Becoming a Veterinary Surgical Technician

If you love animals, a veterinary surgical technician just might be the job of your dreams. Although a veterinary surgical technician’s job can be stressful, it’s also highly rewarding, knowing you’re actively involved in life-saving procedures.


The average salary for a surgical veterinary technician is $39,000 but will vary with location and size of the facility.

First, Become a Certified Vet Tech
Becoming a veterinary surgical technician requires a specialized education and experience as a general veterinary technician (vet tech.) The veterinary surgical technician must be caring and compassionate toward animals but needs strong people-oriented communication skills as well, addressing pet parents’ concerns.

Upon graduation from high school, a potential veterinary surgical technician should first enroll in a veterinary technician degree program offered by an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-accredited school. Most veterinary technicians hold a 2-year associate degree, although some schools offer 4-year vet tech bachelor’s degree programs.

A graduate of a vet tech program must be licensed in order to be employed. The licensing requirements vary by state. Some states require passage of “a test regulated by the State Board Medical Examiner. Other states require you to take and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination

Familiarize Yourself With the AVST
The Academy of Veterinary Surgical Technicians (AVST) is an organization whose mission “is to increase the competence of those who perform specialty duties in the field of veterinary surgery. AVST will offer candidates advanced continuing education opportunities and will establish educational and professional experience prerequisites to earn recognition as a VTS (Surgery)”

In January, 2010, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) recognized the AVST “for those veterinary technicians with specialized knowledge in the surgical field of veterinary medicine”.

To be recognized as a veterinary surgical technician, a candidate must have worked at least 3 years (6000 hours) as a credentialed vet tech, 75 percent of those hours (or 4500) in surgery. After applying for recognition with the AVST, they must “maintain a case log, create in depth case reports, fulfill continuing education requirements, submit letters of recommendation, and complete a skills list”. Finally, the applicant must pass an exam, the first of which will be given in 2012 at the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) Symposium in Washington, D. C.

Job Outlook
Due to increased specialization in the field of veterinary medicine and the growing acceptance of pets as family members, the job outlook for surgical veterinary technicians looks excellent.