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What is the Difference between a Vet Technician, a Vet Technologist, and a Vet Nurse?

by Kelsey Wirt, MS, LVT and Josh L. Clark, MS, RVT

Veterinary medicine is a complex field that involves a multitude of professional roles. Each of these roles comes with its own set of responsibilities, educational requirements, and skills. Three common titles utilized are a veterinary technician (vet tech), veterinary technologist, and veterinary nurse. Let's delve into the differences and similarities between these positions.

Veterinary Technician (Vet Tech)

A veterinary technician, or vet tech, is a professional who provides support to veterinarians in the daily functions of a veterinary practice. Vet techs work directly under the supervision of a veterinarian and perform a variety of tasks such as drawing blood, administering medication, assisting in surgery, managing anesthesia, providing basic first aid, and performing diagnostic tests like x-rays and ultrasounds, and more.

Read more about the duties of a credentialed vet tech.

In terms of education, vet techs earn an associate's degree from an AVMA accredited veterinary technology program. After graduation, they take a national credentialing exam called the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) to become certified, registered, or licensed vet techs, depending on the regulations in their state.

Veterinary Nurse

The title "veterinary nurse" is becoming more widely used in the United States, but is not yet universally adopted. This change is being pursued in order as a part of an international movement to standardize the terminology across the veterinary profession. The Veterinary Nurse Initiative is leading the charge to improve professional standards, public and professional recognition, and expanding career potential. Veterinary nurse is generally synonymous with veterinary technician, and the terms are often used interchangeably.

In terms of education, a vet nurse generally has the same level of training as a vet tech, which is a two-year associate's degree from an AVMA accredited program. However, some vet nurses might hold a bachelor’s degree, especially if they want to specialize or take on leadership roles.

In some countries like the UK, "veterinary nurse" is the standard term, and these professionals are registered or licensed similarly to vet techs in the United States. The role of a veterinary nurse is very similar to the role and duties of a veterinary technician.

Veterinary Technologist

Veterinary technologists are similar to vet techs, but there's a distinct difference in terms of education. Veterinary technologists hold a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology, which provides more opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the veterinary field.

Due to their more comprehensive training, veterinary technologists can often serve in more advanced roles. Some examples include, practice management, teaching/academia, specialization, and research.

The differences between a vet tech, a vet technologist, and a vet nurse largely boil down to the level of education, the complexity of job responsibilities, and each practice’s preferred terminologies.

Read more about the AVMA’s definitions of each of these roles. Understanding these differences can be helpful for anyone considering a career in the veterinary field or for pet owners seeking to understand the roles of the professionals caring for their pets.

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