Vet Assistant Programs

Becoming a licensed veterinary assistant is a great way to begin your career in the veterinary services industry.

Vet assistant programs are an excellent choice for animal lovers looking to start a fun and fulfilling career in pet care.

Education & Training

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How Long Does Vet Assistant Training Take?

Online programs focusing solely on vet assistant training typically teach career-specific skills, making it easy to complete your education in as little as 6 to 9 months.  Since you can study at your own pace, it varies.

However, how long it takes depends on the school you attend, their curriculum, and whether you’re going for a certification or a two or four-year degree.

Most vet assistant training programs, such as the ones above, help you to complete an internship or externship in addition to your in-class education. Many schools incorporate this into their curriculum, saving you money and time so you can start working as a certified vet assistant sooner.  The typical length of an internship is between six months and one year.

How Much Does It Cost?

About $2400 for the an online course that partners with a local school.

Obviously, this cost will vary based by institution as well. Most trade schools offer financial aid through grants, scholarships or loans to make affording school easier.

Plus, if you land a paid internship, you could start earning money on the job right away. Compared to most four-year colleges, vet assistant trade schools usually cost less and allow you to enter the workforce sooner.

What Do Vet Assistants Study In School?

Veterinary assistant programs teach you the skills you’ll need to succeed while on the job.

In addition to hands-on training during clinical work, the classes and topics you’ll study during your program may include:

  • Small animal nursing
  • Animal handling and restraint
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Office procedures
  • Surgical assisting
  • Emergency care
  • Pharmacology
  • Animal dentistry
  • Animal nutrition
  • Veterinary anatomy and physiology

Benefits of a Training Program

Why Go To School?

Though some private veterinary clinics may be willing to give on-the-job training to inexperienced hires, most veterinary offices and animal hospitals are more likely to employ a candidate with a certificate from a school. With both online and on-campus programs available nationwide, students can become licensed vet assistants in less than a year.

Getting Experience

It is possible to become a vet assistant by working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. However, attending a veterinary assistant training program gives you a more in-depth, well-rounded understanding of the tasks you’ll need to perform for this job. Vet assistant school also gives you hands-on experience that can make you an attractive candidate to potential employers.

Training

As part of their training, veterinary assistant students must complete about 150 hours of in-class work and 100 hours of a hands-on internship or externship. After that, you can take additional certification exams to prove your skills and boost your resume, then begin applying for work at veterinary offices, animal clinics, and research labs.

Requirements to Attend Vet Assistant School

Generally speaking, most people can enroll in accredited veterinary assistant classes as long as they have a high school diploma, GED, or another education equivalent. However, requirements for attending a veterinary assistant trade school or certificate program vary by institution and may depend on the length of your chosen program.

Salary

The average salary for a veterinary assistant is around $31K, though wages differ based on education and experience. Those who are new to the industry may earn between $19K and $25K annually. Workers who have been in the field for a while or have certification from a veterinary assistant program can make anywhere from $37K to $43K per year.

Many pet clinics and hospitals offer a variety of employee benefits to their veterinary assistants. In addition to health insurance, paid vacation and sick leave, employers may also provide discounts for any employee pet care needs and fund continuing education courses for assistants hoping to become vet techs or veterinarians.

Career Overview

Certification

If you graduate from a NAVTA-approved veterinary assistant program, you become eligible to take the Approved Veterinary Assistant examination.

Taking the AVA exam costs a fee, though some training programs may include the cost of the exam in their tuition. The test covers questions about different procedures, pharmacology, surgical prep, radiology, animal nursing, and more.

While this certification exam is optional, those who pass it often demonstrate a better understanding of the vet assistant trade.

Some animal clinics or veterinary offices may prefer to hire someone with an AVA certification, so you’d have an advantage over the competition when applying for jobs. AVA-certified vet assistants also tend to earn a higher salary than non-certified assistants.

Where Can Vet Assistants Work?

Vet assistants can typically find jobs wherever veterinarians and vet techs work. Some work locations for these professionals include:

  • Private practice veterinary clinics
  • Animal hospitals
  • Colleges and universities
  • Zoos
  • Research laboratories
  • Wildlife rehabilitation centers
  • Animal sanctuaries

Job Description

Veterinary assistants perform a wide range of tasks in order to keep their workplace running smoothly. Under the supervision of the head veterinarian and vet techs, these employees provide basic pet care duties and assist with the treatment of sick and injured animals. They also complete lab work, maintenance jobs, and several administrative duties throughout the workday.

Job Duties

Vet assistants are the general care takers of all the animals within a clinic or animal hospital. It is their job to feed the pets, take them through their therapy exercises, and perform bathing and other grooming tasks. They are also in charge of holding animals still and comforting them during examinations.

Medical Tasks

In addition to the basic pet care tasks, these workers may also take on a number of medical duties. They take blood and urine samples from their animal patients, and administer medications when necessary. In the event of an emergency, vet assistants may also need to provide first aid, CPR or urgent care stabilization as well.

Administrative Tasks

There are a number of administrative jobs that vet assistants handle on a daily basis, particularly in smaller clinics. They are in charge of answering phones, scheduling appointments and checking animals into the facility when they arrive. It is also up to the veterinary assistants to file patient records.

What is the Work Environment Like?

Vet assistants can expect to spend a large portion of their work day in clinic or hospital exam rooms, as well as around kennels. Workers may have to perform duties in an office space, or even work outside in some cases. Those who work for a small private practice may also have a heavier workload than larger facilities with more employees.

