Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology

Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology Associate of Science (A.S.) Degree

About the associate degree in veterinary technology

Turn your passion for animal care into a “vet tech” career.

Veterinary technology is one of the fastest-growing occupations in Pennsylvania and across the United States. With an associate degree in veterinary technology from PennWest California, you’ll be ready to enter this exciting field as a veterinary technician, or “vet tech.”

In this new, accredited program, students work with live animals on campus as they master practical skills in animal care. Coursework in the vet tech program consists of classroom theory, hands-on training and 240 hours of clinical experience.

The associate degree program prepares you to seek an entry-level position as a veterinary technician in just two years of full-time study. Your credits also can be applied toward a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology or one of PennWest California’s biology programs, including the pre-professional program that can lead to veterinary school.

Help pets and other animals live happy, healthy lives.

Veterinary technicians work with companion and service animals, working animals, livestock, wildlife, exotic animals and more. The associate degree in veterinary technology teaches the knowledge and skills you need to become part of a veterinary care team. It also can be a steppingstone to any field related to animals and their care.

You’ll study laws pertaining to animal care and learn about animal anatomy, behavior and diseases, along with best practices for animal handling, practice management and recordkeeping. The program also covers topics such as:

  • Surgery.
  • Dentistry.
  • Radiology.
  • Pharmaceuticals.
  • Anesthesia and pain management.

Campus facilities include state-of-the-art housing for dogs, cats, rats and rabbits. Students apply their learning in animal exam areas, a clinical laboratory equipped with diagnostic and imaging equipment, and a surgical nursing suite.


Accredited program: The Committee on Veterinary Technical Education and Activities (CVTEA) of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) granted Initial Accreditation to PennWest California’s Veterinary Technology Program, effective February 25, 2021. Accreditation will remain in effect as long as the program continues to meet AVMA CVTEA Standards of Accreditation. Initial accreditation is the only accreditation classification that can be granted to new veterinary technology programs such as ours. It is granted to those programs that have made significant progress towards meeting the Standards of Accreditation. Our program will remain on initial accreditation until achieving full accreditation, or for a period not to exceed five years.

Hands-on Learning: Students in this 60-credit associate degree program put their learning into practice every day. Eight out of nine vet tech courses have either a lab or a clinical component, and students complete 240 hours of clinical experience prior to graduation. Students have animal care rotations in both their first and second years. Students who successfully complete a program accredited by the AVMA-CVTEA are eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam.

On-campus classes: Learn with classmates who share your passion for animals and faculty who are experts in their fields. Small classes let you get to know your fellow vet tech students and your professors, including program director Dr. Nancy Pugh, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. All PennWest California courses are taught by faculty, not by graduate students or teaching assistants.

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Credits required to complete the associate degree in veterinary technology.
Projected growth in employment for veterinary technicians and technologists by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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Degree Benefits


Students in PennWest California’s vet tech degree program work directly with animals, in addition to their classroom activities. You’ll put your learning into practice during lab sessions, clinical experiences and animal care rotations in the University’s new, state-of-the-art facilities. An associate degree prepares you to enter this fast-growing field in just two years, or to continue your studies for a bachelor’s degree.

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Graduate Outcomes


Increases in pet ownership, a growing demand for service and working animals, and expansion of veterinary specialties are fueling the need for skilled technicians to work in veterinary clinics and hospitals, large-animal practices, wildlife rehabilitation centers, boarding kennels, government and industry labs, humane societies and more. Forty-one states, including Pennsylvania, reported a shortage of veterinary services last year, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 20% growth in employment opportunities nationwide for veterinary technicians.


Veterinary Technology Associate Degree
A Vet Tech holds a cat.

What does a vet tech do?

Veterinary technicians work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), vet techs who work in a private veterinary practice or local animal hospital – the most common job setting – may obtain and record case histories, collect specimens and perform lab procedures, provide specialized nursing care, prepare animals and equipment for surgery, assist with diagnostic or medical procedures, take X-rays or ultrasounds, provide preventive dental care for animals, and help to educate pet owners.

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veterinary technology associate degree

Are There other vet tech jobs?

