What is the difference between a veterinarian, veterinary technologist, veterinary technician and veterinary assistant?

Persons with varying degrees of educational experience are staffing the veterinary hospital. Tasks performed in the hospital, to provide animal care, should be assigned to persons in the level where education and training exists to ensure a positive outcome for the patient. There may be times when an employee may be asked to work at a level below their expertise, but in keeping with the philosophy of quality animal care, the opposite should not take place.

The veterinarian is solely responsible for diagnosing, prognosing, prescribing medication and performing surgery. They are ultimately responsible for all patient care and outcomes. Most veterinarians apply for veterinary medical school admission while obtaining a bachelor degree in a compatible field. If accepted into a medical school, the course of study usually takes another four years, making that a grand total of eight years of schooling. Every state requires a veterinarian to take and pass a licensing exam. Successful candidates are given a license to practice veterinary medicine.

The veterinary Technicians and technologists are educated to be the veterinarian’s nurse, laboratory technician, radiography technician, anesthetist, surgical nurse and client educator. Many veterinary technicians and technologists are placed in a supervisory role in veterinary practices, research institutions and other employment options. Veterinary technicians can find employment in veterinary practices, biomedical research, zoo/wildlife medicine, industry, military, livestock health management, pharmaceutical sales, etc. Most veterinary technicians are graduates of an AVMA accredited associate’s or bachelor’s program and have passed the VTNE exam, while some states provide alternate routes to credentialing. The term “Veterinary Technologist” is specifically designated for bachelor’s program graduates. NAVTA, through the VNI, is working to establish a standard credential that would require being a graduate from an associate’s program and passing the VTNE as they enter the profession going forward.

Click here for more information on Credentialing.

A veterinary technician or technologist specialist has met the same requirements as above plus spends about 75% of their time doing a specific task and has passed a specialist certification exam administered by a Specialist Academy. Currently, there are eleven academies offering specialty certification.

Click here for more information about Specialties.

The veterinary assistant may have training through a high school, college certificate program or through a distant learning program over the Internet. Most, however, are trained on the job by the veterinarian or the veterinary technician. Their role is to assist the veterinarian or the veterinary technician in their daily tasks as well as some basic duties such as setting up of equipment and cleaning of key areas in the clinic like the surgery suite. Some may be asked to do kennel cleaning and janitorial work as well. NAVTA has recently created a Approved Veterinary Assistant program. click here for more details.

Where are the programs for veterinary technicians/technologists?

There are over 230 AVMA accredited Veterinary Technology Programs located around the United States. You can earn either an Associate Degree, which takes 2 years or a Bachelor’s Degree, which takes 4 years at the various community colleges, colleges and universities offering a veterinary technology program. There are a number of distance learning veterinary technology programs that are also AVMA accredited and can be accessed through the web.

To view the list of AVMA accredited programs, click here.

The cost varies from school to school. You should contact the school of your choice and they will be able to give you information regarding tuition, as well as financial aid.

Students can become members of NAVTA for $35. Click on the SCNAVTA button for a SCNAVTA membership application. To learn more about Student Chapters of NAVTA and find a membership application, visit the SCNAVTA page.

Where are the programs for veterinary assistants?

Individuals interested in attending a NAVTA Approved Veterinary Assistant Program may review the current list of approved schools on NAVTAs AVA webpage. NAVTA currently approves programs throughout the US and Canada.

What is the difference between RVT, LVT and CVT?

Each state regulates their veterinary technicians differently. Some are registered, some licensed and some certified. Most states use the Veterinary Technician National Exam, and regardless of which title is bestowed after passing the exam, you can have the score you received in one state transferred to another if the two states use the same exam. In most cases, after paying the state’s fee, you are then considered certified, licensed or registered in that state. Some states require a practical exam in addition to the written national exam. You would then have to fulfill that requirement before becoming fully credentialed in that state.

Regulations for setting exams are found on the American Association of Veterinary State Boards web site. To find out what your state requires, go to the AAVSB website by clicking here.

I'm moving from one state to another, how do I become credentialed in the state I'm moving to?

Each state has its own guidelines on credentialing veterinary technicians. Find out your state’s guidelines by clicking here!

How can I become licensed without going to school?

In most states you can’t become credentialed without graduating from an accredited veterinary technology program. Very few states currently have an “alternate route” that allows people to sit for the exam, however there are a number of prerequisites that must be met before taking the exam. In 2000 there was a ruling by the Association of American Veterinary State Boards that within ten years they will no longer allow the National Veterinary Technician Exam to be used under these circumstances.

If you are in a position to attend a veterinary technology program in your state it is well worth the effort. The amount of knowledge behind the skills you already know will astound you. If you cannot physically get to a program, there are five Distance Learning Programs that are currently accredited by the AVMA that can be taken via the Internet.
AVMA Accredited Programs
AVMA Accredited Distance Learning Programs

Can I find employment with my veterinary technology degree?

YES! Currently there is a strong demand for graduates from veterinary technology programs. In their recently released “Occupational Employment Projections to 2012” report, the Department of Labor lists veterinary technicians as one of the top 20 fastest growing careers where an education makes a difference.

I'm a foreign veterinary technician/nurse and would like to work in the US, can you help?

To legally work in the U.S. an entry visa and work permit must be obtained. The Department of Immigration and Naturalization handles entry visas and the Department of Labor-Alien Certification handles work permits. The American Consulate or embassy in the country of origin should be able to provide the necessary documents.
Obtaining the necessary documents to work in the U.S. is the first step. In order to work as a veterinary technician in the U.S., the rules and regulations of a particular state must also be considered. To help determine the practice requirements for a particular state, contact the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Download a PDF with more common questions for Foreign Veterinary Nurses.