What Does a Vet Tech do?

Your love for animals can turn into a rewarding career, but you may be wondering, "What does a vet tech do?"

Veterinary technicians – or “vet techs” – assist licensed veterinarians with a wide array of tasks. In many ways, veterinary technicians perform duties for animals that are similar to what a nurse might do for humans. They support veterinarians in the diagnostic and treatment of sick and healthy animals.

Veterinary Technician (Vet Tech) Responsibilities

The role of a veterinary technician may be somewhat different at each veterinary practice, but common responsibilities include:

  • Performing an initial examination of the animal.
  • Taking vital signs, drawing blood and gathering medical histories.
  • Providing emergency first aid.
  • Collecting specimens.
  • Assisting in research.
  • Performing laboratory procedures.
  • Preparing animals and equipment for surgical procedures.
  • Administering medications and vaccines prescribed by a veterinarian.
  • Taking and processing x-rays.
  • Educating animal owners.

There are certain tasks that veterinarian technicians are not allowed to perform. These include:

  • Creating a diagnosis without a veterinarian’s approval.
  • Prescribing medication.
  • Performing surgery.
  • Working outside the scope of a state's veterinary practice act.

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Where Do Vet Techs Work?

Veterinary technicians can find themselves in exciting work environments – especially for animal lovers!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, animal hospitals and private veterinary clinics are the most common workplaces for vet techs. Expect a fast pace in these animal medicine settings. Work schedules may include evenings, weekends and holidays to accommodate sick pets and emergency situations.

Outside of animal hospitals and private practices, veterinarian technicians may find employment in laboratories, zoos, animal shelters and universities. They may also find careers in government jobs, including the USDA and ports of entry.

Although working as a vet tech can take an emotional toll, especially when you’re working with animals that are sick or abused, the career can be very rewarding. Helping animals live happy and healthy lives will be part of the daily work environment. 

Vet tech students work with a horse.

Veterinary Technician Requirements

The educational pathway for a veterinary technician typically includes either a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree.

In either degree program, students work in the classroom, receive hands-on training and gain clinical experience.

Students interested in working with large organizations such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) may find that a four-year degree is required.

When considering vet tech programs, it’s important to look for one that’s accredited by the AVMA Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA). In most states, graduates of CVTEA-accredited programs are eligible to take the required certification exam. You can expect accredited programs to include at least 60 credit hours and 240 clock hours of an on-site practicum. 


Most states require entry-level candidates to pass an exam to become certified as a veterinary technologist.

The Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) is the test most commonly used to certify vet techs. It consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, with 150 of those questions being scored. Candidates have three hours to complete the exam.

The test covers nine subject areas:

  • Anesthesia
  • Emergency Medicine/Critical Care
  • Pharmacy and Pharmacology
  • Pain Management/Analgesia
  • Dentistry
  • Laboratory Procedures
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Animal Care and Nursing
  • Surgical Nursing

More information on certification guidelines and test-prep can be found by visiting the American Association of Veterinary State Boards.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment outlook for veterinary technologists and technicians is strong. Between 2018 and 2028, vet tech jobs are projected to grow by 19%, much faster than most professions. In fact, about 41,700 jobs are expected to be added nationwide.

Many factors contribute to this great career outlook. Veterinary medicine has advanced to include many more treatment options for pets and livestock. This care means that veterinary technicians may perform specialized treatment and procedures, such as assisting with the administration of chemotherapy and performing CT or MRI imaging and more.

Animal care, in general, is also on the rise. About 85 million families in the United States own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.  Those families spent more than $75 billion on their pets in 2018, including trips to the veterinarian.

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:

  • Humane societies and rescue agencies.
  • Animal control organizations.
  • 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. 

Degree Options at PennWest California

Students enrolled in PennWest California’s veterinary technology program build a solid base of knowledge and learn animal care and management skills by working with small animals on c as well as large animals off-campus.

Associate Degree

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 two years or to continue your studies for a bachelor’s degree.

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Bachelor Degree

By selecting electives and extra clinical experience in an area of interest, students customize their education to focus on small- or large-animal care, laboratory animals or shelter medicine.

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Vet tech laboratoryVet Tech Lab Opens

Students pursuing associate or  bachelor’s degrees in veterinary technology at PennWest California are settling into their new lab space in Eberly Hall. 

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