Reader Question: Is vet tech school worth it?

Hey, I came across your blog while searching for vet tech info. I was wondering how much your vet tech schooling is? I’m trying to decide whether or not I should go to vet tech school. There are only 2 options in my area and both cost 30 grand and take 16 months. That price seems extraordinarily high for such little vet techs make. What is your opinion? Thanks!
Hi, Tiffany!

Good questions.  I’ll see if I can answer them for you.  The price listed on my school’s page is $480 per credit, plus various fees for labs, technology, and student services.  I can tell you, though, that tuition is higher than that – I believe it’s somewhere in the $500 range now (I try not to look too often) and it’s been going up every year.   There is a second school in my area that offers a vet tech degree and I believe they are a bit lower priced.  I spent some time talking with vets and techs in my state and ultimately chose the more expensive school because their graduates have a much better reputation than graduates from the lower-cost school.  Graduates from the more expensive school receive a much more thorough education and come out of school with more knowledge and a better skill set.  Oftentimes, they receive hiring preference over graduates from the lower-cost school.  My husband and I decided that it was worth it to spend the extra money to get the degree with the better reputation.

I would recommend trying to talk with some vets and techs in your area and getting their opinions of each program.  In your area, the programs may be about equal.  Maybe one is much better than the other.  Maybe one focuses more on small animals and the other focuses more on large animals.  It is definitely worth your time to do some research.  You can also try contacting your state veterinary medical association.  You will certainly want to make sure the school you choose is accredited.  If you don’t like either of the school options in your area, you can look in to distance learning programs.  I don’t know if the distance programs tend to cost less than the local programs, though.

One way to save some money on vet tech school is taking your generals at a community or state college and transferring them to the tech school.  Before doing this, you’ll want to check with the vet tech school and see exactly what courses you’ll need and then make sure they will transfer in.  I was in school for a bachelor’s degree before I went to tech school, so I had almost all of the required generals done, which saved me quite a bit of money.

Another way to save money is to find scholarships.  If you’re still in high school, work at maintaining a good GPA and apply for as many scholarships as you can.  If you’re not in high school anymore, or anywhere near high school, there are still scholarships out there, it just takes a bit more work to find them.  Check with your school’s financial aid office to see what scholarships the school offers.  Fastweb has a really extensive list of scholarships.  You will get overwhelmed looking at all the scholarships Fastweb lists.

vetassistanttraining1Now, on to your question about whether or not going into this field is worth it.  Obviously, you have to decide that for yourself, but I’ll see if I can give you some things to consider when you make that decision.  You not only have to love animals, but you need to at least be able to tolerate dealing with people (clients).  Enjoying working with people makes the job easier.  You will be dealing with them a lot.  And they will not always be happy.  They will be stressed, upset, or otherwise unhappy for any number of reasons (their pet is sick, their pet got hurt, their pet is bleeding all over, etc.).  Of course, really enjoying dealing with animals is important.  Like with the people, the animals will not always be happy.  And unhappy animals can really be difficult to deal with – they bite, growl, snap, urinate, defecate, express their anal glands, and can be flat-out difficult.  A love of medicine helps, too.  There’s lots of medicine and problem solving – why is the animal sick, what is causing the white blood cell level to increase, why will this dog not stop vomiting, etc.  Any diagnosis will be left up to the vet, but your job is easier if you can understand what’s happening and why it’s happening.

The pay is not fantastic.  From what I can tell, vet techs around here start between $10 and $15 an hour.  If you work 40 hours a week, $13/hour works out to$27,040 a year (assuming no unpaid vacation or days off).  So if you just run straight numbers and don’t think about what you love, being a vet tech doesn’t make a lot of sense.  But we both know there’s more to it than that.  You don’t want to be stuck in a job you hate.  If you’re the type of person who doesn’t need or want the latest greatest everything and you really do love the career, it’s may be worth it.

There are a lot of different job opportunities with a vet tech degree.  You are not limited to working with just dogs and cats.  You can work with farm animals, lab animals, zoo animals, wildlife, and pets.  There are jobs in nutrition, in research labs, zoos, wildlife centers, rescue facilities, boarding, animal shelters, and more.

I hope that helps you out some.  Good luck with whatever you decide!

Image credit: jbcurio

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  • Tiffany  On December 15, 2008 at 1:31 AM

    Hey! Thank you for replying back. I’m still undecided but you gave me some things to think about. I’m mostly conflicted about the money issue. Of course I would love to work with animals everyday, but there are things I want to do in my life that will cost a lot of money, and I just don’t see that salary working out. Oh the choices… well, I’ll definitely continue reading your blog. Take care!

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