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How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

What Does a Veterinary Assistant Do?

veterinary assistant caring for puppy

For those who love animals, there are few jobs more rewarding than that of veterinary assistant. The compassionate presence of these professionals eases the experience of a visit to the vet for pets and pet owners alike. Veterinary assistants assist veterinarians and licensed veterinary technicians with every aspect of animal care, as well as manage pet owners’ questions and concerns. Veterinary assistants play a vital role in the daily activities of a veterinary hospital.

Examples of some of the responsibilities of veterinary assistants include:

  • Attend to the daily caretaking needs of the animals under their care, such as feeding, walking and providing water and clean bedding
  • Clean and disinfect animal cages, exam rooms, and treatment areas
  • Maintain surgical equipment, sterilize surgical instruments, and assist the veterinarian and licensed veterinary technician as needed in surgery (such as patient preparation and monitoring)
  • Administer medications to patients
  • Properly restrain patients for blood/urine collection and tissue sampling for testing
  • Perform laboratory tests such as urinalysis setup, operation of automated blood machines, fecal exams, and bedside “SNAP” tests (heartworm, feline leukemia/FIV, etc)
  • Maintain patient charts that document daily care

In addition to the animal care they provide, veterinary assistants also fulfill a vital role for the pet owners. They are often the first point of contact for clients, and as such, set the tone for the overall veterinary hospital experience. Veterinary assistants must be comfortable with people and possess good communication skills. They facilitate and expand on client education about various diseases, medications and their proper administration, and general pet care. The assistants also answer any questions and concerns of the client.

According to the latest survey in 2012 by the American Veterinary Medical Association, pets are important members of the family in more than 71% of households in the United States today – and each of these households has an average of 2-3 pets! As integral members of the veterinary care team, veterinary assistants have the reward and satisfaction of assisting these beloved companion animals and their owners.

Workplace Details

The majority of veterinary assistants work in veterinary clinics and animal hospitals. However, other career opportunities will be found in animal/biomedical research laboratories, research/teaching institutions, shelter medicine, and zoo/wildlife medicine. Veterinary assistants may work full or part time, and often have the option of flexible hours. Assistants who work in 24-hour facilities such as emergency animal hospitals have the opportunity to work evenings, nights, weekends or holidays.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$29970
Texas
$23860
Florida
$25280
New York
$29550
Virginia
$26420

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$22,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $31,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntsville$16,620$21,950$29,190

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$28,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$19,590$27,350$31,160
Fairbanks$18,840$28,450$37,590

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$24,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$18,520$24,530$38,000
Tuscon$19,650$24,110$33,600

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$21,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $29,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$16,370$19,380$28,670
Fort Smith$20,460$23,350$32,470

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$27,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $40,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 420

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$19,830$26,730$38,810
San Francisco Bay$23,440$30,680$50,300
San Diego$21,170$28,970$38,600
Sacramento$19,460$26,030$39,840

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$23,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $30,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$20,840$25,410$32,420
Colorado Springs$19,340$23,120$28,990

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$27,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $54,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$19,480$24,600$41,430
Bridgeport$19,430$23,790$36,350
New Haven$19,590$49,400$72,500

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$24,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $36,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 0%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$17,980$24,430$45,350
Dover$20,870$25,130$33,970

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$35,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $52,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$18,850$29,140$46,680

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$22,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $30,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$18,720$23,190$33,100
Orlando$17,930$22,710$29,460
Tampa$17,700$21,380$27,390
Jacksonville$18,940$22,230$26,940

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$22,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $33,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$17,660$22,710$33,830
Augusta$17,310$23,040$30,410

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$25,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$17,370$25,010$42,170

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$25,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $32,700

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$17,910$25,930$34,500

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$26,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $36,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$20,950$28,170$37,240

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$23,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $35,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$17,740$25,440$36,580
South Bend$17,240$24,040$35,170
Fort Wayne$17,230$22,570$30,310

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$23,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $33,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$16,490$22,500$30,440
Cedar Rapids$19,970$24,040$35,320

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$25,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $31,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$20,590$25,790$30,740
Kansas City$17,040$24,430$31,210

