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What is a Certified Veterinary Technician?

February 2011

If you are on this site it is because you either have a pet as a member of your family or because you love animals and are interested in their care.  The joy that you have with animals could be the first step in choosing a career as a Certified Veterinarian Technician.  Even if you do not have your own pet but have volunteered in animal shelters or participated in 4H club activities, this career path may be the right one for you.  Certified Veterinarian Technicians are professional members of the veterinarian medical team.

Who are the professionals that take care of your pets? 

When you are at your veterinarian's office for a regular checkup or an emergency, who are the people working with your vet to insure that your pet gets the best treatment?  Chances are that your vet is assisted by one or more Certified Veterinarian Technician.  A fast growing professional field, Certified Veterinarian Technicians work in Veterinarian offices, large animal hospitals, government offices, research facilities, farms and wild life environments.

A relatively new profession, the term Veterinary Technician was not approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association until 1989. By 2007 the number of AVMA accredited training programs was 144.  The need for Veterinary Technicians is growing to keep up with the growth and increasing complexity of the Veterinary medical industry.

Northwestern Connecticut Community College is the only college in Connecticut accepting students into a Veterinary Technician Associate Degree Program


Dr. Jayne Lewis DVM

On a cold crisp sunny day in February, I met with Dr. Jane Lewis (right), Program Coordinator/ Assistant Professor of Veterinary Medicine, at Northwestern Connecticut Community College, in Winsted, CT.  NWCCC is the only college in Connecticut accepting and training students to be CVTs. We discussed all aspects of the profession including curriculum required, job opportunities and job duties.

Think of a Veterinary Technician as a Nurse for Animals

Certified Veterinary Technicians support the work of veterinarians in a manner similar to Registered Nurses and Medical Doctors.  Among their many duties is drawing blood, running laboratory tests, giving vaccinations and other inoculations.  CVTs administer EKGs and inhalation therapy. They dispense medicine prescribed by veterinarians.  During surgery a CVT monitors blood pressure, oxygen levels and respiration, and administers anesthesia. They also perform intubations, the insertion of a tube orally into the lungs assuring proper respiration during surgery.  And just as nurses do, CVTs prepare the surgical theatre and assist veterinarians during the surgery.  In addition they are trained in ultrasound and x-ray techniques.  It is difficult to imagine a modern veterinary hospital or office running without the assistance of Certified Veterinary Technicians.

Becoming a CVT requires a rigourous corriculum with a heavy dose of Biology

The job is technical and demanding.  Preparing for it is also technical and demanding.  At Northwestern Connecticut Community College students must complete college level general biology or human biology,  general chemistry, and intermediate algebra, before being admitted to veterinary courses. Students must also show proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite.  Prerequisite courses must be completed with a grade of “C” or better. Proof of good health and a rabies vaccination must be provided.

This preparation is necessary to prepare the student for courses including veterinary anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and parasitology.  Considering the responsibilities that the CVT has for the care of our large and small pets and farm animals, we would not expect a less daunting curriculum.

Hands on Training is an Important Part of The Curriculum

Classes are not just filled with books and laboratory equipment; students are introduced to the care of animals during their first term of veterinary courses.  As the pictures on this page show a variety of animals call the school their home. In addition the school serves as a clinic for local sheltered animals.  Students participate in routine examinations and vaccinations.  Acting as surgical team members they learn the skills they will need after graduation.

There is an Externship for every interest

Students also complete two Externships.  The school makes every attempt to match the Externship to the student’s interest.  Externships can be in a variety of settings including Veterinary hospitals for small pets such as dogs and cats, or one dedicated to large animals, horses and farm animals.  There are even Externships for students who plan to work with wild life. 

Although the college program leads to a two year Associates degree, most students take three years to complete all of the requirements.  After completion students are ready to take the certification exam, The Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE), prepared by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, and required for licensing in several states.  Even if a state does not require licensing, the exam should be taken to assure the ability to be licensed and take advantage of future career opportunities.

Education Continues After Graduation

Education does not end at the Associate degree level.  Several universities offer Bachelor of Arts degrees.  NWCCC encourages students to continue on to the Bachelor of Arts level.  A BA and a certificate will help students attain careers in research and management.  The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) lists advanced specialties each with their own association and credentialing requirements. Among these specialties are Dental Technicians, Critical Care Technicians, Behavior Technicians and Equine Veterinary Nursing Technicians. There is a specialty for virtually every animal enthusiast’s interest.

Just as the CVT's areas of interest are diversified so are the students themselves.  Of course many CVT students apply to colleges directly from high school.  Several also chose this area of study later in life after deciding on career and life style changes.   All students must enjoy working with animals and have a dedicated interest in their health and wellbeing.  Dr. Lewis strongly suggests volunteering at a shelter or animal hospital.  This allows the pospective student to work with animals in distress and view the work of veterinary professionals.

The following websites offier additional information

Northwestern Connecticut Community College

American Veterinarian Medical Association

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

American Association of Veterinary State Boards