Your Complete Guide to Vet Tech Programs Online

A detailed look at top online vet tech schools, how they work, degree options, and what you’ll need to start making a difference working with animals.

If you love animals, working as a veterinary technician can be a dream job. Like veterinarians, vet techs spend their days caring for dogs, cats, exotic pets and creatures of all kinds. Amongst many other duties, they may clip nails, administer medications, provide nursing care, restrain animals, and be ready to assist a veterinarian during an exam or in surgery.

While veterinarians must spend eight years in school and vie for one of the relatively few openings available at accredited veterinary schools, vet techs can be ready for a job in as little as two years. In some cases, students don’t even have to travel to campus for a portion of their education. Online vet tech schools use the latest technology to teach the academic fundamentals of the career, coupled with in-person training at nearby partner facilities.

If you want to attend vet tech school online, you need to look for institutions that have proper accreditation and will adequately prepare you for professional licensure. Keep reading for details on your educational options and what it takes to get your vet tech career started.

Best in Class: Top Online Vet Tech Schools in 2019

You could spend hours searching the web for accredited online vet tech programs, but we’ve done the hard work and scouted out the best of the best. The schools listed below have affordable and comprehensive hybrid online programs. What’s more, they hold the accreditation needed for you to pursue professional credentialing as a veterinary technician.

We’ve spotlighted three programs below to provide a detailed look at exactly how online vet tech programs work. Check out these schools as well as the other institutions listed to discover who stands out in 2019.

Spotlight: Medaille College

medaille-logo

Accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Medaille College offers its vet tech program online and on its campus in Rochester, New York. Both formats result in an Associate in Applied Science in Veterinary Technology.

The Medaille vet tech program is designed with working adults in mind, and it generally takes two years for students to earn the 70 credits required by the online program. Classes are broken up into 7-week or 15-week terms, and online students choose in-person clinical experiences to complement their online learning. The program can be started in either the spring or fall.

Medaille College offers a curriculum that includes general education, mathematics, liberal arts, vet tech classes, and preceptorships. Previous students have gained in-person experience at The Buffalo Zoo, Erie County SPCA, and numerous local animal hospitals and veterinary clinics. The Medaille Vet Tech Club connects members with local job opportunities and sponsors community events such as an annual free dog wash.

Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) and become licensed to work in New York. Some graduates choose to enter the workforce immediately while others may continue their education with a bachelor’s degree that can prepare them for veterinary school.

Spotlight: Northern Virginia Community College

Northern-Virginia-Community-College

The online vet tech program at Northern Virginia Community College is designed for current veterinary assistants who work at least 20 hours a week in an approved veterinary clinic. NOVA, as the community college is called, considers its online AAS degree program to be part-time and takes three years to complete.

Students enrolled in the online vet tech degree program complete basic medical science courses at home using online textbooks and course materials. Then, they must come to the school’s Loudoun campus two or three times per semester to complete laboratory reviews and evaluations. Each student has a veterinarian as a mentor who supervises in-person practice.

The NOVA program begins once each year in the fall, and enrollment is limited to 30-35 students to ensure a personalized learning experience. The curriculum covers topics such as animal anatomy, dentistry, pharmacology, and clinical pathology. Most courses have weekly assignments, and exams are proctored at approved testing locations.

Northern Virginia Community College notes its online vet tech program teaches material that is equivalent to the on-campus program. Online learners should be self-motivated with excellent time management and communication skills. The program is fully accredited by AVMA, and financial aid is available to eligible students.

Spotlight: Jefferson State

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You don’t have to study on campus to earn a vet tech degree from Jefferson State Community College in Alabama. The school has a fully accredited program for distance learners. The program combines online classwork with in-person practice at veterinary clinics.

Jefferson State starts its vet tech program each spring and fall. In addition to online courses, students must volunteer or work at an Alabama veterinary clinic for at least 20 hours per week. Students may also be required to come to campus one or two times per semester to complete clinical requirements not available at their veterinary clinic. For instance, large animal and laboratory animal requirements may need to be completed on-campus. Examinations may be taken at approved testing centers across the state.

Online courses within the Jefferson State program cover topics such as animal anatomy, diseases, and pharmacology. Clinical requirements teach basic, emergency, and surgical care among other skills. Students must maintain a grade of C or better in required classes and have an overall 2.0 GPA to continue in the program.

A number of scholarship programs are available to help offset the cost of tuition at Jefferson State. Upon graduation, students will eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam and be licensed to work as a veterinary technician in Alabama.

Earning Your Vet Tech Degree Online

Veterinary technicians have hands-on jobs. They must know how to safely restrain animals, administer medications, and perform basic laboratory tests. That may leave you wondering how students learn to do these things when studying online. The answer can vary from institution to institution, but the bottom line is all accredited online vet tech programs will include some in-person requirements. The difference between online and on-campus programs is the flexibility offered by distance education degrees.

