From the heart of the Chesapeake Bay and along the Appalachian Mountains, the Old Dominion State boasts a wide range of plant and animal life. For those interested in taking care of furry, feathered, or scaly-skinned patients, there are a number of veterinary clinics, farms, laboratories, zoological parks, and universities to name a few of the organizations that employ veterinary technicians in Virginia.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019), there are currently 2,100 of these animal healthcare professionals employed in the state. Not only do these people earn more than national averages for this occupation (see “job outlook” below), but the number of openings is expected to explode in coming years.
In fact, CareerOneStop—a data organization sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor—estimates that positions for veterinary technologists and technicians will increase 30 percent in Virginia between 2016 and 2026, faster than the 19 percent growth expected nationally for this field (2018-2028).
So how does one join this dynamic, high-growth, and rewarding field? Read on below to learn how to become a veterinary technician in Virginia, as well as the job outlook, accredited vet tech colleges in the state, and professional licensure information.
|School Website||main address||online program||Avma Accredited|
|Blue Ridge Community College||1 College Lane, Weyers Cave, Virginia, 24486-0080||Yes||Yes|
|Northern Virginia Community College-Loudoun||21200 Campus Drive, Sterling, Virginia, 20164-8699||Yes||Yes|
|Tidewater Community College||121 College Place, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510||No||Yes|
Accredited Vet Tech Programs in Virginia (VA)
To become a licensed vet tech in Virginia, one must have graduated from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). There are over 220 qualified schools nationwide with associate’s and bachelor’s programs in veterinary technology, including two schools in Virginia offering a total of four AVMA-accredited programs:
Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) in Weyers Cave—a charming area northwest of Charlottesville— offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree in veterinary technology. BRCC boasts both on-campus learning as well as a distance education option.
Both programs include courses such as anatomy and physiology of domestic animals; laboratory techniques; clinical practices; applied veterinary surgical nursing; animal diseases and microbiology; and more. Facilities on campus include two labs, a surgery, radiology suite, a treatment area, and small and large animal facilities.
The on-campus program takes five semesters or two years to complete, one of those being a summer semester. Students complete an externship during the summer between the first and second year which includes 350 hours of veterinary hospital work.
The Blue Ridge Community College distance education option is for Virginia residents only or those who are engaged in a preceptorship in the state of VA, therefore it is not listed on the CVTEA-accredited distance-based learning programs page.
Students must work a minimum of 20 hours in a veterinary hospital preceptorship during the entire three-year program. In addition, campus visits include at least three, all-day labs that typically take place on Fridays. Online courses are delivered twice a week for a total of about six hours per week.
Students in the online program must have a web camera equipped computer with high-speed internet access where they intend to be during scheduled class times, as a live connection is mandatory. For its on-campus graduates, BRCC had an outstanding 98 percent first-time passing rate on the VTNE between 2016 and 2019. For its web-based students during the same time period, the rate was a perfect 100 percent.
Northern Virginia Community College-Loudoun (NOVA) in the Potomac Falls area also offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree in veterinary technology. With convenient on-campus and distance-based learning formats, courses at NOVA include animal breeds and behavior; anesthesia of domestic animals; animal dentistry; clinical pathology; and more. Students complete the program with a vet tech preceptorship.
The on-campus program is full-time and takes two years to complete. It begins in the fall and covers five semesters consecutively including a summer semester. The online program is part-time and takes three years to complete, and is AVMA-accredited just like the on-campus program. Again, for the online program here, students must make a minimum of two to three visits to the Loudoun Campus per semester. In addition, online students must work at least 20 hours per week in a veterinary practice, supervised by a licensed veterinarian, for the entire three-year program.
For its on-campus program graduates, the first-time passing rate on the VTNE was 83.3 percent between 2016 and 2019. During the same time period, the rate was 83.7 percent for its distance learners.
Tidewater Community College offers an associate of applied science (AAS) in veterinary technology at their Virginia Beach campus that is designed for professionals who are already veterinary assistants working a minimum of 20 hours per week. Courses in this 63-credit six-semester program meet twice per week. Students must participate in all-day labs three to four days per semester for study and testing.
Coursework in the program includes animal breeds and behavior, anatomy and physiology of domestic animals, introduction to laboratory, zoo, and wildlife medicine, and animal pharmacology. Students will also be expected to complete 13 credit-hours of general education courses prior to being admitted to the vet tech program. Tidewater is still in its initial accreditation phase at the time of this writing, which means that VTNE first-time pass rates are not currently available.
