stephens, veterinary technician, July, 2016
  • Bellingham Technical College, http://www.btc.edu/DegreesClasses/Programs/ProgramDetails.aspx?ID=90&tab=tab1
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm#tab-6
  • Cosumnes River College, https://www.crc.losrios.edu/catalog/areas/vt
  • Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, http://www.enmu.edu/family-and-consumer-sciences-and-agriculture/pre-veterinary
  • Eastern Wyoming College, https://ewc.wy.edu/academic-services/majors/veterinary-technology/
  • Northwest College, https://catalog.nwc.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=4&poid=458&returnto=808
  • Northwest Mississippi Community College, https://www.northwestms.edu/index.php/?page_id=4172
  • Owensboro Community and Technical College, http://owensboro.kctcs.edu/Academics/Academic_Programs_of_Study/Veterinary_technology.aspx
  • San Juan College, https://www.sanjuancollege.edu/school-of-trades-and-technology/programs/veterinary-technology/course-plan/
  • Windward Community College, https://windward.hawaii.edu/veterinary_studies/
  • Yuba College, https://vettech.yccd.edu/
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