Penn Foster Vet Tech Program: A Review

13 Oct
Cat Restraint for Practicum 1.

Cat Restraint for Practicum 1.


The vet tech career is unique in the medical world, because many vet techs don’t necessarily need a degree to work. Personally, I graduated with a degree in Creative Writing with no interest in medicine. However, I ended up as a receptionist at a vet clinic, trying to make ends meet. Within a year, I realized I loved being around the animals, was fascinated by the medical aspect and the head vet tech was willing to train me.

It was a rough road at first. But, at my job, I am surrounded by talented technicians who I am still learning from. And while I saw that apprenticeship and experience was all that was needed to have a job as a veterinary technician, I also saw that without a degree in the field, I was limited in my upward mobility. I have an ambitious personality, and I didn’t just want to be a vet tech. I wanted to be a licensed vet tech. I want to become a board-certified anesthesiology vet tech. The first step was a degree.

After weighing a number of different options (including the leap of faith of going to vet school), I settled on enrolling in the Penn Foster online vet tech program. That was almost three years ago. Now here I sit, still working as a vet tech, done with my four semesters and first practicum and pulling my hair out trying to complete the second. These are my honest, not-sponsered views on how the program went for me and advice to others thinking about pursuing this program.

  1. Time management is key. I can’t stress this enough. Penn Foster advertises that the great thing about the program is the ability to make your own schedule. Realistically, this isn’t going to work for some people. I’m a book nerd who enjoys studying and has always been good at pushing myself. So I was able to sit down at the end of a long day at work and study. I loved that I was able to keep my job and not have to balance work with a class schedule. But at the same time, that structure would have been nice. I went through a 6-month period where I doubted whether this was really what I wanted to do, and I didn’t study. I wish I hadn’t squandered that time, and if I was enrolled in a community college program, I don’t think I would have. Penn Foster has tried in the last couple of years to set up suggested deadlines for tests and classes which could be a big help to less-motivated studiers. But self-discipline is a prerequisite to finishing the program.
  2. The Proctored Exams are difficult. So how does an online program establish legitimacy in their students? After all, it’s all open book, submitted over the internet, surely it is ripe grounds for cheating. These are true things. The way they eliminate the cheaters? Proctored Exams. At the end of each semester, you are given a live, timed exam. And it is difficult. It is in essay form and asks some of the most minute details from the courses. I’m still haunted by the memory of opening my first semester exam and seeing, “Name the six types of bird feathers.” Sure, I had read over that in the Integument section of Anatomy and Physiology, but I had spent no time memorizing them. Despite meticulous studying, I don’t think I got above a 75 on any of the Proctored Exams. And, yes, it is quite easy and possible to cheat on the Proctored Exams as well, but after all is said and done, we all still have to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) which I hear is quite difficult. The degree from Penn Foster is worthless without passing the VTNE, so cheating is only doing yourself a disservice.
  3. You need to be already working in the fieldThe most difficult part of the program is the Practicum. After the second and the forth semester, every student is required to complete an externship at a veterinary office under the guidance of a veterinarian or a licensed veterinary technician. I had already been working at my vet clinic for years when the first practicum came around, and all my co-workers pulled together like the dysfunctional family that they are and helped me get all my skills and paperwork completed. I don’t know how possible that would have been without already having worked in the field. Experience is more important as a vet tech. The degree is in many ways a formality at larger clinics and veterinary institutions. I suggest to anyone not already working in the field to get a foot in the door any way they can. Become a receptionist, a kennel assistant, volunteer at the ASPCA and befriend some of the people that work there. Find a way in.
  4. It’s less respected, but who cares. An online program doesn’t carry a lot of weight with people in the veterinary world. But the nice thing I already mentioned is that experience is more key anyways. Laws are slowly being passed, and the veterinary world is shifting to a more corporate atmosphere where licenses are becoming more required. But I’ve seen licensed vet techs come through my clinic doors that can’t hold a dog correctly and think diarrhea is icky. (If you can’t handle icky things, run away, run away now.) Some of the best vet techs we’ve seen are the unlicensed ones that come with references from other clinics saying that they are competent and know what they are doing. Again, it’s key to get your foot in the door somewhere to start learning immediately about holding and about the inner workings of a vet office.
  5. It’s shockingly affordable. If I haven’t scared any prospective students away, this is the biggest plus for the program. It was easy to pay off. They let me make monthly payments, without any interest added on. They also offered me deals on paying it off faster. For instance, when I had only $1400 left to go, they offered to knock off 30% if I made one final payment. So I finished paying the program off almost a year ago, and I don’t owe the school a thing. All textbooks, webinars, study guides are included. It’s clear that they make their biggest profit from students who sign up on a whim for the first semester and don’t stick it out. Just make sure that you aren’t one of those people!
  6. More than this, I did it my way. When all is said and done, I’m glad I did this program, because it was the right thing for me. I could spend my days off and my weeknights studying while still working, playing softball, writing. I could travel without worrying about missing class. I didn’t have to commute to a classroom, but could instead sit in my pajamas with a pot of tea and study. I liked that I had that freedom and that school became a part of my life without taking over. There are times I wish I had done an in-person program- for the networking, the face-to-face with professors, the structure and lack of Practicum paperwork. But at my age, and at this point in my life, it was the right thing for me.