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$20,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $30,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$16,740$21,830$30,130
Lexington$16,880$21,980$31,570

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$22,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $34,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$17,520$23,340$30,430
Baton Rouge$16,760$21,950$36,270
Lafayette$21,670$30,060$47,680

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$28,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 2%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$18,530$28,020$36,970

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$24,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $40,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$17,870$22,910$38,300
Frederick$19,240$31,820$55,590

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$31,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$22,600$36,240$50,080
Worcester$20,810$27,920$44,310
Springfield$20,250$28,050$44,100

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$23,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $35,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$19,790$24,060$35,760
Grand Rapids$18,290$21,960$29,470

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$28,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$20,980$28,870$38,650

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$22,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $30,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$16,620$20,900$28,830
Gulfport$17,200$24,410$30,950

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$20,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $29,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$16,710$19,580$27,350
Kansas City$17,040$24,430$31,210

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$23,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $30,800

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Missoula$17,770$23,520$32,620

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$23,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $34,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$18,320$24,920$40,050
Lincoln$19,550$23,880$30,220

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$23,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $30,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$17,480$22,340$28,340
Reno$17,200$24,480$30,680

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$25,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $36,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashua$15,580$17,560$21,130

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$25,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$17,980$20,010$41,430
Trenton$20,210$25,310$31,220

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$23,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $33,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 2%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$20,480$25,140$34,020
Las Cruces$16,570$19,140$25,680

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$26,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$19,350$28,600$43,890
Buffalo$19,100$24,980$31,320
Rochester$19,730$25,930$32,990
Albany$20,640$26,380$34,050

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$23,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $35,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$17,520$25,730$33,040
Raleigh$16,250$19,280$29,300
Greensboro$19,320$22,720$32,480
Winston - Salem$16,940$22,780$34,600

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$25,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$18,780$25,220$39,040

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$22,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $32,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$18,940$25,330$34,120
Columbus$17,980$21,750$28,420
Cincinnati$17,530$26,300$36,650
Dayton$17,410$19,590$28,050

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$22,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $30,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$16,000$18,880$29,480
Tulsa$16,840$26,170$30,160

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$26,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $35,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$19,680$27,270$36,060
Salem$21,100$27,910$36,630

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$23,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$19,480$26,080$38,650
Pittsburgh$17,620$24,350$43,010
Harrisburg$16,860$21,770$29,480
Allentown$16,890$20,490$26,370

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$24,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,400

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$20,180$24,820$45,960

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$23,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $30,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$16,650$21,390$32,560
Columbia$17,130$22,870$34,470
Charleston$20,150$23,680$29,530

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$23,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $31,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Rapid City$18,520$22,130$28,940

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$23,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $31,600

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$20,380$23,810$33,850
Memphis$19,780$23,690$35,150
Knoxville$16,000$19,060$31,600
Chattanooga$17,980$23,840$32,410

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$23,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $31,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 200

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$17,420$22,960$31,290
Houston$17,230$23,570$34,480
San Antonio$17,380$23,460$31,300
Austin$17,110$24,080$30,910

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$18,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $29,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 59%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$16,070$20,650$31,790
Ogden$15,830$18,150$29,520

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$25,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $30,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Burlington$21,400$26,920$30,470

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$25,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$18,450$23,570$33,420
Richmond$18,270$25,760$36,230

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$27,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $35,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$21,510$28,560$37,830
Spokane$20,570$24,280$30,980

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$21,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $17,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $29,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: -7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$18,130$22,260$28,430
Charleston$17,180$19,420$24,550

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$22,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $16,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $36,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$16,580$24,990$45,360
Madison$16,490$23,730$37,080

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$27,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: -1%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for veterinary assistants is $24,360, with a range extending from around $18,060 to around $36,690 (the median incomes of bottom 10% and top 10% of wage earners, respectively). According to the 2015 Firstline Career Path Survey on veterinary team pay, the average hourly wage for veterinary assistants is $14.23, with a range of $13.61/hr to $16.12/hr depending on the number of doctors in the practice and the type of practice (general vs. specialty). Research facilities usually pay higher salaries than clinical or hospital settings. Veterinary assistants with more years of experience will also earn higher salaries.

