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Veterinary Technician FAQ

FAQ for the SRJC Veterinary Technician Program

1. Who should enroll in the Veterinary Technician Program?

Veterinary Technician courses are ideal for anyone who is interested in the field of veterinary nursing or technology.

These courses were specifically designed to meet state requirements of those who wish to become Registered Veterinary Technicians in the state of California. The first course of the program (AnHlt50) is equally appropriate for anyone interested in veterinary medicine. However, the ideal student already has some work experience in a clinical veterinary setting (see question 9). The SRJC VT courses have also been designed to be useful for working at all levels of veterinary support staff including receptionists and assistants, whether or not you plan on taking the Registered Veterinary Technician board examinations.

 

2. How can I sign up for the SRJC Veterinary Technician Program?

There is no special entry process or requirements to enroll in the Veterinary Technician courses. To enroll in any SRJC course you need to have an active application on file and register for classes during your registration time.

Any student interested in the VT program should start with AnHlt50: Veterinary Anatomy and Terminology.

At the Santa Rosa Junior College all veterinary technician courses are under the category of Animal Health. Any student can enroll in Animal Health classes. There is a strong demand for theses courses and many fill early. Most classes have a prerequisite meaning that you must first complete a beginning class before you enroll in a more advanced course. The gateway course for this program is Animal Health 50.

 

3. What is a Registered Veterinary Technician?

A Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) is a trained, professional support staff who works in a veterinary hospital setting. RVTs serve as the veterinarian’s nurse, laboratory technician, anesthetist, and surgical assistant. Veterinary Technicians also have a strong role in educating the clients and the public. While the majority of RVTs work in clinical practices, others work in areas such as biomedical research, diagnostic laboratories, government and non-profit agencies, public health, zoos, and pharmaceutical companies. RVTs often have management or other leadership roles within veterinary hospitals.

In the state of California there are specific tasks that only an RVT or a veterinarian can legally perform. These tasks include inducing anesthesia, extracting teeth, and placing splints and casts. RVT licensure is awarded by the state and the rules vary from one state to another. In many states, Registered Veterinary Technicians are called Certified Veterinary Technicians or Licensed Veterinary Technicians.

 

4. What is the job market like for Registered Veterinary Technicians?

There is a VERY strong demand for Registered Veterinary Technicians locally and statewide. In Sonoma County, there is a shortage of RVTs. As of March 2014 for the entire county, there are only 158 Registered Veterinary Technicians. This is in contrast to the licensed 252 veterinarians and 95 permitted veterinary premises in the county.  Veterinary consultants and hospital organizations recommend at least one RVT per veterinarian, meaning we have a sincere deficit.

The veterinary field as a whole continues to be a growth industry. Trends within the veterinary industry such as specialization, consolidation towards larger hospitals, and increased health care in the shelter industry are all contributing to the increased need to RVTs. According to both local sources and the Bureau of Labor Statistics the demand for RVTs is expected to continue to increase at a rate much greater than most jobs the future.

 

5. How much do veterinary support staff get paid?

In late 2013 Dr. Famini conducted a local salary survey to answer this question and over 100 veterinary employees responded.

  • Local Veterinary Technicians/RVTs earn about $20/hour with a range of $15 to $30. Those on the higher end of the range had a leadership/managerial role in their clinic.
  • Veterinary Assistants earn an average of $13/hour. The job scope and definition of a “veterinary assistant” is much less consistent between different veterinary clinics. Please see the next question for more details.
  • Only a few Kennel Assistants responded to the survey but they earned about $9/hour.

A more detailed 3-page summary of these findings can be downloaded at:  http://www2.santarosa.edu/f/?nEvKAPQZ
Data based on tax returns can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website but is listed in annual salary, not hourly. That data states that RVTs in our area earn about $40k per year which is consistent with the local survey results assuming full time employment.

6. What is the job market like for unregistered Veterinary Technicians?
Will I get a job if I complete this program?

As of Jan 2011 the term "Veterinary Technician" is legally restricted to RVTs in the state of California. It is recommended that unregistered veterinary staff be referred to as Veterinary Assistants.

The job market for veterinary assistants is strong and expected to grow at a pace greater than most jobs. Non-RVT staff memebers are used in every veterinary workplace as veterinary assistants, receptionists, animal care staff, and other capacities. However the job prospects for Veterinary Assistants are not as strong for RVTs and will be much more dependent on the details of an applicant's references and experience. There are a wide variety of skill levels among unregistered veterinary staff and it is challenging for a potential employer to evaluate the suitability of an unregistered applicant.

