Defining Vet Tech Credentials: The Meaning of RVT, LVT and CVT

The terms establish qualifications, but states regulate the field differently

Veterinarian attaching an IV to a dog at a clinic
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Working with animals requires a lot of love, a lot of patience and a lot of knowledge. The love for animals must be inherent, but veterinary technicians can learn the necessary animal-care skills in veterinary technical school and through on-the-job training.

The Vet Tech Field

Veterinary technicians provide assistance to veterinarians and biomedical/laboratory researchers. Technicians provide patient monitoring, animal restraint, surgical and dental assistance, laboratory diagnostics, administration of medicines and treatments, and anesthesiology, among other vital animal care and veterinary clinical tasks.

In the past, many vet techs received their training on the job under the tutelage of the practicing veterinarian(s) or other technicians on staff. In the 21st century, most veterinary technicians attend accredited schools that offer two- or four-year degrees in the science of veterinary technology. Graduates can become credentialed as a veterinary technician upon completion of their formal academic program by taking state-administered certification tests. Credentialed technicians often have a better job outlook and higher income opportunities, but this can vary with an individual's level of experience and by local demand. As of 2017, only Alaska, California and Wisconsin allow job-trained vet techs to sit for the exam and earn their credentials.

The Difference Between RVT, LVT and CVT

Credentialed veterinary technicians indicate their qualifications with various initials in the United States:

  • CVT: Certified Veterinary Technician
  • LVT: Licensed Veterinary Technician
  • RVT: Registered Veterinary Technician

The qualifications and regulations for each designation vary, with the technician's state of residence determining which term applies. Most states use the Veterinary Technician National Exam to establish credentials, with the difference being whether a state uses a certification, licensure or registration process to regulate the field.

Vet techs who move from one state to another may be able to transfer their exam scores and gain credentials in their new state simply by paying the fee.

According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA):

The current terminology recognized by decree of both NAVTA and the AVMA is "Veterinary Technician." Whether you are an LVT, RVT or CVT the term used is mandated by the technician’s state of residence.

Multiple titles can be very confusing for the public. In order to simplify this we recommend the use of the credentialed Veterinary Technician. We use the word credential not only to denote licensure and certification, but also to connote an affective element inherent in these terms.

The American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) maintains a directory of regulatory agencies pertaining to licensing and credentialing of veterinary technicians and veterinarians in the United States and Canada.

Like veterinarians, veterinary technicians may specialize in a particular field of study such as dentistry or anesthesiology. NAVTA recognizes several technician specialties (recognized as either academies or societies).