The demand for veterinary technicians is growing as veterinary specialties expand. In addition to clinical settings, vet tech jobs can be found in:

  • Animal control and humane society animal care.
  • Diagnostic laboratory support and biomedical research.
  • Drug and feed company technical service and sales.
  • Food safety inspection.
  • Livestock health management.
  • Military service.
  • Veterinary supply sales.
  • Zoo animal and wildlife care.
Vet Technitian in hallway at PennWest California.

How do i get started?

Future vet tech students must meet PennWest California admissions standards. Candidates are most likely to be successful if they have completed high school biology, chemistry and algebra courses with a grade of C- or higher. Once a candidate is accepted into the program, a tetanus immunization is required and immunization for rabies is highly recommended. Vet tech students are required to wear scrubs for laboratory work and animal care rotations.

veterinary technology associate degree

Why choose cal u?

Because its Associate of Science degree is a strong first step toward the future you want to build! In just two years of full-time study, PennWest California positions you for employment as a veterinary technician. When you’re ready for the next challenge, you can transfer your credits to the bachelor’s degree program in veterinary technology or one of PennWest California’s biology majors – including the pre-professional program that can lead to veterinary school.


A.S. in Veterinary Technology Courses


Course Credits
General Education Courses 24
Building a Sense of Community
UNI 100 First-Year Seminar
ENG 101  English Composition I
Public Speaking
Any Public Speaking Course
Mathematics and Quantitative Literacy
MAT 181 College Algebra
Health and Wellness
BIO 226  Basic Microbiology
Technological Literacy
VET 230  Digital Diagnostic Imaging
Natural Sciences
CHE 101  General Chemistry  OR  CHE 103  Chemistry for the Everyday World
3 or 4
Social Sciences or Humanities
Any Social Science or Humanities Course
Required Major Courses 36
BIO 210  Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals I 4
BIO 220  Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals II 4
VET 101  Introduction to Veterinary Technology 3
VET 160  Care and Management of Exotic and Laboratory Animals 3
VET 202  Small Animal Management and Clinical Procedures 4
VET 210  Veterinary Clinical Technology and Laboratory Procedures 4
VET 220  Large Animal Management and Clinical Procedures 4
VET 240  Veterinary Pharmacy and Pharmacology 3
VET 250  Surgical Nursing, Anesthesia and Pain Management 4
VET 292  Clinical Experience  3
Total 60


Program Goals, Objectives and Technical Requirements

Program Goals


The program maintains the highest level of academic integrity and provides students with specialized knowledge and skills required to become licensed veterinary technicians. The program goals (PG) are specified to meet the needs of the program’s constituencies (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, employers, advisory board, alumni, students and faculty).

  • PG1:To provide students with both the skills and theoretical knowledge to become successful veterinary technicians.
  • PG2:To educate students on the attributes necessary to become an integral member of the veterinary healthcare team.
  • PG3:To enhance the analytical, critical thinking, and decision-making skills of each individual student.
  • PG4: To provide a science-based, animal-focused curriculum that enhances the professions' stewardship of animals.
Student Learning Outcomes

The student learning outcomes (SO) for the A.S. degree in Veterinary Technology are aligned with and support the program goals. Students completing the A.S. in Veterinary Technology will have an ability to:

  • SO1: Be successful on the Veterinary Technician National Exam.
  • SO2: Perform routine diagnostic and clinical procedures on common species.
  • SO3:Identify, utilize, and maintain conventional veterinary instruments and equipment.
  • SO4:Communicate effectively with clients and other veterinary professionals.
  • SO5:Demonstrate an understanding of the laws, ethics, and organizations of the veterinary profession.
  • SO6:Relate clinical signs and diagnostic findings to animal health and wellness.
  • SO7:Work cooperatively to achieve optimum and compassionate patient care.
Technical Requirements

Technical Requirements and Essential Functions

PennWest California
Eberly College of Science and Technology
250 University Ave
California, PA 15419

B.S. and A.S. in Veterinary Technology

The technical standards in the field of veterinary technology are both intellectually and physically challenging.  These physical skills and cognitive abilities are required of a student to complete the Veterinary Technology Program at PennWest California (PennWest California). The student must also possess sufficient mental and emotional stability to confirm that they are able to complete the entire course of study along with being employable as a competent Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) with or without reasonable accommodations.

