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Animal lover found the veterinary career he wanted minus the student debt

Dylan Wilson considered a career in meteorology and then firefighting before he settled on veterinary medicine.

The Kempsville High School graduate was on track after graduating from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s in biology. After working at Midway Veterinary Hospital, two realities became clear.

  • Vet school carries a huge price tag. On average, graduates repay what can be more than $200,000 in debt over 20-25 years.
  • He didn’t want to incur that kind of expense.

So Wilson explored another direction that turned out to be a better fit — training to be a  licensed veterinary technician.

“Vet techs are the people who do the work,” he said. “That’s hands-on — the part of the job that really appealed to me.”

Even better — he could go to school in his own backyard. Tidewater Community College launched its veterinary technology associate degree two years ago — only the third program in the Commonwealth and the lone one in Hampton Roads.

Wilson will complete all requirements for the 63-credit Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology this month. He will sit for the national exam in December.

“I have absolutely loved the passion from the teachers at TCC,” said the ferret lover who owns a 10-year-old Dalmatian, Harley.  “It has not always been my experience that teachers really care about my success and will do anything to ensure my success. I have zero doubt that this is true about the professors at TCC.”

Dylan and his dog, Harley

The TCC veterinary technology program, under the direction of Megan Taliaferro, included on-site labs this summer, working with sheep, cows and exotics. That’s how Wilson discovered an affinity for dentistry.

“As a tech, performing dentistry and taking radiographs is challenging, but I’ve found I really enjoy pharmacology,” he said. “It speaks to the biology person in me.”

TCC will graduate 20 from its inaugural cohort of veterinary technology students. Graduates are prepared to work in a multitude of settings, including animal and equine practices; biomedical research facilities; pharmaceutical companies; zoos; and specialty and emergency practices.

“It’s not like any kind of school I’ve ever done before,” Wilson said. “Everything you learn early on will be important later. It really builds on each other, and all of it is very important. You really learn it and keep building rather than learning to just pump it out.”

Interested in TCC’s veterinary assistant career studies certificate or its veterinary technology program? Contact Taliaferro at for admission requirements.