Veterinary Training Programs and Requirements

Learn about veterinary training programs. Get information about course requirements, prerequisites, career options, degree levels and licensure in order to make an informed decision about your education.

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Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology

These programs can introduce students to animal physiology and pathology, clinical procedures and medical terminology. Students in these 2-year programs are typically required to complete clinical rotations in veterinary practices. Graduates of these programs are qualified to obtain entry-level employment in veterinary offices. Prior to enrollment, some programs require that individuals complete classes in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer concepts, or show competency through testing. A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for admission.

Course Topics

Students in veterinary technology associate degree programs learn about the veterinary profession, including animal care, identification and bonding techniques. Required courses could include:

  • Animal anatomy and physiology
  • Clinical pathology
  • Veterinary clinical procedures
  • Surgical nursing
  • Radiology techniques
  • Dental hygiene
  • Anesthetics
  • Microbiology

Popular Career Options

An associate degree in veterinary technology may allow an individual to gain an entry-level position. Some popular careers include:

  • Veterinary technician
  • Lab animal care worker
  • Veterinary assistant

Certification Information

Regulation of these professionals varies between states, but certification, registration or certification of some form is commonly required to work as a veterinary technician. Many states require these professionals to successfully complete the Veterinary Technician National Examination. Additional certification can be earned through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science for individuals interested in research.


Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology

While an associate degree is sufficient for individuals interested in becoming veterinary technicians, aspiring technologists are typically required to complete a bachelor's degree. These programs can combine life science courses with agricultural and animal management courses. Students can learn how to identify biological processes of animals and provide animals with basic care. Sometimes, these programs are offered as 2+2 programs, where the final two years leading to a bachelor's degree build on the credits earned through an associate degree program. Before admission to a bachelor's degree program in veterinary technology, students must have a high school diploma or GED.

Course Topics

In addition to general education courses in mathematics, English and science, students in veterinary technology bachelor's degree programs take courses that focus on animals and their treatment. Students are often required to complete externships. Common courses include:

  • Veterinary medical terminology
  • Large animal care
  • Animal welfare
  • Animal health and nutrition
  • Small animal care
  • Radiography for veterinary professionals

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment rates for veterinary technicians and technologists were expected to rise by 52% from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). This above-average growth can be attributed to advancement in veterinary services, an expansive pet population and a growing emphasis on pet care. In 2011, the BLS reported that technicians and technologists earned a median annual salary of $30,140.


Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

As of 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredits 28 colleges in the United States to offer DVM degree programs (www.avma.org). Most programs require four years of study, though some colleges offer joint programs that combine undergraduate coursework with the traditional DVM curriculum.

Education Prerequisites

To enter these programs, applicants are expected to have experience with animals and approximately 60 credit hours of college-level coursework completed prior to entry. A bachelor's degree may not necessarily be required, but a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject, like biology, veterinary science, animal science or pre-veterinary studies could satisfy most admission requirements.

Required Coursework

Courses in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program teach students to diagnose and treat a variety of injuries and ailments in domestic and farm animals. Popular courses include:

  • Microscopic and gross anatomy
  • Clinical diagnosis of animals
  • Animal immunology
  • Animal husbandry
  • Veterinary embryology
  • Veterinary parasitology
  • Animal pharmacology

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the BLS, veterinarians are expected to see a 36% growth in employment from 2010-2020. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $82,900 in 2011, according to the BLS.

Licensure Information

To become licensed, veterinarians must obtain DVM degrees and receive passing grades on the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Additionally, veterinarians must pass an exam on federal rules and regulations regarding animal health care and treatment. Additional requirements may exist for specific states.

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