Online Veterinary Science & Animal Care Degree Programs

Did you ever watch movies like Dr. Dolittle as a child and wish you could talk to animals and help them too? Unlike the good doctor in the movies, real-life veterinarians can’t just ask their patients what’s bothering them. They need to examine their patients carefully to diagnose their illnesses and prescribe a course of treatment. And while human doctors deal only with people, veterinarians and other animal care workers may deal with a number of different species as well as their human owners.

This is one big reason why the College Board states that being an effective communicator is an important trait for people working with animals along with being compassionate, patient and perceptive. An online veterinary science degree program can help recent high school graduates, career changers and working professionals gain the knowledge and skills they need to navigate between the worlds of animals and their humans.

Typically, a veterinary technician and technologist’s job role includes:

  • Observing the behavior and condition of their patients (animals)
  • Providing emergency first aid or nursing care to injured or recovering animals
  • Bathing animals, clipping their nails and hair, and grooming them as necessary
  • Restraining animals during medical examinations and procedures
  • Administering medication, vaccines and other treatments prescribed by the vet
  • Collecting and recording patient case histories
  • Taking X-rays and performing laboratory tests like urinalyses and blood counts

These professionals work closely under the supervision of veterinarians, helping them run their clinics, handle ill animals and provide medical care. Although technologists and technicians earn different degrees, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that their job duties are similar when working in a veterinary practice. The BLS notes that while veterinary technicians are often employed in private practice, technologists have the opportunity to pursue research-oriented jobs in settings such as diagnostic laboratories, biomedical facilities and wildlife facilities.

Several related factors are driving the rise in pet care spending and employment growth in the veterinary occupations and veterinary services industry in the 2016-26 BLS projections: a growing pet population, the aging of the pet population, and expanding pet treatment options.

Jobs in veterinary science and animal care are as varied as the types of animals for which they care. Some veterinarians work a typical 40-hour week in comfortable offices while others choose to specialize with large animals which often means travel to farms in their area. Still others choose to work with animals in zoos, which can encompass a wide range of specialties.

The BLS estimates the demand for veterinarians and vet technicians and technologists to rise as the number of pet owners rises along with their willingness to spend on their furry friends. The table below describes the occupations associated with veterinary sciences along with their employment outlook, mean wages and total jobs for the decade leading up to 2028 using data from the BLS.

Career
Employment
Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians110,650$36,67019.3%
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers97,030$29,69019.1%
Veterinarians74,540$104,82018.4%

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that “studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners.

Veterinary technicians typically need an associate degree, while veterinary technologists generally earn a four-year bachelor’s degree. Veterinary assistants and animal care workers may learn by working on the job, some may also need a bachelor’s degree in a related field depending on the types of animals they work with. Veterinarians typically earn a bachelor’s degree before going on to veterinary school where they earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree. Competition for admission to veterinary school is fierce as the College Board reports that there are only 28 accredited programs in the whole country!

A note on earning your veterinary science degree online

Online veterinary science degree programs are sometimes available for technicians and technologists. However, veterinary training requires a great deal of hands-on experience in addition to classroom instruction. Therefore, a hybrid education – combining some online courses with classes taken in the traditional classroom or laboratory setting – is the usual approach. Many online veterinary science degree programs may help you obtain your clinical practice at a facility near you.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

They may also be called veterinary nursing or veterinary technician degrees.

Students of associate veterinary science degrees online can gain the knowledge and skills they need to perform the daily tasks needed from a veterinary technician or nurse. They may gain an array of knowledge – from the basic business skills needed to run a clinic and client communication to the handling of different types of animals and their care along with some laboratory techniques.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Topics may cover the anatomy, behavior and handling of large and small animals, sample collection and analysis and client education to name a few. Some courses you may take include:

  • Large animal nursing and medicine
  • Management for veterinary technician
  • Nutrition for veterinary technicians
  • Veterinary anatomy and physiology
  • Veterinary diagnostic imaging

Additionally, students may have to complete a series of clinical rotations at an approved facility near them.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning an associate degree in veterinary sciences?

An associate degree may help veterinary assistants advance their careers or act as a stepping stone toward a four-year degree. Graduates may find work in a variety of animal-related facilities including veterinary clinics, laboratories, and shelters to name a few. Potential job titles include:

  • Veterinary technician
  • Veterinary nurse
Pet ownership has increased over the last 30 years. One survey by the American Pet Products Association estimates the number of dogs kept as pets in the United States has increased 50 percent from 1988 to 2017.

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

Some online veterinary science bachelor’s degree programs may be degree completion programs which are geared toward those individuals who have already earned their associate degrees and therefore take less time to complete.

