A veterinary assistant career may be the right choice for anyone who likes working with animals. These professionals are responsible for the following duties.
- Handling animals during examinations and other procedures.
- Monitoring animals after surgery or treatment.
- Assisting with emergency care, immunizations and the collection of blood, urine or tissue samples.
- Cleaning kennels and exam and operating rooms at veterinary clinics.
Their specific duties may depend on where they are employed. Typically, workers in the field fall into one of two categories.
- Veterinary assistants work alongside veterinarians and veterinary technicians at clinics and animal hospitals. They often work with pets but may also assist with large animals and exotic species, depending on the clinic.
- Laboratory animal caretakers are employed by research facilities. They feed animals, clean kennels and monitor animals' well-being.
How to become a veterinary assistant
Becoming a veterinary assistant doesn't have to be a long process. Many veterinary assistant schools offer programs that can have you ready to work in less than two years. Here's a look at how to become a vet assistant:
- Earn a high school diploma or GED. This is the minimum level of education required for veterinary assistant careers.
- Complete a veterinary assistant degree program. Although not required by all employers, getting a formal education in veterinary science may be helpful in both obtaining a job now and advancing a career later.
- Become certified. Again, this isn't required, but employers may prefer to hire someone with professional credentials. For veterinary assistants, the most common certification is the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). In order to be certified, you'll have to meet veterinary assistant degree requirements and pass an exam.
- Take continuing education courses: To maintain an AVA designation, you'll need to take ongoing veterinary assistant classes. The NAVTA requires ten hours of continuing education every two years to renew the certification. This education can be completed at veterinary clinics and conferences or through online courses.
Skills and abilities needed for a veterinary assistant career
Part of becoming a veterinary assistant is honing the skills and abilities needed to be successful in this career. Here's a look at some of the qualities good assistants possess:
- Active Listening: Whether they are taking information from a pet owner or receiving instructions from a veterinarian, veterinary assistants must be able to listen closely and ask appropriate clarifying questions.
- Complex Problem Solving: Animals can't talk and they aren't always predictable, making their care and treatment more complex.
- Oral Expression: Veterinary assistants work as part of a team, and they must be able to communicate clearly with other staff members. What's more, they may be responsible for relaying information and instructions from a veterinarian to an owner.
- Near Vision: Good vision is important for tasks that involve precise work such as sterilizing surgical tools or assisting with immunizations. Arm-Hand Steadiness: Having a steady arm is important for restraining animals and helping with exams.
Career outlook and salary for vet assistants
As with many jobs, the job growth figures and expected salary for veterinary assistants tends to vary based on factors like location, experience level and education completed. Here's an idea of what you can expect vet assistants to earn in the coming years, as well as how much job growth is expected:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers||97,030||$29,690|
Professional resources for veterinary assistants
As you pursue a veterinary assistant career, you may find information from the following organizations helpful.
- National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America: The NAVTA is actually the professional organization for veterinary technicians, but they offer information and services to veterinary assistants as well. Most notably, they administer the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) certification program.
- American Association for Laboratory Animal Science: If you want to work in a laboratory setting, you'll want to get acquainted with the AALAS. This industry group offers educational resources and certification opportunities for laboratory animal caretakers.
- American Veterinary Medical Association: As a nonprofit representing the nation's veterinarians, the AVMA can be a good source of information about the latest trends in veterinary care.