22 Responses to “Penn Foster Vet Tech Program: A Review”

  1. Nancy October 13, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    That is really a good review. It really gives one an idea of what it would be like to take that program. I’m sure you have helped a lot of people out there!

  2. cafewand November 13, 2015 at 6:50 am #

    I just started the program, last year I did vet assistant for animal behavior college an I wish I knew about how much more vet technicians made. I am extremely nervous. I would like to subscribe to your blog, if that’s ok?

  3. Bethany's Avon November 30, 2015 at 2:02 am #

    Thank you so much for this review! I’ve been wanting to become a Vet Tech for so long but didn’t know where to go to get my degree. I’ve heard ups and downs about Penn Foster but couldn’t find any Actual reviews on it. So this is quite helpful, thanks! And thank you for your service of helping our furry friends! 🙂

    • Chrissy December 1, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

      I’m glad it could help. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

  4. Jocelyn January 30, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    I love your blog! I just wanted to say that I really appreciate what you’ve done here. All the info and your perspective is so inspiring for me. I just recently decided that is the career path I want to start. I have heard a lot of negative things about being a vet tech, so it’s great to hear all your stories.

    • Chrissy January 31, 2016 at 5:06 pm #

      Thanks! Like all careers, there are a lot of ups and downs, but if it’s something that is a calling to you, go for it!

  5. Shannon Paige March 28, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    Question, did you complete the program while working full time? I want to go back full time so badly for this [ I am currently enrolled in an intro to vet tech class at my community college, paying out of pocket] I am about to take medical terminolology this summer so I’ll have 2 classes under my belt but that’s it so far… I am struggling with how I will continue to pay my car payment, insurance, other bills while going to school full time and only working part time- because if I continue working full time and taking 1-2 classes at a time while doing that, it will take forever!

    • Chrissy Wilson March 28, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

      I did work full-time, which is why the online program worked better for me. The only advantage with community college is that it keeps you on schedule and you don’t have to worry about the practicums which are difficult to get through with the online program. But it worked better for me, because I didn’t have to worry about bills.

      • Shannon Paige March 28, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

        Hmm okay…thanks! How many classes did you take at one time while working full time? It’s good to know that it is possible 🙂 I am worried about taking too many of the hard science classes while working full time because I feel like I may get overwhelmed..

      • Chrissy Wilson March 28, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

        The way Penn Foster was set up when I enrolled, they only allowed once class at a time, but I usually finished each semester within six months, optimizing my days off to get studying done. But I think I have some friends that are in the program now, and they take multiple classes at once. It is self-paced though, so you can work harder certain weeks as opposed to others, that’s why it worked better for me.