Students of online veterinary science bachelor’s degree programs typically study various veterinary science topics in more depth than those in an associate degree program. They may learn about different diseases, how drugs are prescribed and why they work for specific diseases, and how to administer emergency care as well as develop their leadership and supervisory capabilities.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Students may take business courses along with healthcare management, pharmacology, and clinical techniques. Some courses you may take include:

  • Hematology and immunology for veterinary technicians
  • Leadership in veterinary technology
  • Parasitology for veterinary technicians
  • Pharmacology for veterinary technicians
  • Veterinary medical terminology

Students may have to complete one of more clinical rotations as a part of their online veterinary science bachelor’s degree program.

Possible electives: Electives typically depend on the concentration chosen. You can learn more in the specializations section on this page.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in veterinary sciences?

Individuals who have completed their bachelor’s in veterinary science degree online may choose to continue their studies to become a veterinarian or a masters degree. Graduates may also qualify for positions as veterinary technologists in small and large animal veterinary practices, zoos and wildlife facilities, and research facilities to name a few. They may also qualify for leadership positions supervising veterinary technicians and managing veterinary clinics and hospitals. Potential job titles include:

  • Animal housing manager
  • Biomedical research technologist
  • Clinical team leaders
  • Pharmaceutical sales representative
  • Specialty practice technologist
Cats and dogs account for the largest share of household pets: 2 out of 5 households have a dog, while 1 in 3 have a cat. These pets account for the greatest share of veterinary service visits.

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

Important: A master’s degree does not lead to a DVM degree. In fact many masters programs are open to vet technologists with a bachelor’s degree and veterinarians with a DVM.

Individuals enrolled in an online veterinary science master’s degree program study advanced topics in their chosen area of specialization. They can learn to develop their research skills and explore wider animal-related issues like how public policies are formed for example.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree or DVM

Typical coursework: Topics studied vary according to the area of specialization. They may include courses in chemistry, toxicology, among others. Some courses you may take include:

  • Advanced small animal nutrition
  • Animal issues in disasters
  • Problems in veterinary clinical sciences
  • Statistical methods in health sciences
  • Veterinary cytology

Students may have to complete a master’s thesis depending on the requirements for their online veterinary science degree program.

Possible electives: Veterinary public health; veterinary public health; wildlife and zoological medicine

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in Veterinary Sciences?

A master’s in veterinary sciences may allow individuals to enter research and academia or even teach in some colleges. While job titles may be similar to those mentioned in the bachelor’s degree section, master’s degree holders may hold positions with more responsibilities and qualify for higher wages. They may also qualify for roles with the government where they can help shape policies or conduct research.

Owners’ focus on pet preventive care, advances in veterinary medicine and nutrition, and expanded treatment options are among the contributing factors to longer life expectancy for pets.

Online graduate certificates in veterinary sciences may help veterinarians (i.e. those who hold a DVM degree) or veterinary technologists expand their knowledge in a particular area of the field. This may allow them to work as a specialist in that particular area or conduct research. Students may also be able to transfer the credits they earn toward a master’s degree at a later date. As a graduate certificate program is highly focused, it usually takes less time to complete than an online veterinary science master’s degree program. Online graduate certificate programs may suit those individuals who want to study extremely specific topics in veterinary sciences or those who want some graduate-level education but do not have the time or financial resources to commit toward a full-fledged graduate degree.

Typical duration: On year of part-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree or DVM

Typical coursework: The courses you take can vary highly depending on the specialization chosen. Some examples of courses include:

  • Applied statistical methods in population studies
  • Epidemiological methods in population research
  • Principles of epidemiology and population health
  • Risk assessment for food, agriculture and veterinary medicine
  • Statistical methods for research workers
Some veterinarians specialize in areas of veterinary medicine that did not exist or were not common 20 years ago, such as advanced diagnostic services, internal medicine, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, and cardiology.

There are two main types of doctoral degrees in veterinary sciences:

  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM): which is a professional degree required to practice as a veterinarian. It may be combined with a Ph.D. as a dual degree.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.): is mainly oriented towards those who want to conduct research but do not want to practice as a veterinarian.

DVM and Ph.D. degrees need a lot of hands-on practical work and are not currently available as hybrid or online veterinary science degrees.

With veterinarians offering more treatment options for sick and aging animals, some owners are willing to spend more to prolong the life of their pets.

Accreditation

Attending an accredited school can be important to students interested in online veterinary science degree programs for several reasons. Attending an accredited school can show potential employers that the education they have received meets or exceeds the standards of quality required of professionals today. It can also be a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid, scholarships and educational loans as well as for transferring credits. Graduation from an accredited program may also be a requirement to qualify for professional certifications and licensures.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) is the main accrediting body for veterinary science degree programs.