Many students start the SRJC Veterinary Technician Program while they are already working in a veterinary hospital as a way to become an RVT and further skills and salary. Within the last few years more students who are interested in this career field have been starting as the first step. The majority of students who complete the SRJC Veterinary Technician Program are indeed employed in the field prior to the time they have finished their courses. Students who are flexible, dedicated and with strong interpersonal skills are readily finding work.

Different hospitals use unregistered staff to wildly varying degrees. Individuals first entering the veterinary field start within a variety of positions but most begin as either animal care/kennel staff or volunteers. Becoming an RVT is an extremely strong, well-recognized signal to employers about your commitment to the field and skill level. Even if becoming and RVT is not your goal, completing the SRJC Veterinary Technician Certificate is an important way you can distinguish yourself to potential employers. Simply saying you are "in the program" or starting the first class does not give you a competitive edge, however, showing you have completed a few classes does.
For more information about job announcements please read the next question and answer.

 

7. How can I find out and get a local job in the veterinary field?

Many hospitals do not advertise for entry-level positions. Kennel help, reception staff and many vet assistant jobs are often filled via word of mouth or from resumes on file. After you have some experience on your resume it is helpful to visit hospitals in the geographic area you are interested in and the wider the search, the greater your chances of success. You should ask if there are any current openings and/or if they would keep your resume for when positions become available. For unregistered assistants the most common means of advertising positions is currently Craigslist.

There is also a STRONG seasonality to job openings. While there are some jobs opening year round there are typically far more openings in late spring through mid-summer. The amount of business in typical small animal private practices often slows near the holidays and often stays slower through winter.

There is a genuine RVT shortage so those positions tend be advertised more often. A Registered Veterinary Technician is a widely recognized level of education, dedication and skills. The skill set among unregistered veterinary assistants varies greatly and until you achieve RVT licensure your veterinary related references are a critical component of your resume. As with any job field who you know can be important and inside connections often make a difference in the hiring process.

Dr. Dan Famini has also started a google group for the purppose of announcing employment opportunities, educational opportunities and other relevant announcements to current or future activity. Anyone is welcome to join and receive the updates from this free service. Join the group.

 

8. How can I become a Registered Veterinary Technician through the SRJC?

To become a Registered Veterinary Technician in California you need to pass the state RVT board exam. There are three ways to be eligible to sit for the California RVT examination. Through the Alternate Route students need at least 20 semester units that cover a specific list of general science and Veterinary nursing tasks. Classes at the SRJC fulfill the academic requirement for students completing the Alternate Route to licensure. The Alternate Route also requires significant clinical experience to be eligible to sit for RVT board exams.

(See question 9 for more information about the Alternate Route requirements. See question 11 for information regarding the other routes of RVT licensure.)

All forms, including the academic requirement forms, towards RVT licensure can be found on the Veterinary Medical Boards website: vmb.ca.gov

 

9. What is the SRJC Veterinary Technician Certificate? Is it the same as becoming a RVT?

Students can petition tor the Veterinary Technician Certificate after completing ~22 units of specific courses covering a range of veterinary nursing topics and skills. Certificate completion also shows an employer that you have obtained a certain knowledge level.  Completing the SRJC Vet Tech Certificate does NOT make you a Registered Veterinary Technician.

However, completing the certificate does mean you’ve taken all the classes required to meet the academic component of eligibility to sit for the RVT boards through the Alternate Route.  Students still have to complete their clinical requirements and then successfully pass the Veterinary Technician board examination to become an RVT.

 

10. What else is required to become licensed through the Alternate Route?

Applicants who are qualifying for the RVT board exam through the alternate route must complete at least 20 semester units of specific course work and also complete 4416 hours of clinical experience. This experience must be completed over no less than 24 months and is equivalent to two full time years of employment. This experience must also include a comprehensive list of specific tasks that are performed to the satisfaction of the supervising veterinarian.

Both the courses and clinical hours must be completed within 5 years of the time you apply to sit for boards. For more information, including a copy of the clinical task list, please see the California Veterinary Medical Board website at vmb.ca.gov.

Applicants must be approved by the state Veterinary Medical Board (VMB) to sit for both a state and national Veterinary Technician board exam.  After passing the board exams you become a Registered Veterinary Technician. Completing the California Alternate Route for board exam eligibility and passing the board exam will allow you to become a RVT in California, but only California. Even though the exam is created by a national level organization (the AAVSB or American Association of Veterinary State Boards), there is no such thing as having a national veterinary technician license.

 

11. Does the SRJC provide any placement for students to complete their clinical experience hours?

The SRJC Veterinary Technician Program provides the academic component of training required to become a Registered Veterinary Technician. The clinical experience hours are the responsibility of the student.  