Students who want to become Vet Techs in Virginia and want to look outside the online options listed above can consider other online vet tech program options.
How to Become a Vet Tech in Virginia
In order to practice as a veterinary technician in Virginia, one must be a licensed professional. While it’s possible to qualify for a reciprocal license if one is certified to practice veterinary technology in another state, here is the typical path to becoming a vet tech in Virginia:
- Graduate from high school (four years). In addition to having a love of animals, successful veterinary technicians generally have strong grades in natural sciences classes such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy (if offered), and may even garner extra experience (and letters of recommendation) volunteering through local animal hospitals, clinics, and shelters.
- Complete an associate or bachelor’s degree program accredited by the American Medical Veterinary Association (two to four years). Most states require that veterinary technicians graduate from an AVMA-accredited program prior to practice. There are currently over 220 approved associate and bachelor’s programs across the country, including three in Virginia, two of which offer convenient distance learning options to their students as well. These programs teach the fundamentals of assisting veterinary care such as small animal medicine, administering anesthesia, animal dentistry, and other skills.
- Pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). This exam, offered during three month-long windows annually, gauges the knowledge of aspiring veterinary technicians in nine primary domains of expertise. These areas include pharmacology, diagnostic imaging, and laboratory procedures.
- Get licensed by the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine. All practicing vet techs in Virginia are required to be licensed. This process involves filling out an application, sending one’s transcripts as proof of having graduated from an AVMA-accredited program, and sending one’s VTNE test scores.
- Renew license (annually). In Virginia, veterinary technicians are expected to complete six hours of continued education (CE) as well as a yearly renewal application.
For working vet techs in Virginia, it’s crucial to have the support of a professional network and the empathy of a group that understands the difficulties of the job. The Virginia Association of Licensed Veterinary Technicians (VALVT) provides a job board, conferences, social events, legal briefs pertaining to the profession, and a list of resources to its members.
Strong Job Outlook for Vet Techs in Virginia
As stated above, there are many promising indicators for prospective veterinary technicians in Virginia. Not only is the number of openings in VA expected to increase 30 percent between 2016 and 2026 (CareerOneStop), but the pay in Virginia is significantly better than the national average.
By illustration, here are the national salary ranges for veterinary technicians and technologists nationwide and in Virginia (BLS May 2019):
|Number of vet techs employed||110,650||2,100|
|Average annual salary||$36,670||$43,820|
|50th percentile (median)||$35,320||$43,570|
Across the state, the pay prospects for vet techs are higher than the national averages, the region also has an impact on how many vet techs are employed and how much those vet techs have the potential to earn. Here is a regional look at the average annual salaries for vet techs in the top five employing regions in Virginia (BLS May 2019).
|Region||Number of vet techs employed||Annual average salary|
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC||220||$33,830|
Something important to keep in mind when considering becoming a vet tech in Virginia is cost of living. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), Virginia is the 30th most affordable state in the U.S. with particular savings in transportation, healthcare, and groceries. As vet tech salaries in Virginia tend toward being higher-than-average, this may mean that vet tech salaries have the potential to stretch further in Virginia than in other, more expensive, states.
|VETERINARY CAREER||VIRGINIA JOBS||SALARY DATA (BLS 2019)|
|LOW SALARY (10TH %ILE)||MEDIAN SALARY (50TH %ILE)||HIGH SALARY (90TH %ILE)|
Program Accreditation and Licensure for Vet Techs in Virginia (VA)
Prospective vet techs in Virginia are encouraged to seek out programs that are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the premier accrediting organization for veterinary technology programs in the U.S. This agency weighs factors such as comprehensiveness of curricula, facility quality, program resources, staff support, and student outcomes to ensure that students are receiving training worthy of practice in this sensitive profession.
Finally, in order to practice as a vet tech in VA, one must be licensed by the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine. First-time applicants for licensure are required to do the following:
- Complete an application (including a notarized statement of understanding the laws governing practice in the state of Virginia)
- Pay an application fee ($65)
- Send official transcripts from an AVMA-accredited program
- Send official test scores from the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)
Please note that these professional licenses must be renewed annually following the completion of six hours of continued education (CE).
|Vet Techs Must Be Licensed to Practice||Licensed Vet Techs Are Called||Licensing Requirements||Additional Resources|
|Graduate from an AVMA-Accredited Program||Pass the VTNE||Additional Requirements|
|Yes||LVT||Yes||Yes||Virginia Association of Licensed Veterinary Technicians|