With an online vet tech program, you have more control over how and when you gain clinical experience. Schools ask that students work or volunteer in an approved veterinary clinic for a minimum number of hours, but students can often arrange that work at times that are convenient for them. With academic courses completed entirely online, students can work at a full-time job during the day and study on the nights and weekends.

As you review your program options, keep in mind that online degrees can fall into one of two categories.

Mostly online

These vet tech programs offer the maximum flexibility. Some are offered in an accelerated format while others allow students to pursue their education on a part-time basis. Using a combination of online textbooks, discussion boards, and multi-media presentations, these degrees can be completed almost entirely off-campus. Students collaborate with one another and with faculty members using digital resources.

While mostly online programs still have clinical requirements, they can usually be completed at an off-campus veterinary clinic on a schedule of the student’s own choosing. On-campus laboratory work may be limited to just a few times per semester. The programs we’ve featured on this page can all be completed mostly online.

Partially online

Partially online programs often allow students to complete academic classes and general education requirements through distance education courses while traveling to campus for clinical requirements. These programs may not require students to volunteer or work at a veterinary clinic while earning their degree.

While not as flexible as mostly online programs, partially online programs can be a good choice for those who have limited hours to be on campus each week. Time on campus can be focused on clinical classes while other program requirements can be completed on a schedule that is convenient for you.

Online Vet Tech Degree Options

If you’re wondering how long does it take to become a vet tech, the answer depends on the type of degree program you pursue.  Vet tech schools typically offer two degree options: associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees. An associate degree is usually completed in two years while a bachelor’s degree is a four-year program.

However, the timeframe isn’t the only thing different between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree. Your program choice may depend largely on where you see your career going in the long run.

Associate degree

Most accredited schools in veterinary technology offer an associate degree, making these two-year programs the standard education for veterinary technicians. Sometimes called veterinary nursing degrees, an associate degree in veterinary technology will cover all the basics needed to work in a private clinical practice. Most curriculums cover small and large animal care, surgical procedures, pharmacology, and dentistry among other topics.

To be admitted to an online vet tech associate degree program, you may need to first complete some general education classes. Students may do that by first enrolling in their selected school in a non-major program. Then, once they have their prerequisite classes completed, they can apply for admission to the vet tech program.

An associate degree can be a smart choice for anyone who knows they want a hands-on career with animals and would like to enter the workforce quickly. Veterinary technicians are expected to see 20 percent job growth from 2016-2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a two-year degree may be the fastest way to qualify for these jobs.

Bachelor’s degree

Curriculum Focus: Online Classes & On-Site Clinicals

While individual classes can vary, all online vet tech schools cover the same basic topics. Their curriculum is intended to prepare students to provide both routine care as well as work in high-stress, emergency situations. Classes are broken down into online, academic course, and on-site clinical work. Here’s what you can expect from both.

  • Vet tech online classes

    The following classes are usually offered as online courses. They provide a foundation of knowledge that will then be put to work in a clinical setting.

    Animal Anatomy: This is often one of the first classes a vet tech student will take. It covers all the major body systems, such as skeletal, respiratory, circulatory, and urinary. At the end of the course, students should be able to identify tissues and organs and understand how systems are interrelated.

    Animal Diseases: This course typically focuses on common animal diseases and their immune response. The goal with this course is not only to be able to identify diseases but also understand appropriate treatments and preventive measures to avoid the spread of communicable illnesses.

    Pharmacology and Toxicology: As with human medicine, veterinary care relies on pharmaceuticals to combat illness and maintain good health. In this class, students learn about proper administration and potential side effects of veterinary drugs. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to calculate proper dosages, recognize various drug classifications, and understand potential dangers associated with certain medications.

    Animal Behavior: Vet techs need to understand how animals behave and proper handling techniques. This class offers instruction in typical animal responses to stressful situations and options for providing care in a safe manner. Courses on animal behavior may focus on cats and dogs or branch out into other species as well.

    Veterinary Office Procedures: While veterinary technicians work in the exam room, they may also be responsible for taking notes, inputting patient records, and responding to client concerns. Courses in office procedures cover the proper way to perform these tasks effectively while maintaining patient confidentiality and complying with any government requirements.

  • Vet tech on-site clinicals

    Clinical requirements ensure students are able to take the information presented in lecture classes and put it into practice. Here are three lab classes you may take as part of a vet tech program.

    Anatomy Lab: Students may be required to take an anatomy lab in conjunction with an online class in anatomy. This hands-on class may include dissection and necropsy procedures. Given the nature of this class, it may be one of the few on-campus requirements of online degree programs.

    Emergency and First Aid: This clinical requirement ensures students know how to respond to a number of emergency situations. It will cover topics such as cardiac arrest, shock, poisonings, and trauma. Upon completion, students should be able to evaluate animals in an emergency situation and administer appropriate first aid treatments. This clinical requirement can often be met at a local veterinary clinic where a student is working or volunteering.