Dr. Dan Famini has created several opportunities for students to be exposed to veterinary workplaces and ensure they have a realistic understanding of what it means to be a veterinary technician. All of these opportunities are only offered to students enrolled AnHlt classes and announced in AnHlt50 and relevant classes:

  • Since Fall 2010 Dr. Famini also created a job shadowing rotation. This opportunity for 12-20 students every semester includes half day visits being behind the scenes at a different hospital every week for a total of 12 sessions. Students who participate also get 1 unit of credit in Ag98 (Independent/Special Studies). Some rotations are more hands on, but most are purely observational.  The purpose of this rotation is for students to participate and appreciate the great variety of local veterinary hospitals. After completing this rotation students tend to have much greater insight into the types of veterinary practices that appeal and motivate them. Participating students also exhibit significantly greater classroom/academic performance and several obtain employment positions as a consequence of their involvement each semester.
  • Dr. Famini also serves as the connection for students to intern at the hospital at Sonoma County Animal Care and Control. These internships are available for 10 to 18 students/year.

Starting in Spring 2014 a partnership with Petcare Veterinary Hospital created specialized program training to job program.  In which 10 individuals with the highest grades in the AnHlt50 class participated in three job tasks specific training sessions by the lead RVT of the clinic and resulted in three of these novice students being hired by the clinic.

 

12. What are the other routes to becoming a Registered Veterinary Technician?

There are three routes to be eligible for the Registered Veterinary Technician examination in California.

1) Complete a full-time AVMA approved program. A list of these programs can be found at http://www.vmb.ca.gov/applicants/schl_lst.shtml with the closest options being in the Sacramento or East Bay areas. 

2) The second route is to already be a RVT in another state with a certain minimum level of workplace experience.
3) The third option is the Alternate Route. This would include a collection of at least 20 specific semester units such as those offered by the Santa Rosa Junior College as well as a certain minimum number of clinical experience hours all within a 5 year time frame.

 

13. How long does it take to complete this program?

The SRJC Veterinary Technician Program is not intended to be a full time program. When taking these classes on the intended on a part time basis (~6 units/semester) students will complete the program in 4 semesters. Students of any experience level can be successful in these classes. However, after the introductory AnHlt50, all classes were designed to be taken concurrently with employment or volunteerism in a clinical veterinary setting. This becomes more important in the second year of SRJC VT classes.

There are some students who have completed the entire certificate program in two semesters or one calendar year. However those students are the exception, and not the rule. Additionally students who take several classes at once have not had any greater success at finding initial employment in the veterinary field. It is not uncommon for novice students to sign up for more than two courses in a semester and fail or drop out of some classes. Please see the recommended course sequence before selecting your classes.


14. How do I know which Animal Health class I should take?

The veterinary technician classes are designed to be taken in a specific sequence. The most important consideration is completed AnHlt50 during your first semester. The more workplace experience you have, the less critical the order of courses will be on your academic success. Students with less than 2 years full time experience should strictly adhere to the recommended course sequence. 
Please take careful notice of this intended sequence for the Veterinary Technician Program:

Recommended Course Sequence:
The two-year plan (RECOMMENDED):
Semester 1: Bio 10 and AnHlt 50
Semester 2: AnHlt 52 and 120
Semester 3: AnHlt 121 and 141
Semester 4: AnHlt 151 and 142
Plus: Work Experience or Special Study no later than Semester 3and an elective course somewhere after Semester 1

The three semester plan:
Semester 1: Bio10 and AnHlt 50
Semester 2: AnHlt52 and 120 and 142
Semester 3: AnHlt 121 and 151 and 141
Plus: Work Experience or Special Study no later than Semester 3and an elective course somewhere

 

15. What kind of animals will I learn about in the Veterinary Technician Program?

The core classes in the SRJC Veterinary Technician Program focus on canine and feline patients. Elective classes include working on large animal species with future electives covering a broader range of species being planned for the future. 
The emphasis on small animals intentionally mirrors the local employment opportunities in our area. In Sonoma and all surrounding counties the vast majority of RVTs work with dogs and cats. The next most common species RVTs work on is rabbits, followed by rodents (due to the laboratory animal health sector), followed by horses. This is not about the number of any given species that is available to be treated, but the number of jobs where RVTs work on any given species.

If you are interested in equine medicine you need to realize the fundamental differences that exist in the veterinary industry. Most local equine veterinarians are mobile practitioners that operate out In our area most equine practitioners do NOT hire any support staff.
If you are interested in an RVT program with a large animal focus you should consider Modesto Junior College or CalPoly. Also realize that you will likely need to live in the central valley or other area with a much greater livestock industry to find a large animal veterinary support staff position.

