JJC Prepares Students for Growing Number of Vet Tech Careers

Joliet Junior College’s renowned Veterinary Medical Technology program prepares its graduates each year for careers as animal nurses – and there is an average of at least two job openings for every licensed alum, according to Dr. Scott Keller, veterinarian and JJC’s vet tech chairman.

JJC vet tech students study in a group, in the company of cats.

Vet tech positions have been on the rise since 2008, and were deemed one of the most recession-proof jobs, according to Keller. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinary technician careers are expected to grow by 30 percent by 2020.

“This has been a growing field for a long time,” Keller said, adding that his students often get jobs at animal hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, zoological institutions, medical research facilities, biomedical facilities, and wildlife facilities.

Once a vet tech student graduates from JJC and receives an associate in applied science, he or she can take the National Examination for Registered Veterinary Technicians, and if they pass, they can start looking for jobs. JJC students have a 93 percent passing rate for this exam. Keller believes the program’s challenging coursework, state-of-the-art labs and equipment, and real world externships play a huge role in students’ high pass rate.

“From day one, we have the animals in the classroom. And we teach our students about a variety of different animals – dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, sheep,” Keller said. “JJC’s program is competitive, and we help create high quality veterinary technicians.”

JJC students work in a vet tech lab.

JJC’s vet tech program offers both morning and evening classes, making it easy for students’ schedules. JJC vet tech students range from those straight out of high school to single parents and those looking to start a second career.

Vet tech students study the basics of animal care, and learn how to perform x-rays, ultrasounds, and anesthetics. The program even has a 70-inch smartboard, which allows students to see up-close images of animal anatomy. Students are trained in the same way that nurses are – but instead, they study many different species, opposed to just one.

Keller said when he visits with JJC vet tech alumni, they always tell him they miss the program – the bonds students make with their fellow classmates and the experiences they gain are unforgettable.

“As students, they all form a strong bond with each other and the JJC vet tech staff,” Keller said. “The experience they get here is invaluable. It’s rewarding. It’s hard work, but they all learn a lot and really enjoy it.”

The vet tech program is challenging so students will be prepared for their future careers. Each fall, the vet tech program accepts 48 new students into the program.

The first year of a being a vet tech student is just JJC coursework and labs. The second year, students are required to work 30 hours at an externship each semester, in addition to their labs and coursework. Keller said these externships, similar to nursing clinicals, puts students in a real world setting.

More than 95 percent of externship employers said they would hire the JJC student that worked for them after graduation.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median pay for vet techs in 2012 was $30,290.

For more information about JJC’s vet tech program, contact Keller at skeller@jjc.edu or 815-280-2775 or visit http://www.jjc.edu/academics/divisions/career-technical/vet-tech/Pages/default.aspx.

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