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Is it Better to Be a Vet Technician Before a Veterinarian?

Individuals drawn to the veterinary medical field usually have a strong passion for working with animals. There are three key positions in the broad field of veterinary medicine: veterinary assistant, veterinary technician or technologist, and the veterinarian. The vet assistant is not required to have any formal education or licensing to work in a veterinary office. They usually handle a lot of the paperwork and clean up in the practice, and are always supervised by the vet tech and veterinarian. They receive their training on the job. Veterinary technicians and technologists training helps them to become the veterinarian’s nurse. They will do many jobs the vet would do, similar to a nurse in a medical practice for people. Technicians usually have a 2-year associate’s degree and technologists have a 4-year bachelor’s degree. After graduation techs will need to pass the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam, or the appropriate state exam to become a certified or licensed veterinary technician. Veterinarians have the sole responsibility of all treatments administered in their practice. Vets will have gone to school for a minimum of 8 years, depending upon specialties and residencies they chose to complete after graduation. Prior to practicing veterinary medicine, they will need to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE), and many will need to pass state exams as well.

Now the question is should a student pursue their vet tech degree prior to pursuing their veterinarian degree? While it is certainly possible, it is not typically the best choice. Most vet tech courses will not transfer towards another degree and a bachelor’s degree is usually required for veterinarian schools. So what happens is you will go to school for a minimum of two years to attain your associates degree and then still have to take four years for a bachelor’s degree. So it typically adds two years of school (and bills) to earn a degree in veterinary technology and then apply to vet school, making the overall time 10 years in school rather than 8. Instead you should pursue a 4-year degree in a related field while working as a veterinary assistant to gain experience in the field. Many veterinarian schools require experience working in the veterinary medicine field and they also require letters of recommendation from the vets you work with. Veterinary school is highly competitive to get into as there are only 28 accredited schools in the United States. Maintaining very good grades; usually a 3.5 or higher, and working in the veterinary field are both important to being accepted into a veterinary program. As stated previously one can work as a veterinary assistant without any formal education or training.

While it is not advised to pursue your vet tech degree prior to going onto veterinary school, it is not impossible. Some of the general educations classes will be transferable to a 4-year school. Veterinary schools require time spent in the field, the main reason is it shows the desire and initiative to work in this field. With experience like a vet tech work background, students will have a firsthand knowledge of what it is like in a veterinary practice and know if this is the right career path. Dealing with sick animals and their owners is not an easy job, so it is best to know right off if it is not the right career field for you. Helping people and animals is very rewarding and people who have the desire find this field extremely gratifying.

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