In turn, this increase in pet care spending is the primary source of employment growth of veterinary occupations, projected to nearly triple the average growth through 2026.

Specializations in Veterinary Sciences

The field of veterinary sciences is huge. Like human medicine, it can involve a number of specializations depending on types of treatments and diseases. However, unlike human doctors and healthcare specialists, individuals working in the veterinary field may also choose to specialize in different types of animals including small and large animals, horses, wildlife, and birds to name a few. We’ve listed just a few of the many specializations in veterinary sciences below to help give you an idea of how diverse the field is. It is important to note though that all specializations may not be available as online veterinary science degree programs nor might they be available in all schools.

  • Advanced clinical applications
  • Veterinary hospital management
  • Equine science
  • Dentistry
  • Shelter medicine
  • Veterinary forensic sciences

Licensures and Certifications in Veterinary Sciences

The BLS reports that veterinarians need to be licensed in order to practice in the country. Passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination is the first step after which they may need to take a state licensing exam. The BLS cautions that most states do not accept licenses from others so it can be important for vets to take the exam for the state they want to be licensed in. Additionally although credentialing requirements for veterinary technicians and technologists varies from state to state, most states require them to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).

Professional certifications for veterinarians, veterinary technologists and technicians may not be mandatory but they can demonstrate competencies and specializations in the field. Some examples of certifications are:

For veterinarians:

For veterinary technologists and technicians:

Employment Statistics

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
  • Social Advocacy Organizations
  • Other Personal Services
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Support Activities for Animal Production
States with the highest level of employment
  • Texas
  • California
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA
  • Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
  • Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
  • Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

Veterinarians

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
  • Social Advocacy Organizations
  • Support Activities for Animal Production
  • Other Personal Services
  • Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Lubbock, TX
  • Sherman-Denison, TX
  • Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL
  • El Paso, TX
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Going to college can be expensive – there’s no doubt about that. Thankfully there are several financial aid programs, scholarships and grants available to eligible students of online veterinary science degree programs to help ease this financial burden. Some scholarships for veterinary science students are listed below to help you get started in your search:

Professional Organizations and Resources:

Sources

  • Ahead of the pack: why are veterinary occupations growing much faster than average? Beyond the Numbers: Employment & Unemployment, vol. 8, no. 4, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 2019, https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-8/veterinary-occupations-growing.htm
  • Animal Care and Service Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/animal-care-and-service-workers.htm, accessed September 2019
  • Associate Degree Veterinary Technician, Ashworth College, https://www.ashworthcollege.edu/associate-degrees/veterinary-technician-degree-online/, accessed September 2019
  • B.A.S. in Veterinary Technology, Tarleton State University, https://www.tarleton.edu/degrees/bachelors/bas-veterinary-technology/index/, accessed September 2019
  • Bachelor of Science, Michigan State University, https://cvm.msu.edu/future-students/veterinary-technology-program/curriculum/bachelor-of-science, accessed September 2019
  • Career: Veterinarians, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/health-diagnosis-treatment-veterinarians, accessed September 2019
  • Career: Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/health-technology-veterinary-technologists-technicians, accessed September 2019
  • Graduate Certificate in Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Iowa State University, https://vetmed.iastate.edu/vdpam/academics/graduate-programs/curriculum/graduate-certificate-requirements, accessed September 2019
  • Master’s Degree in Biomedical Sciences | Emphasis in Veterinary Sciences, University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine, http://biomedonline.missouri.edu/masters-degree-in-biomedical-sciences-emphasis-in-veterinary-medicine-and-surgery/, accessed September 2019
  • Veterinarians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm, accessed September 2019
  • Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm, accessed September 2019
  • Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Florida, http://gradcatalog.ufl.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=12&poid=5128&returnto=2605, accessed September 2019
  • Veterinary Nurse, Purdue University, https://www.admissions.purdue.edu/majors/a-to-z/veterinary-nurse.php, accessed September 2019
  • Veterinary Nursing Distance Learning, Purdue University, https://www.purdue.edu/vet/nursing/DL/index.php?_ga=2.45251236.1099139868.1569567784-283273352.1565358142, accessed September2019
  • Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm, accessed September 2019
  • Veterinary Technology B.A.S. Degree, St. Petersburg College, https://www.spcollege.edu/future-students/degrees-training/health-sciences-and-veterinary-technology/veterinary-technology/veterinary-technology-bas-degree, accessed September 2019
  • Veterinary Technology Bachelor of Applied Science Degree, Penn Foster College, https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/veterinary-studies/veterinary-technology-bachelors-degree, accessed September 2019
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