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Veterinary science & animal care online degrees and career training

Individuals who love animals might find veterinary science provides the perfect career path. With job opportunities available at every education level, it can be an accessible field for people from all walks of life. In addition, some veterinary degrees can be earned both online and on-campus, making these careers an option for adult learners and traditional students alike.

Top veterinary science and vet tech career choices

Within veterinary science, there are a few main occupations, and each has its own educational requirements. If you're wondering how to become a veterinarian, the path is going to be much different for that profession than for the first two educational tracks listed here:

  • Veterinary technicians and technologists: To become a vet technician, individuals must have completed an approved associate degree program. By contrast, technologists are required to have a bachelor's degree and are allowed to do more extensive medical care for the animals than technicians are. These professionals may prep animals for surgery, take X-rays and perform laboratory tests. Technologists are also trained to administer anesthesia and provide emergency care.
  • Veterinarians: As highly trained professionals, veterinarians must have a doctor of veterinary medicine degree. These doctors are licensed to provide all levels of care for animals. They may diagnose illnesses, prescribe medicine and perform surgery. In situations where it is warranted, they may also euthanize animals.

Options at online veterinary schools

Although veterinarians must attend a traditional, on-campus program to earn their professional degree, individuals interested in the field can start their education at an online veterinary school. And although veterinary assistants aren't required to have a formal education, they may find their job opportunities are enhanced with training. A number of online veterinary schools offer vet assistant programs that can be completed in as little as three or four months.

For those who want to work at the veterinary technician level, the American Veterinary Medical Association accredits eight distance education programs that result in an associate degree. Depending on the school, these programs may be completed partially or entirely online and from the convenience of a student's home. These institutions include the following:

  • Blue Ridge Community College — Weyers Cave, Va. (Program is open to Virginia residents only)
  • Cedar Valley College — Lancaster, Texas
  • Jefferson State Community College — Birmingham, Ala.
  • Northern Virginia Community College — Sterling, Va.
  • Penn Foster College — Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Purdue University — West Lafayette, Ind.
  • St. Petersburg College — St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • San Juan College — Farmington, N.M.

Online veterinary schools may also offer bachelor's degrees in veterinary technology for those wishing to move from technician to technologist jobs. Students may be able to complete some classes for these degrees online, but most of the programs typically have on-campus requirements as well, as lab work is often required.

Professional licensing and certification

After graduation, vet techs and veterinarians are required to become licensed before beginning work. While each state may have different requirements, vet technicians and technologists are often required to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination to be eligible for licensure. Veterinarians generally must graduate from an accredited degree program, pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination and also take an exam on their state's laws and regulations.

Professionals in the field may also want to go on to obtain voluntary certifications. For veterinarians, the AVMA offers certifications in 40 specialties. Although not required, these certifications can demonstrate mastery of a particular area, such as surgery or internal medicine, which may be beneficial in the long run with respect to career opportunities.

Certification isn't only available for the veterinarians though. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America offers an Approved Veterinary Assistant designation to individuals who meet certain training requirements and pass an examination.

In addition, some veterinary academies offer credentials to technicians and technologists working in certain specialties. For example, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science offers the following designations.

  • Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician
  • Laboratory Animal Technician
  • Laboratory Animal Technologist
  • Certified Manager of Animal Resources

The AVMA and NAVTA are the two main professional organizations in the veterinary science field. However, there are numerous societies available for individuals focused on particular specialties. Students may want to explore the benefits offered by these societies to determine which may be worth the membership fee. In addition, online veterinary schools and vet tech degree programs may be able to provide further information to help graduates in their professional development.

If becoming a vet tech or a veterinarian is your goal but you want to get started in the industry immediately, one potential option is to become a veterinary assistant while working toward an undergraduate or advanced degree. Vet assistants typically don't need a degree, though some short on-the-job training may be required. Employed in both veterinary clinics and animal laboratories, these assistants may perform a variety of tasks, from administering medication to monitoring animals after surgery. They may also clean kennels, assist with examinations and feed, bathe and exercise animals.

    Sources:

    Technician Certification, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science,
    https://www.aalas.org/certification#.U9os3GP-uuJ

    "Distance learning programs in veterinary technology accredited by the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA)," American Veterinary Medical Association,
    https://www.avma.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Education/Accreditation/Programs/Pages/vettech_distance_learning.aspx

    Veterinary Assistants, National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America,
    https://www.navta.net/assistants/veterinary-assistants

    Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm

    Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm

    Veterinarians, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm

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