Veterinary technicians are individuals who assist veterinarians in a variety of tasks dealing with animals. Exotic animals are those not commonly found in the wild in the United States such as grey parrots, bears, lions and cheetahs. Veterinary technicians who are interested in working with exotic animals typically receive training focused on this specialty while they complete their veterinary technology education.
Types of Veterinary Tech Degrees
Students interested in becoming exotic animal or wildlife veterinary technicians have to get an associate degree in veterinary technology and take specific courses at the end of the program that focus on exotic animals. Programs in veterinary technology are mainly offered by community colleges and lead to associate of science degrees. These programs take about two to three years of full-time study and require students to complete 60 to 75 credits of coursework. Some veterinary technology programs are also offered by four year colleges and universities and lead to bachelor's degrees in veterinary technology. These programs take four years of full-time study and require students to complete about 120 credits of coursework.
Finding Veterinary Technology Programs
The easiest place to find exotic animal veterinary technology programs is online. There are no rankings of top programs at either community colleges or universities, but fully accredited programs are listed with the American Veterinary Medical Association, a nonprofit association that represents 82,500 veterinarians across United States. This association has existed since 1863 and is a reputable source for veterinary technology education. Neither two-year nor four-year veterinary technology programs allow students to specialize exclusively on exotic animals, but both types of schools allow students to take electives in exotic animal medicine. According to the AVMA, there are currently 218 two-year and 22 four-year programs in veterinary technology in the United States.
Foundation Courses: Two-Year and Four-Year Schools
Both two-year community colleges and four-year colleges and universities require students to take similar foundational courses in veterinary technology to introduce them to the field. All courses later in the program build upon the material covered in these courses. Requirements vary, but many programs require students to take introduction to veterinary technology, veterinary anatomy and Physiology 1 and 2, pharmacology and veterinary medical terminology. Some programs also require students to take a course in veterinary ethics and veterinary parasitology, as well as an introductory course in clinical management.
Exotic Animal Electives: Two-Year and Four-Year Schools
After completing their foundational courses, prospective veterinary technologists pursuing their degrees in both two-year and four-year schools have to take advanced courses in veterinary clinical pathology, anesthesia and radiology. In addition to these courses, students interested in exotic animals as a specialization take electives in this area of veterinary medicine. Both two-year and four-year schools offer electives such as clinical management of exotic animals and Exotic Animal Medicine 1 and 2. Furthermore, both types of programs also require all veterinary technology students to complete veterinary practicums. Students interested in exotic animals typically take this opportunity to get hands-on experience in dealing with exotic animals by completing their practicums in exotic animal hospitals, zoos or animal reserves.
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