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Vet Assistants, Technicians and Technologists

Arizona veterinary tech examining kittens

One of the initial decisions that you will need to make is whether you want to train as a vet assistant, technician or technologist. Part of your decision might be predicated on the amount of time and money that you have to commit to your training, but the principal determiner will probably be which specialty interests you the most. What techs and assistants have in common is that they each work under the immediate guidance of a licensed and practicing veterinarian. And even though there are a number of jobs that they can perform within the Arizona veterinary practice or hospital, they can't prescribe medicines, diagnose conditions, or conduct surgeries. In those areas they may only furnish assistance to a licensed vet. There are technologists and technicians that work outside of the standard veterinarian practice, such as for animal shelters, zoos or law enforcement. Let's take a look at the duties and training prerequisites for each specialty.

  • Vet Assistants in the majority of cases will have completed a structured training program, either as an apprentice or intern 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 veterinarians and vet technicians in the performance of their duties. Normally they are not involved with more involved tasks, for instance assisting with surgical procedures. A few of their usual responsibilities may include working at the front desk, preparing and cleaning exam rooms and equipment, or controlling pets during examinations.
  • Vet Technicians receive more extensive training compared with assistants and generally earn a 2 year Associate Degree, preferably from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited program. They are in a sense the veterinarian counterparts of medical nurses, since their basic job function is to assist vets with diagnosing and treating animal patients. Where they differ from vet assistants is that they are involved in more complex tasks, for example assisting with surgeries or providing medicine. All states currently require vet technicians pass a credentialing examination for either certification, registration or licensing.
  • Vet Technologists are comparable to vet technicians and basically perform the same work functions. They are mandated to attain a Bachelor's Degree in veterinary technology, which generally takes 4 years to complete. Therefore the only real distinction between a vet technician and a technologist is the technologist's more advanced level of education. But with an advanced degree comes more job options, increased salaries and potential management positions. They are also mandated to pass a credentialing examination for either registration, certification or licensing.

Veterinary technicians and technologists may specialize in areas such as anesthesia, internal medicine or urgent care. Many may earn certification from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) to work in  Arizona laboratories or research facilities also.

Vet Tech Online Programs Offered

Arizona pup wearing surgical coneAn alternative that might be a solution for those with a hectic schedule or who are working full-time while going to vet college is to enroll in an online program. Because the classes are made available via the internet, students can study on their own schedule wherever a computer is available. The curriculum is taught using several venues, including videos, slide shows and live streaming webinars. And since most veterinary tech and technologist degrees require practical training, that segment can typically be fulfilled as an internship or work study program at a local Arizona veterinarian clinic or hospital. Distance learning, as it is also called, can in some instances lower the cost of your education. Tuition and secondary expenses, for example for travel and study materials, can be lower compared to more standard classroom programs. Just be sure that the online school that you enroll in is accredited, either by the AVMA or another nationally recognized accrediting organization. With the online courses and the clinical training, everything is included for a complete education. So if you are dedicated enough to learn in this more self-reliant manner, an online vet tech school may be the right choice for you.

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