The PennWest California Veterinary Technology Program has an ethical responsibility to ensure the safety of the animals with whom the students will come in contact as well as to the public to assure that the students become capable and competent Veterinary Technician professionals. The students admitted to our program must possess the integrity, compassion, perception, as well as the physical and emotional capacity necessary to practice veterinary technology skills. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensure that qualified applicants have the ability to pursue program admission. However, all students should meet the essential skills and technical standards to perform functions required of the veterinary technician program and veterinary profession. Students are obligated to notify the administration and faculty in the Veterinary Technology Program of any changes in their abilities to fulfill the technical standards. 

General Physical Expectations

 Students are expected to:

  • Tolerate walking and standing for at least ten minutes at a time, multiple times per hour.
  • Have the capability to lift and/or carry up to 50 pounds, with or without assistance, from floor to waist level or higher at least several times per day.
  • Have the capability to lift objects weighing up to 50 pounds, with or without assistance, to a height of one meter or higher and carry the object or animal for a distance of two meters.
  • Possess sufficient motor function to handle, install, position and move materials, equipment, supplies, and to administer proper animal patient care for varying lengths of time.
  • Capable of handling, positioning, and restraining live animals of small and large animal species.
  • Be able to have sustained contact with multiple species of animals and be amenable to learning the safe handling, restraining, and working with these animals.
  • Be able to sustain contact with multiple species of animals. No individual should be severely allergic to any species of animals to the extent that it would prohibit working in a facility that has them.
Cognitive Ability

Students are expected to:

  • Be able to complete required tasks/functions in a structured environment under stressful and/or unpredictable conditions or time constraints.
  • Possess a willingness to assist with and perform a wide variety of routine medical, surgical, and diagnostic procedures common to the veterinary setting; including humane euthanasia and handling of sick, injured, fractious, or aggressive animals without fear.
  • Be able to complete required tasks/functions under stressful and/or unpredictable conditions, including emergency situations.
  • Possess the mental capacity to assimilate and learn an extensive amount of technical and detailed information and to access information from books, reference manuals, computers, and paper and electronic medical documents to perform duties and safely use equipment without assistance.
  • Have the ability to schedule appointments, admit and discharge patients, and triage according to the client-patient-facility needs through either phone or in person.
  • Have time management skills to be able to perform and complete tasks properly under minimal supervision.
  • Evaluate, synthesize, and communicate diagnostic information to the attending veterinarian and/or staff. 
Communication Skills

Students are expected to: 

  • Read and understand the legal and ethical standards of the veterinary medical profession.
  • Read, write, speak and report accurately and effectively in English.
  • Comprehend and carry out complex written and oral instructions given in English.
  • Communicate with other individuals by speech, either in person or by telephone, to make legible and coherent written notes in English within the margins and space provided on the appropriate forms. 
Professionalism and Interpersonal Skills

Students are expected to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to work effectively, respectfully and professionally as part of a veterinary healthcare team.
  • Students must interact with animal patients, client owners, and the veterinary health care personnel in a respectful and professional manner.
  • Accept constructive feedback from others.
  • Maintain cleanliness and personal grooming consistent with close human and animal contact.
  • Apply an understanding of interpersonal skills in all aspects of team dynamics.
  • Have the ability to exercise good judgment and make appropriate professional and procedural judgment decisions under stressful and/or emergency conditions (i.e. unstable patient condition), emergent demands (i.e. stat test orders), and a distracting environment (i.e. high noise levels, complex visual stimuli, aggressive animals).
Manual Dexterity and Mobility

Students are expected to:

  • Be able to move his/her entire body a distance of no less than three meters within two seconds of a signal to do so, to move rapidly from danger while handling animals in confined spaces.
  • Possess fine motor movements in order to perform the essential functions of the profession. This includes the dexterity to manipulate small equipment, adjust resistance on equipment, hold hooves while cleaning and evaluating, manage syringes, catheters, and common surgical instruments.
  • Possess tactile ability necessary for physical assessment and to perform nursing duties in a timely manner. This includes performing palpation during physical exams, administering oral, intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intravenous medication, insert and remove tubes, collect organic samples from live animals, and perform wound care.
  • Possess the ability to palpate and interpret findings, i.e. palpation of pulses, lymph nodes or trachea to determine proper endotracheal tube size.
  • Have the ability to perform cardiopulmonary cerebral recitation (CPCR) in the event of an emergency.
  • Have the ability to manipulate, or tie materials ranging from a cloth patch to a very fine string. This includes the ability to hold and manipulate a surgical sponge, tie a 00 silk suture, perform endotracheal intubation, inject liquid intravenously, catheterize animals to obtain urine and/or other body fluids samples, and apply bandages without assistance.
Auditory, Olfactory, and Visual Skills

Veterinary technicians should have functional use of senses to safely and correctly assess patients and interpret and record data.  

