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Students working toward their associate degree in veterinary technology can explore applications of subjects such as biology and pharmacology while also examining potential career responsibilities. A typical full-time student can complete the degree program in two years, earning an Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in veterinary technology, depending on the school. During that time, students take a number of degree-specific and general education courses.

Veterinary Assisting Technology

Online Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology: Coursework and Overview

Although the required curriculum varies by school, there are several courses common to many degree programs. Below are some examples of general education and veterinary courses that overlap across schools:

Veterinary Technology Degree Courses

  • Introduction to Veterinary Technology: Studies provide an overview of potential careers and job responsibilities in veterinary technology. Topics could include veterinary ethics, medication, and animal restraint.
  • Animal/Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology: Students explore the structure and function of animal body systems, including the skeletal, muscular, and respiratory systems. Classes may focus on domestic animals.
  • Veterinary Pharmacology: Courses aim to provide students with comprehension of the use of drugs in caring for animals. Common topics of discussion include types of drugs, drug administration, and dosage calculations.
  • Microbiology: Students explore the physiological and functional aspects of microorganisms in relation to biological subject areas such as genetics, disease, and the immune system.
  • Anesthesia and Surgery: Students examine anesthetic preparation, administration, and procedures for animals. Specific topics that courses may address include types of anesthetic agents and surgical patient care.

General Education Courses

  • Psychology: Courses provide an introduction to various psychology concentrations, such as developmental psychology, as well as specific concepts, such as learning, personality, perception, and memory.
  • Public Speaking: Students seeking a veterinary technology degree often need to take a public speaking or speech class. This subject can help students develop and improve their communication skills, particularly in the context of preparing and delivering speeches.
  • English Composition: Students read and analyze a number of literary works through essays and in-class discussions. Courses aim to improve students' critical thinking and writing skills.

Potential Careers for Individuals with an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology

Although an associate degree cannot guarantee employment, veterinary courses that students take while earning their degree can provide them with knowledge and skills that could be relevant for a variety of careers. Examples of related careers are outlined below:

  • Veterinary technicians generally work in private clinics under the direction of a veterinarian. Potential responsibilities include doing laboratory tests and assisting veterinarians with diagnostic tests. Courses in anesthesia and surgery can help prepare students for various aspects of a veterinary technician career, including giving anesthesia to animals and preparing animals and instruments for surgery. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), individuals in this career have typically completed a postsecondary veterinary technology program.
  • Veterinary assistants aid veterinarians or veterinary technologists and technicians in treating animal illnesses or injuries. They may also provide prescribed immunizations or medication, perform laboratory tests, or sterilize surgical equipment and instruments. Bls.gov mentions that postsecondary education is typically not required for this career. However, veterinary courses in anesthesia, surgery, and pharmacology can help prepare students for various job responsibilities.
  • Nonfarm animal caretakers work in rescue leagues or animal shelters and take care of animals' basic needs. Additional responsibilities for experienced caretakers may include vaccinating animals, screening individuals looking to adopt an animal, and educating the public on pet health. An introductory course in veterinary technology can help students interested in this career learn effective animal restraint techniques. Taking a public speaking course can also be helpful, as caretakers often discuss animal health or other issues with visitors.
  • Veterinary technologists can be found in private clinics or in research-related positions, and many work in lab environments. Responsibilities may include preparing tissue samples or administering medication as well as documenting data regarding an animal's diet, weight, or signs of pain. Students may gain a basic understanding of elements of this career through an introductory veterinary technology class or a veterinary pharmacology course. Bls.gov notes that completing a four-year education training program is typical for these technologists.

For certain occupations, bls.gov reports that states may require licensing or credentialing in addition to education. Individuals considering these career paths should research their state's requirements.

Rather than pursuing a career, individuals with an associate degree in veterinary technology may choose to continue their education in the subject. Students interested in earning a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology should conduct research to determine the availability of the degree and check with an admissions counselor to assess their qualifications.


"Animal Care and Service Workers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/animal-care-and-service-workers.htm

"Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm

"Veterinary Technologists and Technicians," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm

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