 

16. If the Animal Health class I want to enroll in is full, what should I do?

To prevent this situation from occurring be sure you have met with a SRJC counselor to be given priority enrollment.
If you have already completed prerequisite and recommended prior coursework you should consider attending the first day of class to see if you can be added. This is especially encouraged if you are already employed in a veterinary workplace.

If you are an appropriate student for an Animal Health class, the instructors in the Veterinary Technician Program will generally add students in addition to the waitlist for lecture heavy courses. For some courses this is not an option due to a limited number of resources such as microscopes (AnHlt151) or to maintain an appropriate instructor student ration for activities such as live animal labs (AnHlt120). You can consider contacting an instructor prior to the beginning of instruction for information. Do not expect to be given an add code without first showing up to the initial one or two class sessions.

 

17. How hands on is the Veterinary Technician Program? What will I get to do on live animals?

The SRJC does not have it’s own colonies of dogs, cats or other animals for the purpose of training veterinary technician students. These classes fulfill the academic component of state requirements, not the clinical component. The use of live animals is very limited in the SRJC VT program, but many classes (such as the Laboratory Procedures course) have a large percentage of hands-on instruction.

To an extent the answer to this question will depend on the instructor of any given class. In no instance are animals used for any invasive activity (such as collecting a blood sample) strictly for the purpose of instruction. On occasion animals who need a procedure performed, such as disease testing, will have that procedure incorporated into the instruction. In some cases individual lectures or even entire courses are held at veterinary hospitals, but most classes occur on the SRJC campus.


18. Who should I contact with questions about SRJC’s Veterinary Technician Program?

First you should read through this FAQ. For further information or advice you have two excellent options of SRJC faculty to contact.
Dr. Dan Famini (dfamini@santarosa.edu) is the coordinator and primary instructor for the program. Dr. Famini is happy to answer questions regarding careers in veterinary medicine, expectations of veterinary workplaces, the SRJC Vet Tech program, specific Animal Health courses, the RVT exam application process, and the SRJC Vet Tech certificate.

The SRJC counseling department can offer advice not only on this program, but assist in navigating the SRJC, general career guidance, and overall academic success. The SRJC Vet Tech program is unique and distinct from any other program. When seeking advice from a counselor you need to be certain that individual has experience with this specific program. Amy Merkel (amerkel@santarosa.edu) is a SRJC counselor who is very familiar with the Veterinary Technician program as well as other programs through the Agriculture/Natural Resources department.

 

19. I want to become a Veterinarian. Will these classes help me reach that goal?

AnHlt50 (Veterinary Terminology and Anatomy) is a very helpful course and excellent preparation for anyone considering becoming a veterinarian.

Beyond that one course the answer depends on your route towards veterinary school.  None of the AnHlt courses are part of the required preparation for veterinary school. At the Junior College level the required courses are in basic sciences such as chemistry, biology, statistics, etc. Every veterinary school has different admissions requirements, but they all expect future veterinary students to have a sound understanding of the career path. For that reason most successful veterinary school applicants have thousands of hours of experience at a veterinary hospital.

If you already have such experience in a veterinary setting then additional courses in the SRJC Vet Tech Program are unlikely to aid in your goal towards becoming a veterinarian. If you do not already have thousands of hours in a veterinary hospital then becoming a veterinary technician and the SRJC VT program can be a useful step on your route towards becoming a veterinarian

 

20. I really love animals. Should I take Veterinary Technician courses to become a Veterinary Technician?

.Veterinary technicians provide treatments and assistance to animals in hospitals and other clinical settings. The training within the Animal Health courses includes technical concepts such as medical calculations, veterinary pharmacology, disinfection, laboratory tests and analysis, etc. Veterinary technicians and veterinarians routinely work with bodily fluids including blood, urine and feces. We often treat patients when they are ill, in distress, and in end-of-life situations. If you are primarily interested in just comforting and enjoying the company of animals this is probably not the best career path. If you are interested in using a medical approach to assist in the care of animals, then veterinary medicine is your best choice.

 

21. I love animals, but I’m not as fond of people. Isn’t Veterinary Medicine a good career choice?

Veterinarians and Veterinary Technicians spend a large percentage of their time interacting with people. In a hospital setting technicians are often the primary communicator for the hospital’s human clients. Technicians will provide information and instructions with regards to patients’ conditions and treatments. Having strong customer service and interpersonal skills is a must for most Veterinary Technicians.

A minority of Veterinary Technicians have jobs that do not largely interact with the general public. Examples of these positions would be technicians working in a research laboratory, at a zoo or private facility, or specialized RVTs within aspects of large specialty centers such as purely surgical or anesthesia technicians. These technicians still need good interpersonal skills, as they will work very closely with the human members of the hospital staff.