How Long Does it Take to Become a Vet Tech, Veterinary Assistant, Veterinarian?

For those who love working with animals, the veterinary field offers several career paths that may be of interest. The three main positions are veterinary technician, veterinary assistant, and veterinarian. Each plays a different role within the veterinarian’s office and requires different schooling.

Veterinary Technicians
Veterinary technicians conduct clinical tasks in a veterinarian’s private practice and are supervised by a license veterinarian. Vet techs may perform medical or laboratory tests, treat medical conditions, record patients’ medical histories, develop radiographs, and provide nursing care.

What Courses do You Need to Take?
Students interested in a career as a veterinary technician should take high school classes in the areas of science, biology, and math. Any coursework or seminars on communication and teamwork would also be beneficial. After graduation, these students should attend a veterinary technician program that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Such a program generally takes two years to complete, at which time students are awarded an associate degree. After passing a state-administered licensing exam, recent graduates may begin work with veterinarians as trainees. Those who already have extensive hands-on experience with diagnostic and medical equipment usually spend less time in on-the-job training.

Veterinary Assistants
Veterinary Assistants care for animals in animal hospitals, clinics, and laboratories. There are no formal educational requirements, only on-the-job training. Thus, the length of training depends on the tasks and on how quickly the trainee learns.

Veterinarians (DVM – Doctors of Veterinary Medicine) diagnose and treat diseases among animals such as pets, livestock, zoo animals, and laboratory subjects. Vets may also protect humans against diseases that animals carry, or conduct research on health problems that present in both humans and animals. Typical tasks include administering vaccinations, medicating animals, treating wounds, setting fractures, performing surgery, and educating owners about animal feeding and behavior.

Those who are interested in a veterinary career should take college classes in the areas of sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics, genetics, microbiology, and zoology; maths including statistics, algebra and trigonometry, pre-calculus, and calculus; and liberal arts such as English or literature, humanities, and social sciences. Business management courses would be helpful, but are not required. Some veterinary colleges require a bachelor’s degree before admission, while others do not. All colleges require satisfactory scores one of these entrance exams: Graduate Record Examination, Veterinary College Admission Test, or Medical College Admission Test. After obtaining a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, new graduates may choose to study a specialty during an internship. All veterinarians must pass licensing exams before practicing veterinary medicine.