    Clinical Procedures: As an introduction to laboratory procedures, this clinical requirement teaches students basic lab techniques and diagnostic methods. It will cover topics such as hematology, organ function tests, and post mortem examinations. As with other clinical classes, these requirements may be filled at an approved veterinary clinic rather than on-campus.

How Much Does Online Vet Tech School Cost?

For many students, a top concern is how to pay for college. Fortunately, many online vet tech programs are offered by community colleges which traditionally have lower tuition rates than four-year schools.

Tuition and fees for in-state students at community colleges average $3,660 per year in 2019, according to the College Board. Out-of-state students pay an average of $8,660. Average tuition rates at four-year colleges and universities range from $10,230 to $35,830, depending on your residency status and whether a school is public or private.

Before you write off vet tech programs as too expensive, remember there are numerous financial aid options to pay for a higher education. We have a page dedicated to specific scholarships and spotlighting online vet tech schools that accept financial aid.

Getting Your Professional Vet Tech Credential

Earning a vet tech degree is only one step in beginning your career. You also need to be licensed to work in your state. Professional credentialing can vary from state-to-state but almost all jurisdictions use the Veterinary Technician National Exam as a prerequisite to licensing. Here’s what to expect:

The Veterinary Technician National Exam

Once you graduate from an accredited vet tech program, you should be eligible to take the VTNE. The exam is offered during three windows each year. This computer-based exam takes three hours to complete and includes 170 multiple-choice questions. Of these, 150 are scored and 20 are pilot questions that may be used on future exams. The exam is offered in both English and French.

When you apply for the exam, you’ll need to submit a copy of official final transcript and pay a $325 fee. Once your application has been accepted, you can schedule your exam time at a local testing center. An official score will be provided immediately at the conclusion of the exam.

While the VTNE is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, that organization does not actually credential vet techs. Instead, you need to send your official score report to your state veterinary licensing board.

State Veterinary Licensing Board

State veterinary licensing boards are the entities that approve vet technicians to work within their borders. Each board has its own licensing criteria, but there are some common requirements across jurisdictions.

States often limit licensing to those who have graduated from an accredited vet tech program and passed the VTNE. Many have a separate state licensing exam as well. This state exam isn’t focused on clinical skills but rather an applicant’s knowledge of state laws.

After passing the necessary exams, licensure applicants may be required to pay an additional fee, pass a background check, submit a letter of recommendation, or meet other criteria. Check with your state veterinary licensing board for the specific requirements in your area.

Career & Salary Outlook: What You Can Do with a Vet Tech Degree

Job prospects look bright for veterinary technicians, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The government agency estimates the occupation will see 20 percent growth from 2016-2026, a rate that’s much faster than the average for all occupations. Since only those who earn the appropriate education and credentialing will be eligible for these jobs, employment opportunities should be good in the coming years.

The vast majority of vet techs – 91 percent according to the BLS – work in the veterinary services field. There, they may be employed by private clinics, animal hospitals, and laboratories. The remaining nine percent may be employed by colleges or social advocacy groups such as humane societies.

Depending on where they work, vet techs may have night, weekend, or holiday hours. That’s particularly true for those working in 24-hour clinics offering emergency services.

How Much Do Vet Techs Make?

As of May 2017, the median pay for veterinary technicians and technologists was $33,400, according to the BLS. However, salaries can vary significantly depending on factors such as where someone works and their years of experience. In 2017, the bottom 10 percent of workers earned less than $22,880 while the top 10 percent made more than $49,350.

Vet techs working in research facilities may earn more than technicians employed by private practices. BLS data indicates those working in higher education as college instructors tend to have higher salaries as well.

What Career Paths are Available?

Working in a private veterinary clinic is only one career path to consider. Earning a vet tech degree can also give you the skills needed to work in one of the following specialized fields, many of which are governed by societies and academies offering their own credentialing process.

Critical Care

Critical care technicians are employed at emergency clinics where they assist in treating seriously injured or ill animals.

Dentistry

Anesthesia

Zoological

Veterinary Technician Student Resources

If you’re ready to learn more about being a veterinary technician, start by contacting schools offering vet tech programs. Then, check out the resources below that offer more information for students and others interested in this career path.

National Association for Veterinary Technicians in America: The NAVTA is a professional organizations for vet techs. Its website includes information about veterinary careers and education options.

Veterinary Technician Specialties: If you think you want to specialize your career, this page from the NAVTA website includes links to all the societies and academies overseeing vet tech specialties.

Accredited Veterinary Technician Programs: The American Veterinary Medical Association accredits vet tech programs, and you can find a list of approved schools on its website.

American Association of Veterinary State Boards: The AAVSB oversees the Veterinary Technician National Exam, and this site is where you can apply to sit for it.

State Licensing Boards: Each state has its own regulations for vet techs. This page on the AAVSB website provides links to each state licensing board.

WhereTechsConnect.com: This jobs board lists employment opportunities for vet techs across the country.