  6. Ashley April 15, 2016 at 12:52 am #

    Hey Chrissy, so I came across this blog in searching for reviews/opinions on the proctored exams. And I have got to say that your take on becoming a vet tech and getting involved with the field beforehand is the best and truest advice I’ve come across. I was fortunate enough to work in the animal field for 3 years before deciding to pursue a career as a certified vet tech. While I had my associates in science, the strict vet tech program and its schedule at my community college would not have allowed me to keep my full time job. So I was iffy about the Penn Foster but again a lot of pluses considering I was paying it out of pocket and it fit with my work schedule, plus it would allow me to take the VTNE. So I was wondering how were you able to complete the second internship? My first internship I will most likely do at my workplace if they approve it. But did Penn Foster give you resources to search for a large animal clinic/farm to complete your second internship at? Also have you studied for or taken the VTNE?

    • Chrissy Wilson April 23, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

      Hey Ashley! I was able to find places for my second internship. I used connections through the vets I had already worked with and through making awkward phone calls to various veterinary clinics. I haven’t taken the VTNE or officially completed the program. I’m hoping to write a post about why in the next week or two. I’ll be sure to let you know when it is up on the site!

  7. Jenna Campbell March 2, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

    I am planning on starting this program next month. I’ve seen some horrible reviews, and some great ones. Though my foot is not already in the door, I’ve been applying and trying to get into some offices and volunteer opportunities. I don’t have a lot of money, or time, and im not the best student, so I feel like Penn Foster is a good option, I just am afraid of being a victim of a scam. I’m excited that it’s an associates degree which I never thought I would have, but extremely nervous about passing the exam and nervous I won’t be accepted into an externship. I guess I just have to take a chance.

    • Chrissy Wilson March 27, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

      I wouldn’t say that it is a scam, but I will say getting the externships at the end of the program was difficult. I know they’ve updated a lot of their requirements to make it easier. It just depends on how much determination you have to complete the program.

  8. Stacy Wiemer March 24, 2017 at 11:52 am #

    I have been looking into doing the vet tech program through Penn Foster. I have always had a love for animals. I haven’t yet signed up because I keep reading reviews some not so good some great and I have to say I am nervous as all get out. Your review was amazing!

  9. Barbara October 30, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

    You are very helpful

  10. Katie Grisez January 18, 2018 at 9:22 pm #

    Did Penn Foster ultimately prepare you for the VTNE?

  11. Alexandra January 20, 2018 at 8:33 pm #

    Thanks so much, Chrissie! Finding the right VT program is agony. I finished a semester of Pierce college but had to take a semester off to work. At this rate, I’ll get my license when most people retire! And I’ve been trying to decipher all the real and fake reviews out there. And yours is soooo informative and refreshing. It’s relieved an awful headache. Thankyou!
    Thank you, Google for bringing me here 🙂

  12. bri September 19, 2018 at 9:17 pm #

    Thank you so much for this review. Im a first year vet tech student at penn foster.

  13. April J. May 30, 2019 at 6:55 pm #

    Like everyone else, I want to thank you for your great, insightful review Chrissy. It’s been a dream of mine to work in an environment with animals, but due to life happening, I haven’t had the opportunity, but after reading this, I feel this invigorating enthusiasm to at least try. I’ve also come across many reviews that didn’t quite satisfy what I was looking for, but your honest opinion is extremely helpful. I am very nervous, I am a mother working full time in management and my only worry is not being able to keep up with the classes or understand the material. I haven’t been in school for over 3 years now, but again, after reading your article I feel confident in my own abilities to motivate myself and fulfill my dream. THANK YOU FOR THIS!!!!!


  1. Penn Foster Vet Tech Program Reviews – Student Portal - January 21, 2021

    […] Of course, there are a lot of reviews for Penn Foster especially for Veterinary Technician programs either pros or cons. However, this post will take one of influential and trusted reviews which comes from CHRISSY’S BLOG that you can access here. […]

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