How to Become a Veterinary Technician in California

Have no fear if you’re hopeful to become a vet technician in California – there are as many as 18 veterinary technology programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA).

However, before we go into details about the actual education of a future vet technician, you should think through your decision. Is it really for you?

You should know that this is a career for someone who has no problem working extra hours, walking and operating on their feet, and with a knack for talking to people and showing compassion.

If that’s you, then bingo, because this career is slowly becoming a coveted one in the USA, with the increasing number of pet owners each year.

Job Description and Duties of a Vet Technician in California

But before we hop onto the steps that need to be taken in order for you to become a vet technician, let’s first glance through the duties and responsibilities of one, provided you opt for working in a private clinic (and if you don’t,  the majority of these apply too).

Basically, if you want to become a vet technician, count on working with people as much as with animals.

You need mad communication skills because the pet owners will be needing you to show them some hope, compassion, and to explain to them their pet’s state in a sensitive and delicate way.

Apart from that, well, a vet technician is a veterinarian’s helping hand.

They take care of everything the vet might need, and there are some things they have to take care of all by yourself, without the supervision of the attending vet.

Here are some of your future duties as a vet technician:

  • record keeping
  • emergency care (applying first aid to an animal)
  • taking their body temperature and handling their bodily fluids or discharge
  • taking their pulse
  • taking x-rays
  • applying medications, fluids and blood products following the veterinarians’ instructions
  • patient communication
  • administering anesthesia

One of the most important duties you’ll have is helping the vet during surgeries.

Your job will be to make sure the vet has everything he or she needs when operating on an animal at every point of the surgery, and making sure all parts of the equipment work.

You’ll also be expected to perform clinical lab work like hematology, parasitology and urinalysis.

Also, bear in mind that as a vet technician you don’t need to work in a private practice, although the demand is highest in this area.

You can also specialize and find work in areas such as:

  • Internal Medicine
  • Emergency and Critical Care
  • Zoological Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Clinical Practice
  • Nutrition
  • Clinical Pathology and many more.

How to Become One?

As we’ve mentioned before, California is well packed with colleges with programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA).

The excellent thing here is that they’re all located within 50 miles of at least one of the most important areas in California: Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego.

This will make it way easier for you to attend classes than in some other states.

Twelve of these eighteen colleges have fully accredited programs while five are undergoing the process of accreditation.

As in most states, after you graduate, you’ll have to take the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) exam, but in California, unlike in some other states, you are required to take the California Veterinary Technician Examination, too.

After you pass these exams, you’ll be able to work as a licensed vet technician.

Education Required for a Vet Technician in California

The education system for a future vet technician in California is a tad more complicated than in most other states.

All programs require a high school diploma or its equivalent such as GED, most of them require an entrance exam and a talk with a counselor as well as an application fee of up to 100$.

Some require an essay and at least one letter of recommendation and a handful of them require you to take a test called Wonderlic, which is basically an intelligence exam they want you to take to test your problem solving skills and abilities to understand their subjects.

However, there is an alternate way for students to become registered vet technicians. This alternate way requires at least 4,416 hours of practical experience and these hours should be within no less than two years.

This substitutes all the classes you would otherwise attend in a traditional program.

All of the candidates taking this alternate route must show they are competent in a list of skills administered by the California Veterinary Medical Board.

The veterinarians for whom you worked have to document the proof of your actual experience and that you are, in fact, able to work as a vet technician.

You didn’t think you’ll slide by with no class work at all, did you? Of course, you’ll also need to deliver 20 hours of class work, and if you do complete all this, as a cherry on top, you’ll have to take the the veterinary technician national examination, too.

As for the actual programs and classes you’ll attend, most of the will require some prerequisite courses you may not have had the chance to attend in high school, like math, communications, biology, chemistry, humanities, or physical science.

If you haven’t taken those required by your program, you’ll have to attend them before you apply.

The course work doesn’t differ much from those in most other states. The subjects will be heavily science based. All in all, it will take you somewhere between 18 and 36 months to become a graduate with an Associate of Science degree in Registered Veterinary Technology.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Tuition varies widely depending on the college you take the program in.

Generally speaking, most programs will cost you somewhere between $12,000 to $25,000 for the entire program, including tuition and additional fees,  but excluding living expenses.

Most students pay for these programs with some kind of financial aid.

Every program offers many kinds of financial aids like grants, loans, work study, general scholarships for which you can apply if you meet the criteria.

You can also apply for the federal financial aid by going to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website.

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Licensing and Certification

As mentioned before, after you graduate, you’ll have to take two tests in California, the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) exam, and the California Veterinary Technician Examination, too.

The Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) is an exam regulated by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards  and is necessary for you to become a licensed vet technician.

Only those graduated from an accredited veterinary technology program can take the test (or those who went with the alternate route).

The California Veterinary Technician Examination is administered by the California Veterinary Medical Board.

These exams are computer-based and administered all around the state, and there are also out-of-state sites where you can take the test.

In order to keep your license current, you’ll need to complete twenty hours of continuing education (CE) annually, of which sixteen must be taken from approved CE providers.

Getting a Job in California

When you graduate and finish all your additional exams, your next step is finding a job.

Fortunately, this isn’t too hard for veterinary technicians, since there are so many facilities and hospitals that are always looking for new veterinary hopefuls that know what they’re doing.

  • California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) with  a long list of job openings for veterinary assistants in California.
  • VCA (Veterinary Centers of America) with 120 locations throughout the state of California such as:
    • VCA Venice Boulevard Animal Hospital
    • VCA Mission Viejo Animal Hospital
    • VCA Angel Animal Hospital
  • Vetco Wellness Centers and Vaccination Clinics inside PETCO – which are known for its relationships with veterinary teaching institutions.
  • Banfield Pet Hospital – which has a long tradition of helping animals in need, since 1955 on more than 900 locations throughout the USA.
    • Banfield Headquarters Clovis
    • Banfield Headquarters Fresno

Salaries for Vet Technicians in California

Generally speaking, the veterinary field of work is becoming one with a bright perspective, with more and more pet owners in America each year.

This means, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, that the employment workers in animal healthcare will grow up to a whopping 30% a year through 2022.

Here are the average salaries in cities across California:

LocationAvg. Annual Salary
Apple Valley,CA$38,608
Chula Vista,CA$39,129
Costa Mesa,CA$40,579
Daly City,CA$45,856
El Cajon,CA$39,013
El Monte,CA$41,117
Elk Grove,CA$39,575
Garden Grove,CA$40,670
Huntington Beach,CA$40,579
Long Beach,CA$40,579
Los Angeles,CA$41,161
Moreno Valley,CA$38,913
Rancho Cucamonga,CA$38,748
San Bernardino,CA$38,772
San Diego,CA$39,129
San Francisco,CA$45,856
San Jose,CA$44,400
Santa Ana,CA$40,615
Santa Barbara,CA$39,333
Santa Clara,CA$44,400
Santa Clarita,CA$40,577
Santa Cruz,CA$40,506
Santa Maria,CA$38,624
Santa Rosa,CA$39,742
Simi Valley,CA$39,910
Thousand Oaks,CA$39,610
West Covina,CA$40,583

Final Words

Whether you’re an animal lover or just interested in animal medicine, you should know that the love of animals or medicine is definitely not enough to perform this very challenging profession like a pro.

You have to ask around and do your homework surfing through internet, informing yourself about what this career will require from you.

Take into consideration all the extra hours, physical and emotional toll it will have on you, and if you still think this is exactly the field you see yourself in, than be sure that there’s no profession more fulfilling than that of a person helping those in need.

USA How to Become a Vet Tech by State