Vet Tech School in Alaska

Alaska’s veterinary technicians are licensed by the Board of Veterinary Examiners. They work under the supervision and direction of veterinarians to carry out veterinarian-delegated lab and clinical duties. Their skill level is above that of veterinary assistant. Qualified techs may carry out relatively advanced tasks. There are some duties that are broadly agreed to be outside the scope of veterinary technicians: diagnosing, prognosing, prescribing, and performing surgery; these are expressly forbidden in state code. However, state code explicitly states that veterinary technicians can carry out “advanced duties” when it is appropriate.

Vet Tech Programs in Alaska

While there are currently no accredited veterinary technology programs in the state, there are accredited distance programs. A student will need some type of arrangement with a veterinary practice to get the clinical experience he or she needs. Partnerships between educational programs and major national animal hospital systems can make this possible. The American Veterinary Medical Association maintains a list of accredited distance programs operating around the country. Prospective students may wish to inquire about the school’s ability to provide supervision in Alaska. Penn Foster, though based in Arizona, has partnerships with major animal hospitals like VCA.

Even in states where formal education is the only pathway, it is common to begin employment at less than the technician level (e.g. as an assistant). The employing veterinary hospital may be found suitable for meeting fieldwork requirements. It may still be necessary to travel to another site to meet some requirements (for example, experience with large animals).

Becoming a Vet Tech in Alaska

Alaska is among the states that has an alternate path to licensure. Formal education, though, is increasingly becoming the norm and expectation around the nation. The educational path involves completion of a program that holds accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association or the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

Alaska utilizes the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) as a licensing exam.

A person who qualifies through the alternative pathway will need two years of recent hands-on experience under a veterinarian. At least one year is to be within Alaska unless the person has achieved licensure in another state and holds a current credential.

An applicant who seeks licensure based on on-the-job training will need notarized verification of employment from the supervising veterinarian.

Bringing Formal Vet Tech Programs to Alaska

Alaska veterinary and educational communities recognize the value of formal preparation. The path can be long. The University of Alaska-Anchorage Mat-Su College, which began a veterinary assisting program in 2009, later sought approval for and developed a veterinary technology program. The 2019-2020 catalog shows a number of veterinary technology courses. The University of Alaska has surveyed the veterinary community and is aware that most veterinarians and veterinary technicians in the area view an AVMA-accredited veterinary technology program as the ideal. The goal has been articulated. While the school may achieve AVMA accreditation in the future, it does not at this time hold it. Nor (as of mid-2019), does the program appear on the list of those that have applied for AMVA-CVTEA accreditation. The veterinary assistant program, by now well-established, is a shorter one that prepares students for more limited functions (https://catalog.uaa.alaska.edu/undergraduateprograms/ctc/veterinaryassisting/oec-veterinaryassisting/).

Vet Tech Programs

While there are currently no accredited veterinary technology programs in the state, there are accredited distance programs. A student will need some type of arrangement with a veterinary practice to get the clinical experience he or she needs. Partnerships between educational programs and major national animal hospital systems can make this possible. The American Veterinary Medical Association maintains a list of accredited distance programs operating around the country. Prospective students may wish to inquire about the school’s ability to provide supervision in Alaska. Penn Foster, though based in Arizona, has partnerships with major animal hospitals like VCA.

Even in states where formal education is the only pathway, it is common to begin employment at less than the technician level (e.g. as an assistant). The employing veterinary hospital may be found suitable for meeting fieldwork requirements. It may still be necessary to travel to another site to meet some requirements (for example, experience with large animals).

Alaska Vet Tech Employers

The following are among Alaska’s veterinarian and animal hospitals:

Southeast Alaska Animal Medical Center is an AAHA-accredited hospital serving Juneau and the surrounding areas. The team of LVTs and assistants carries out duties like x-rays, labwork, and anesthesia monitoring.

Alaska Veterinary Clinic in Anchorage lists a lead veterinary technician and a fairly large team. The clinic has day-time hours Monday through Saturday and lists PET Emergency Treatment as the after-hours emergency contact.

Hillside Pet Clinic list exotic animal care and pet behavior among the services. This is in addition to life stage pet care for dogs and cats, including vaccines and semi-annual wellness exams for adult pets. Hillside Pet Clinic currently lists four LVTs, plus an additional LVT who works as practice manages; the clinic also has several veterinary assistants on its team.

After Hours Veterinary Emergency Clinic in Fairbanks provides some specialty services onsite. Surgery may be performed right there at the clinic, though it is sometimes necessary to refer out.

Mt McKinley Animal Hospital in Fairbanks is a full service AAHA accredited hospital.

North Pole Veterinary Hospital offers a wide variety of services. The hospital employs four credentialed veterinary technicians and a team of veterinary assistants.

It is not uncommon for Alaska veterinary practices to employ more assistants than technicians. A distinction is made, however. The average salary is higher.

Making a Difference

The landscape creates its animal care challenges. A recent KTUU article addressed how organizations were rising to the challenge (https://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Students-in-rural-southwest-Alaska-receive-450000-veterinarian-grant-509399561.html).

Vet Tech Salary in Alaska and Career Projections

Alaska’s veterinary technicians averaged $19.01 an hour (or $39,950 for full-time employment) in 2018. Those at the 10th percentile earned $13.31 while those at the 90th percentile earned $24.81.

The Alaska veterinary technician occupation is projected to grow 23.5% over the course of the 2016 to 2026 decade.

Student and Professional Resources

The Alaska State Veterinary Medical Association is a source of continuing education for vet techs as well as veterinarians. AKVMA has provided a resource page for veterinary technicians (https://www.akvma.org/technicians). The state also has a professional association specifically for techs. As of 2019, the Alaska Veterinary Technician Association uses Facebook as a primary web presence.

Prospective licensees will find information about application on the website of the Board of Veterinary Examiners. Application packets are available for download (https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/cbpl/ProfessionalLicensing/BoardofVeterinaryExaminers/ApplicationsForms.aspx).