Trade Schools with Veterinary Assistant Programs
Becoming a licensed veterinary assistant is a great way to begin your career in the veterinary services industry.
These professionals perform a wide range of tasks, from office maintenance and lab duties to providing extra help during medical, dental and surgical treatments. Vet assistant programs are an excellent choice for animal lovers looking to start a fun and fulfilling career in pet care.
Education & Training
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 vocational 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
Requirements for attending a veterinary assistant trade school vary by institution and may depend on the length of your chosen program. 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.
What Do Vet Assistants Study In School?
Veterinary assistant schools 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
How Long Does it Take?
How long it takes to complete vet assistant training depends on the school you attend, their curriculum, and whether you’re going for a certification or a two- or four-year degree. Trade schools with programs focusing solely on vet assistant training typically teach career-specific skills, making it easy to complete your education in as little as nine months.
Most vet assistant training programs require 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.
Are There Certification Exams?
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.
How Much Does Vet Assistant School Cost?
Vet assistant school cost varies 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 is a Veterinary Assistant?
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.
What Are a Vet Assistant's 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.
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 Types of Skills Should a Veterinary Assistant Possess?
Flexibility is one of the most important skills a vet assistant can possess. They must be prepared to handle several species of animals, each with a different illness and temperament. Knowing how to think on your feet and adjust your skillset to suit each situation is essential when it comes to providing the necessary care for pet patients.
Veterinary assistants also need to have patience and confidence. Pets often become frightened during examinations, and may react defensively. It is up to the vet assistant to comfort and restrain the animals throughout this process, so they need to remain calm and be sure of themselves during these tasks.
Since their primary function is helping the vet and office techs, veterinary assistants must have active listening skills and the take direction well. Whether feeding a pet with a specific diet or assisting with an animal surgery, these workers need to play their role effectively to ensure that each animal gets the best care.
How Do Vet Assistants Maintain Their Workspace?
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.
Why Do Veterinary Assistants Need Empathy?
Bringing their injured or ill animals to a vet for treatment can be stressful and worrisome for pet owners. In some cases, the animal may even pass away due to their age or failing health. Vet assistants and other staff must show empathy and be emotionally supportive to people who are worried about their pet’s wellbeing, or are coping with the loss of a beloved family pet.
What are Useful Skills for People in This Field?
- A basic understanding of animal behavior
- Ability to multi-task
- Active listening skills
- Physical fitness for restraining and transporting larger pets
- Effective verbal and written communication skills
- Ability to think quickly and critically
- Use of teamwork
- Organizational skills
Are There Special Requirements for Veterinary Assistant Jobs?
At the very least, animal clinics and hospitals will require aspiring vet assistants to have a high school diploma and few years of pet care experience before they can be considered for hire. A background in office work or customer service may also be helpful when pursuing an entry level veterinary assistant job.
Although it is voluntary, completing a veterinary assistant trade school program is a great way to make hopefuls more attractive employment candidates. A course that is approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America will provide students with all the necessary tools to begin their veterinary assistant careers.
Becoming an Approved Veterinary Assistant requires students to take hands-on classes in first aid, surgical preparation and assisting, and animal restraint. To complete clerical duties, they will need instruction in office etiquette and hospital and laboratory procedures as well. They will also study anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and radiology and ultrasound imaging.
What is the Outlook for
Veterinary Assistant Jobs?
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.
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.
What Should Workers Expect?
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.
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.
Where Can Prospects Find 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
Do Veterinary Assistants Have Any Other Options?
Much of a veterinary assistant’s training and abilities fit other lines of work. Their ability to follow directions and work as a team makes them excellent candidates for nearly any service industry job, including restaurant and retail work. At the same time, their confidence and decision-making skills are fitting qualities for management positions.
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.
Becoming a Vet Assistant in Florida