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2-Year vs. 4-Year Veterinarian Degree: Which One Is Right for Me?

A veterinary technician and technologist is basically a veterinarian’s nurse. They provide invaluable support for a vet and are an important member of the veterinary team. Some of the responsibilities of a vet tech in a companion animal practice include: obtaining and recording patient histories during a physical examination, preparing animals for surgery, assisting in diagnostic and medical procedures, performing dental procedures, advising and educating animal owners, and preparing and sterilizing surgical instruments and equipment. The traditional career of a veterinary technician is working in a small animal, large animal or mixed animal practice. Specialties have emerged in this field however, and there are more options to choose from these days. There are clinics specializing in ophthalmics, orthopedics, dermatology, equines, and emergency medicine, to name a few. Other areas they may work in besides an animal practice are: biomedical facilities, diagnostic laboratories, wildlife facilities, humane societies, pharmaceutical companies, and food safety inspection organizations.

According to the US Bureau of Labor, the job outlook for veterinary technicians and technologist is very bright. Employment in this field is expected to grow 36 percent by the year 2018. Job opportunities are expected to come from the need to replace technicians leaving the occupation and the limited number of qualified technicians and technologists graduating from 2-year and 4-year degree programs. The output is not expected to meet the demand over the next 6 years. Pet owners are also becoming more willing to pay for veterinary care because they feel their animal is part of the family. The median annual salary for vet technicians and technologists is $28,900 with the top 10 percent earning more than $41,490 per year.

The question you might be asking is, “what is the difference between a 2-year degree and a 4-year degree, and which one is right for me?”. The number of 2-year degree programs offering an associate’s degree has grown to about 170 programs. Small class sizes though, lead to less than 3,800 graduates per year from 2-year programs. Graduates from a 2-year degree program usually obtain their Associate in Science degree in Veterinary Technology. Graduates with an associate’s degree are considered to be a “technician”. The number of 4-year degree programs offering a bachelor’s degree is only 21. There are only about 500 graduates per year from 4-year veterinary technology programs. Students who have a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary technology are considered to be “technologists”. Technologists will have better opportunities for research jobs in a variety of industries. Graduates having their bachelor’s degree will have an advantage over those jobseekers only having an associate’s degree and will be able to demand a higher salary. Having a bachelor’s degree is also a positive if you ever feel the desire to change career paths.

Whether you decide to pursue a 2-year degree or a 4-year degree the school you choose should be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Programs accredited by the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) can be found on the AVMA website.

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