Students are expected to:

  • Possess adequate visual ability, with or without correction, that allows the determination of minute areas of detail, very small variations in color and adequate depth perception (size, shape and texture), including differentiation of details as viewed through a microscope. This includes ability to characterize and interpret the color, odor, clarity, and viscosity of body structures and fluids, observe variations in skin and mucus membrane color, integrity, pulsations, tissue swelling, etc.
  • Possess visual ability to allow for observation and assessment as necessary in nursing care both from a distance and close by in order to recognize physical status and non-verbal responses including behaviors.
  • Possess the auditory ability necessary to monitor and assess health status, including auscultation of heart and lungs, and hear equipment alarms and warning sounds from animals, humans, and/or equipment of impending danger or injury.
  • Recognize and respond appropriately to distress sounds from animal and alarms/warning signals on animal-monitoring equipment directly and through intercommunication systems to ensure patient safety.
  • Detect and respond appropriately to odors in order to maintain environmental safety and patient needs.
  • Be able to use a compound microscope to identify cells and organisms and be able to differentiate colors of stained objects.
  • Be able to observe movement at a distance ranging from 30-45 centimeters to 15-20 meters at a discrimination level that permits detection of subtle differences in movement of the limbs in animals. This includes the ability to detect and describe a change in color of hair coat caused by licking or trauma, detect abnormal head posture in a parakeet, monitor respiratory rate during anesthesia, and read anesthesia monitoring equipment.
  • Be able to discriminate shades of black and white patterns in which the band is not more than 0.5 mm in width. This includes the ability to characterize bacterial hemolysis on a blood agar plate, density patterns on a radiograph, and see ECG tracings.
  • Possess adequate depth perception to allow detection of a 0.5 cm elevation which is no more than 1 cm in diameter on a slightly curved surface having a slightly irregular surface. This includes detection of tissue swelling on the hip on a smooth-haired dog to determine the presence of a reaction to skin testing for allergies.  be able to perceive the natural or amplified human voice without lip reading to permit oral communication in a surgery room with all occupants wearing surgical masks.
  • Be able to perceive the origin of sound as needed to detect movement of large animals in a pen or corral or monitoring multiple patients in an ICU.
Reasonable Disability Accommodations

Reasonable Disability Accommodations Request for reasonable accommodations must be initiated by the student. Reasonable accommodations may be provided for students with documented disabilities upon submission of appropriate documentation.  Documentation must include the names, titles, professional credentials, license number, addresses, and phone numbers of the medical professionals that evaluated the student as well as the date of the evaluation.  The evaluation report must include a summary of the assessment procedures and evaluation instruments used to make the diagnosis and a narrative summary of evaluation results.  The evaluation must list specific accommodations requested and the rationale for those accommodations. Documentation for eligibility must be current, preferably within the last three years. The age of acceptable documentation is dependent upon the disabling condition, the current status of the student and the student's specific request for accommodations. Students may be required to re-submit this documentation each semester to allow for review of continuing eligibility for accommodations.  

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a disability as a substantial limitation of a major life function.  A temporary medical condition does not qualify as a disability and is not covered under the ADA of 1990 or under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act because the extent, duration, and impact of the condition are not permanent. Accommodations may not provide an unfair advantage to the students, fundamentally alter the nature and substance of the curriculum, present an undue hardship for the institution, pose a direct threat to the safety of patients, or compromise the academic integrity of the program.  Students may be required to cover the cost of such accommodations and should be aware that a potential employer may not be amenable to use of accommodations that result in undue hardship to the employer. Students receiving accommodations must be aware that these may not be available from a prospective employer. Veterinary practices with small numbers of employees may be exempt from the requirements of the ADA. Examples of reasonable accommodations that may be available to students that qualify under the ADA for performance of required skills could include the following:

  • Amplified stethoscope
  • Portable speech amplifier
  • Hearing aids
  • Clear surgical masks
  • Magnifying headsets
  • Non-allergenic gloves
  • Magnifying microscope monitor