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
- Pima Medical Institute
- Jefferson County Joint Vocational School
- New England Institute of Technology
- Central Coast College
- Blackstone Career Institute
- International Business College
- Charter College
- Ashworth College
- Carrington College
- City College
- Miller-Motte College
- Penn Foster College
- YTI Career Institute
- Ross Medical Education Center
- Vista College
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Research laboratories
- Wildlife rehabilitation centers
- Animal sanctuaries
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.
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.
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.
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 a Typical Work Day 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 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.
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.