Female vet tech in blue scrubs is holding up a happy Jack Russell terrier.

CVT vs LVT vs RVT: What’s the Difference?

Find out what makes CVT, LVT, and RVT credentials different. Learn about what each state requires and get tips from vet tech Shawna Burke on starting your career.
Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio

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Are you interested in a career as a veterinary technician but confused about the various credentials like CVT, LVT, and RVT? You're not alone! These credentials vary from state to state. In this post, we'll talk about these differences and share insights from our interview with Shawna Burke, LVT, B.S.VT, a veterinary instructor with over 17 years of experience.


CVT, LVT, and RVT are all names for a credentialed veterinary technician who has completed an associate program and passed their state’s certification exam. The titles vary by state but mean the same thing.


What do these letters stand for?

CVT: Certified Veterinary Technician

LVT: Licensed Veterinary Technician

RVT: Registered Veterinary Technician


Shawna explains, "Whether you're called a CVT, LVT, or RVT depends on where you practice. These credentials mean you've graduated from an accredited program and passed the national board examination, but your title changes with your state."


Becoming a vet tech varies state-by-state

Getting your veterinary technician certification varies by state, so make sure you know your specific state’s requirements before enrolling in a vet tech program. For example, in California, you might need to pass a state-specific exam in addition to your national certification, whereas in Texas, there could be different continuing education requirements to maintain your certification. Always check the latest vet tech guidelines in your state to ensure you're on the right track!


Read more: Guide to Vet Tech Certification by State


Educational requirements for becoming an LVT, RVT, and CVT

Regardless of the title, all vet techs must complete an accredited veterinary technician program. "Every state has its standards, but the foundation is the same: a solid education and passing the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Examination)," says Shawna.


To become a licensed vet tech, you need the following no matter where you live:

  1. High school diploma or equivalent
  2. Externship
  3. Associate degree from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
  4. A passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE)
  5. An approved application for your license, registration, or certification
  6. Ongoing continuing education credits to maintain your credentials


Read more: How to Pass the VTNE


Map of the United States showing which credential is used in each state.

Examination requirements for becoming an LVT, RVT, and CVT

No matter your title or state, you must pass the VTNE to call yourself a credentialed veterinary technician. Given by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB), passing this exam shows that you have entry-level vet tech knowledge and can perform your duties effectively.


Some states have additional testing so be sure to check your state’s licensing requirements.


Read more: Vet Assistant to Vet Tech: Advancing Your Career as a Working Parent


Renewal and continuing education

Maintaining your certification, registration, or license requires completing and submitting continuing education (CE) credits. Conferences, online courses, and webinars are some ways you can get CE. Some CE–especially the online courses–are free, but most of the in-person CE options aren’t free.


"It's not just about maintaining your certification; it's about staying up to date with the latest in veterinary medicine," Shawna mentions.


Each state has its own required number of CE credits to maintain your certification. For example, in Arizona, you are required to complete 10 hours of CE every two years, while in New Hampshire, 12 hours are required every 12 months.


Read more: The Difference Between a Veterinary Technician and a Veterinary Assistant


Career pathways and opportunities for becoming an LVT, RVT, and CVT

When you earn your LVT, RVT, or CVT, you can work in different areas within veterinary medicine. Some options you may have in your area include:

  • General practice: Small animal, large animal, exotic
  • Specialty practice: Internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, critical
  • Animal shelters
  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Veterinary hospice


Read more: Vet Tech Career Guide: 5 Places You Can Work As a Vet Tech


Salary and job market differences

While the demand for vet techs is generally high, your earnings will vary depending on where you live and the type of clinic or hospital where you work. "Despite the critical role they play, vet techs are often underpaid. It's important to consider the financial aspect of your career choice," Shawna points out.


The average salary for LVTs, CVTs, and RVTs is $38,240. Top-earning vet techs make between $46,000 and $52,000 and can be found in Washington, California, New York, DC, and Alaska. States including Texas, Louisiana, Montana, Kentucky, and Kansas are the lowest paying, ranging from $26,320 to $35,890 per year.


Read more: What the Demand for Vet Techs Can Mean for Your Career


Pros and cons of each certification

Earning your CVT, LVT, or RVT can be a great move forward in your veterinary career, but there are downsides to consider.



  • More career opportunities
  • Higher salary potential
  • Job satisfaction



  • Time and financial investment
  • Stressful work environment
  • Physically and emotionally demanding


Read more: 5 Ways to Earn More Money as a Vet Tech


Want to learn more?

Ready to take the next step in your vet tech career? Check out our Guide to Vet Tech Certification by State and our Veterinary Technician Associate Degree program to get started on your CVT, LVT, or RVT journey today!


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