At times, a veterinary assistant career can be sad and unpleasant. Tasks such as cleaning animal waste, treating ill, injured and abused pets, and consoling grief-stricken owners after assisting with euthanasia and the disposal of their pet’s remains can be physically and emotionally draining for these workers.

The hours for a vet assistant vary depending on their workplace. Smaller facilities with fewer workers may be able to offer a 40 hour work week, while other locations may only provide part-time employment. Working at a 24-hour clinic can present the opportunity for overtime pay, but employees must be willing to work day or night.

Maintaining the workspace is a large part of a veterinary assistant’s daily duties. They are in charge of cleaning operating rooms between treatments, as well as sanitizing surgical tools. Vet assistants also maintain the cages and kennels in the clinic, and keep the office and exam rooms stocked with bandages, gloves and any other necessary supplies.

What are Career Advancement Opportunities for Vet Assistants?

Veterinary assistants have various career advancement opportunities such as lead veterinary assistant or clinic supervisor. Furthering your education to become a veterinary technician can open doors to becoming a veterinary technologist or even serve as a pathway to veterinary school to become a vet.

Additionally, some vet assistants may specialize in areas like anesthesia or surgical assistance, expanding their expertise and unlocking higher pay due to the specialized nature of their experience and careers.

Career advancement may also involve managerial or administrative roles within veterinary practices.

Furthermore, entrepreneurial individuals might establish their pet care businesses. Continuous learning and hands-on experience are key to unlocking these diverse career paths and achieving professional growth as a veterinary assistant.

What Are Alternate Careers for Veterinary Assistant?

Veterinary assistants can go on to become vet techs after completing an associate’s degree program in animal science. They could also choose to treat people instead of pets and work in the healthcare field.

A job as a nursing assistant or home health aide would allow them to use their empathy and caregiving abilities, while a medical lab technician career would allow them to expand their clinical skills.

Career Outlook

Veterinary service employees are often in high demand. The field continues to grow as more pet owners require these services to keep their animals healthy. Due to an increased need for professionals who can treat house pets and shelter animals, experts predict 16% growth in the veterinary services industry over the next ten years.

FAQs

Are Vet Assistants in Demand?

Yes, the demand for veterinary assistants exceeds almost all other careers in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job outlook is expected to boom by 21% over the next decade–considerably faster than the average across all professions, which is 3%.

As pet ownership continues to rise, veterinary clinics, animal hospitals, and other animal care facilities’ demands for skilled assistants will also expand to address the growing need for services. Playing a pivotal role in supporting veterinary doctors and surgeons, vet assistants are crucial for tasks such as animal handling, administrative duties, and executing and assisting with medical procedures.

Due to their diverse responsibilities, they are indispensable in maintaining the smooth operation of veterinary clinics and hospitals.

Can Veterinary Assistants Specialize in Specific Areas?

Yes, veterinary assistants can specialize in specific areas of animal care. While the job typically requires vet assistants to address a wide range of responsibilities, some may still choose to specialize in particular areas of animal care such as:

  • Specific species, such as small animals, exotic pets, livestock, or large animals
  • Specific practices include holistic clinics, palliative and hospice care, rescue shelters, emergency animal hospitals, and traditional vet clinics.
  • Vet assistants can also specialize in certain practices, such as laboratory procedures and analysis of bloodwork and bodily fluids, cell cultures, radiography, or dental care.

Pursuing additional certifications or on-the-job training in these areas allows veterinary assistants to enhance their skills and specialize. Still, it can also be an essential stepping stone to a potentially more lucrative pathway in veterinary medicine.

Do Vet Assistants Work with Both Small and Large Animals?

Yes, vet assistants often work with both small and large animals. Their duties include handling animals during examinations, assisting in treatments, and providing general care.

In smaller veterinary clinics, they may primarily interact with companion animals like dogs and cats.

In contrast, those employed in more extensive facilities or farms may work with a broader range, including livestock or exotic animals. A vet assistant may choose to work with a range of animals and species or seek employment that cares for a more specific group or size of animals.

What is the Difference Between a Veterinary Assistant and a Veterinary Technician?

The primary difference between a veterinary assistant and a veterinary technician lies in their level of education and scope of responsibilities. Veterinary assistants typically have on-the-job training and perform tasks like animal handling, primary care, and administrative duties.

On the other hand, veterinary technicians undergo formal education, often earning an associate degree, and have a more advanced role. They can conduct medical procedures, assist in surgeries, and perform diagnostic tests. While both contribute to animal healthcare, veterinary technicians have a higher level of training and a broader range of responsibilities than veterinary assistants.

Are there Professional Organizations for Veterinary Assistants?

Yes, the largest of which is the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). While NAVTA primarily represents veterinary technicians, it provides resources and support for veterinary assistants.

These organizations offer networking opportunities, continuing education, and a platform for professionals to connect and collaborate. Local organizations in your state or county may additionally exist to provide support for veterinary assistants and technicians, offering resources such as education and a community.

How Can Someone Gain Practical Experience in Veterinary Assisting?

Someone can gain practical experience in veterinary assisting through on-the-job training and formal education. Individuals can explore opportunities such as internships, externships, or volunteer positions at veterinary clinics, hospitals, or animal shelters.

Enrolling in a veterinary assistant training program or pursuing relevant coursework can provide theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience.

Additionally, networking with professionals in the field, attending workshops, and participating in appropriate community events can help build connections and secure practical training opportunities.

Overall, actively seeking mentorship and demonstrating a strong passion for animal care is a great way to express interest in any clinic and gain valuable practical experience in veterinary assisting.

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Get information on Veterinary Assistant programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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