Career Education - Learn about all careers, career pay salary, job outlook

How to Become a Veterinary Technologist or Technician

There are primarily two levels of education and training for entry into this occupation: a 4-year program for veterinary technologists and a 2-year program for veterinary technicians. Typically, both technologists and technicians must take a credentialing exam and must become registered, licensed, or certified, depending on the state. 


Veterinary technologists and technicians must complete a postsecondary program in veterinary technology. In 2011, there were 191 veterinary technology programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Most of these programs offer a 2-year associate’s degree for veterinary technicians. Twenty-one colleges offer a 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. Nine schools offer distance learning. 

People interested in becoming a veterinary technologist or technician should take high school classes in biology, other sciences, and math.

Licenses and Certification

Although each state regulates veterinary technologists and technicians differently, most candidates must take a credentialing exam. Most states require the Veterinary Technician National Examination. Depending on the state, candidates must become certified, licensed, or registered to practice. 

For technologists seeking work in a research facility, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) offers three levels of certification: assistant laboratory animal technician (ALAT), laboratory animal technician (LAT), and laboratory animal technologist (LATG). Although certification is not mandatory, workers at each level can show competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration and management to prospective employers. To become certified, candidates must have work experience in a laboratory animal facility and pass the AALAS examination. 

Important Qualities

Compassion. Veterinary technologists and technicians must treat animals with kindness and must be sensitive when dealing with the owners of sick pets.

Detail oriented. Veterinary technologists and technicians must pay attention to details and be precise when recording information, doing diagnostic tests, and administering medication. They must monitor the behavior and condition of animals and be able to recognize any problems that arise. 

Interpersonal skills. Veterinary technologists and technicians spend a substantial amount of their time communicating with supervisors, animal owners, and other staff. In addition, a growing number of technicians counsel pet owners on animal behavior and nutrition.  

Manual dexterity. Dexterity is important for veterinary technologists and technicians because they must handle animals, medical instruments, and laboratory equipment with care. They also do intricate tasks, such as dental work, giving anesthesia, and taking x rays, which require a steady hand.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition