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Veterinary Assistants, Technicians and Technologists

Alaska veterinary tech examining kittens

One of the initial decisions that you will need to make is if you plan to train as a veterinary technician, assistant or technologist. Part of your determination may be dependent on the amount of time and money that you have to invest in your education, but the primary factor will undoubtedly be which specialization interests you the most. What technicians and assistants have in common is that they all work under the direct guidance of a practicing and licensed veterinarian. And although there are a number of jobs that they can carry out within the Alaska veterinary clinic or hospital, they can't prescribe medicines, diagnose ailments, or carry out surgical procedures. In those areas they may only furnish assistance to a licensed veterinarian. There are technologists and technicians that work outside of the conventional veterinarian practice, such as for zoos, animal shelters or police departments. Let's take a look at the job functions and education prerequisites for each specialization.

  • Vet Assistants in almost all cases will have completed a structured training program, either as an intern or apprentice in a vet clinic or hospital, or by graduating from a certificate program at a community college or vocational school. As the name implies, their job function is to assist the vets and vet technicians in the completion of their duties. Normally they are not involved with more involved activities, such as assisting with surgical procedures. A few of their usual functions may include working at the front desk, cleaning and preparing exam rooms and equipment, or controlling animals during examinations.
  • Vet Technicians receive more extensive training compared with assistants and usually earn a two year Associate Degree, preferably from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited program. They are in a sense the vet counterparts of medical nurses, since their fundamental job function is to assist vets with diagnosing and treating animal patients. Where they stand apart from vet assistants is that they are involved in more complicated tasks, for example assisting with surgical procedures or providing medicine. All states currently mandate that vet techs pass a credentialing examination for either certification, registration or licensing.
  • Vet Technologists are similar to veterinary techs and for the most part perform the same job functions. They are mandated to earn a Bachelor's Degree in veterinary technology, which typically requires four years to complete. Therefore the main distinction between a vet technologist and a technician is the technologist's higher level of education. But with an advanced degree comes more job options, higher salaries and potential management positions. They are additionally mandated to pass a credentialing exam for either registration, certification or licensing.

Vet technicians and technologists can specialize in areas such as anesthesia, internal medicine or emergency care. Some may earn certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) to work in  Alaska labs or research facilities also.

Online Veterinary Technician Programs Offered

Alaska dog wearing surgical coneAn option that may be a solution for those with a busy schedule or who are working full-time while going to veterinary school is to enroll in an online training program. Because the classes are made available by means of the internet, students can study on their own timetable wherever a computer is accessible. The curriculum is taught using multiple venues, including videos, slide shows and live streaming webinars. And since most vet tech and technologist degrees require practical training, that segment can normally be carried out as an internship or work study program at a local Alaska veterinary practice or hospital. Distance learning, as it is also called, can in many instances reduce the cost of your education. Tuition and supplementary costs, for instance for commuting and study materials, can be lower compared to more conventional classroom courses. Just be sure that the program that you enroll in is accredited, either by the AVMA or another nationally recognized accrediting agency. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything is furnished for a complete education. So if you are disciplined enough to learn in this more self-reliant mode, an online veterinary technician school may be the right option for you.

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