How Long Does It Take To Become A Vet Tech?

The veterinary field is a very fulfilling and diverse career path, with many opportunities to explore. How long does it take to become a vet tech? We will go over a few different scenarios on how long it takes and what to expect.

There are so many positions within this industry: the veterinarian technician position which requires some education (associates degree or bachelor’s degree), a veterinary assistant (a certificate or on the job training) (the “veterinarian’s right hand”); finally, there are people who manage the office.

All play different roles in a veterinary office, but for this article, we will focus on providing you with an answer to the question, “How long does it take to become a vet tech?” Stop wondering the difference between a vet tech and a vet assistant; we went over it in detail.

Veterinary technology is a very fulfilling field with many opportunities to explore. Keep in mind that you will need a license to call yourself a veterinary technician; if you do not have a license, you will most likely be a vet assistant if you do not have a permit.

Some people like to use these terms by interchanging them, but veterinary technicians take pride in their work and title. Therefore if you want to call yourself a vet tech, it’s better to go through becoming licensed.

There is always something new to learn, no matter where you are in your education or how long you’ve been in the field. Your dedication to helping animals and making a difference in their lives is rewarding.

However, a veterinary technician has a tough job with extended hours and often does most work within a vet clinic. Learn how much a vet tech makes in your state before making the commitment. A vet tech’s salary in NY will be much different than someone who works in South Dakota.

African grey parrot being examined by a veterinarian with a stethoscope

The world of animals awaits you!


How Long Does It Take to Become a Vet Tech?

Learning how long to be a vet tech is an integral part of the equation when assessing the pros and cons of the career. Most US states and Canada will take two years of school at a community college or medical technical institute. Most states require vet tech candidates to graduate from a veterinary technology program. The AVMA has an approved list of veterinary technician programs.

There are also four-year vet tech programs to receive a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology. As of 2022, 25 colleges in the United States offer a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology.


As a vet tech, you have many career options. The answer to “how many years to be a vet tech?” will depend on your chosen field of study and where you live.

Some states require a vet tech to have a license and schooling, whereas others allow you to get on-the-job training. Some vet tech careers like radiologist technicians will need a few extra years of college.


What Are the Requirements to Become a Vet Tech?


In most states, the requirements are two years of community college within a vet tech program, completing a preceptorship, and passing the Veterinarian Technician National Examination (VTNE). Passing this exam will allow you to be an LVT (licensed vet tech); in some states, you can bypass the schooling, but you will still need to take the exam to call yourself a licensed vet tech.

Even if you have any doubts, I recommend simply enrolling in a two-year vet tech program. The program will prepare you for the types of questions you will experience on the exam and get you into a preceptorship.

A preceptor is when a vet tech will gain experience and job training. These are not usually paid positions since they are part of the learning experience. Preceptors not only shadow LVTs, but they also spend their day alongside veterinary students, DVMs, and other veterinary professionals. They are great because they allow the vet tech to go all in and see what life will be like working in a busy hospital.

For example, Cornell University Hospital for Animals has a preceptorship that is an excellent addition to a veterinary technician’s education. The vet tech will learn about many specialties at Cornell, like radiology, ophthalmology, and shelter medicine.

At a vet tech preceptorship like the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, you will have opportunities to explore your love of animals. One day you could be caring for an injured squirrel; another day, you might be helping an elderly dog who had surgery on his leg.

So “how long does it take to become a vet tech” really depends on if you want to specialize. If being a wildlife vet tech is in your future, you’ll need to gain a lot of paid and sometimes unpaid experience before becoming a wildlife vet tech. The same goes for a vet tech surgeon, a shelter medicine vet tech, and all of the other specialties.

Some states like Alaska have board members appointed by their Governor who oversee all vet techs and veterinarians. However, they don’t require specific licensing to become a vet tech.


How Much Training Does A Vet Tech Need?

Becoming a veterinarian is a much greater time length with more schooling than a vet tech. A vet tech needs at least two years of training, plus you must pass the national VTNE exam. How long to become a veterinarian is a popular question too. So, with that in mind, if you want to work in the veterinary profession but don’t want to go to 8 or more years of college, then a vet tech is a great choice.


Career Path To Become A Vet Tech


Scenario 1 (the time it will take 2-3 years)

  • Graduate High School.
  • Get an entry-level job at a vet clinic.
  • Enroll in a veterinary tech program at a community college while keeping the vet clinic job. Your current position may qualify as a preceptorship, which is needed before you graduate from most vet tech programs.
  • Take the VTNE exam and pass.
  • Apply for a veterinary technician license on your state’s Government website.
  • You can apply for a new job or move into a better position at your current job.


Scenario 2 the (time it will take 4-5 years)

  • Graduate High School.
  • Get a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology.
  • Focus on volunteer work in your chosen field of interest. (which could be wildlife, avian/exotics, surgery, and more)
  • Take the VTNE exam and pass.
  • Apply for a veterinary technician license on your state’s Government website.
  • You can apply for a  job!


Can You Become  A Veterinarian After Being A Vet Tech?


You can’t answer this question definitively. There are many different ways to become a veterinarian, and it all depends on the individual’s goals and interests. Some people might become veterinarians after working as vet techs, while others might decide to get a veterinary technician license and continue working as a vet tech.

Veterinary medicine constantly changes and evolves, so there is never a dull moment. The veterinarians, technicians, assistants, and managers all work together as a team to provide the best possible care for each patient.

However, an excellent way to get a feel for the veterinary profession is by first becoming a vet tech.

After working as a vet tech and working alongside veterinarians,  you can see if you like the job.

Over the yea, rs we have interviewed many students who have gone from vet tech to veterinarian, like Ryan, who worked as a vet tech for years and then graduated from the Virginia Tech veterinary school.

Christoper is another vet student attending LMU that we did a feature on last year. Christoper also went from vet tech to veterinarian.

Final Thoughts on How Long Does it Take to Become a Vet Tech?


Becoming a vet tech is a challenging but very rewarding career choice. It will take 2-5 years to become a vet tech, depending on what program you choose to go through.

Some states allow you to become a vet tech without enrolling in a vet tech program; however, they still want you to pass the VTNE exam. The easiest way to pass the exam is to enroll in a vet tech program.

Being a vet tech, you will help animals and make a difference in their lives, which is incredibly fulfilling.  In addition to learning about animal health and care, you will also gain valuable experience. The veterinary field is constantly evolving, so you will never stop learning new things.