The veterinary industry continues to grow as pet ownership continues to increase in the US. Animal safety efforts and emphasis on responsible pet ownership have also increased the demand for veterinary assistants. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for veterinary assistants is expected to grow at a rate of 9% from 2014 to 2024, faster than the overall average rate of job growth.

Compare Salaries by City

Los Angeles CA Median Pay

$26730 Per Year

$12.85 Per Hour

San Diego CA Median Pay

$28970 Per Year

$13.92 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Veterinary Assistant

1

Get your high school diploma or GED and consider your options to obtain more education.

Some choose to earn a certificate through a non-degree program (either at a college or online), but certification is not required. Given the choice, employers generally prefer to hire veterinary assistants who have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in animal science or similar field (biomedical technology, agriscience, etc).

Show Me Schools »

2

Get training on the job.

Although some certificate programs provide hands-on training, most training occurs on the job. Colleagues in the workplace train veterinary assistants in animal care, laboratory skills, and front desk administrative tasks. Basic animal care will include:

  • Feeding
  • Watering
  • Patient restraint
  • Monitoring animals for issues
  • Cleaning and disinfecting cages and work areas
  • Sterilizing laboratory equipment and surgical instruments
  • Providing post-operative care
  • Administering oral and topical medications
  • Preparing specimens for lab examination

Front desk training may include:

  • Assisting customers over the phone
  • Interacting with clients when they visit the clinic
  • Utilization of practice management software to manage client and patient records

3

Consider optional certification.

Certification is not required, but is sometimes preferred by employers. Optional certification can be obtained through state veterinary societies and private organizations. Requirements vary by program, but generally consist of relevant educational coursework, hands-on training with veterinarians and veterinary technicians, and a final written examination.

4

Explore opportunities for advancement.

Veterinary assistants advance their careers in animal welfare by obtaining further education and/or certification. Some veterinary assistants choose to go back to school to complete either an associate’s degree or a veterinary technician program to become veterinary technicians. Others choose to complete a bachelor’s degree with pre-veterinary requirements, allowing them to apply to veterinary school. Acceptance to veterinary school is highly competitive, making experience working as a veterinary assistant a distinct advantage for admission.

Explore Degree Paths

Many veterinary assistants train on the job at clinics and hospitals. Most employers require assistants to hold a high school degree or GED.

High school students can prepare for this career by taking classes in office operations, communications, and life and physical sciences and by gaining volunteer experience with animals. Many high school career centers offer training and even certificate programs in veterinary assisting.

VETERINARY ASSISTANT CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

About 1 year

Some employers, particularly larger and specialty practices, prefer to hire veterinary assistants who are certified by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). To get certified, you’ll need to complete a NAVTA-approved veterinary assistant program. NAVTA currently approves 29 on-campus and 3-distance programs.

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Another option is to obtain a certificate through a program that isn’t NAVTA-accredited. This pathway won’t lead to certification, but could provide you with some useful skills and training. To decide if this pathway makes sense for you, check with veterinarians in your area.

Universities, community colleges, technical colleges, career schools, high schools, and veterinary hospitals all offer vet assistant certificate programs. Students complete a series of courses covering:

Veterinary medical terminology

Study vocabulary associated with animal anatomy and physiology as well as diagnostic testing.

Restraint and handling

Develop the skills to handle common species safely and perform nail trimmings and bathing.

Surgical nursing and care

Practice prepping a room for surgery, assisting vets and techs during the procedure, and providing nursing care to patients.

Laboratory and clinical procedures

Learn to assist vets and vet techs with imaging studies and lab tests.

Students also complete an internship at a veterinary clinic in order to practice handling, restraint, surgical prep, lab techniques, and office operations.

Keys to Success as a Veterinary Assistant

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Physical fitness

It is helpful to be in good physical shape in order to effectively lift, move or restrain animal patients as needed. Veterinary assistants need good physical endurance during physically challenging workdays and adequate strength to restrain animals when needed.

Focus and multitasking abilities

The ability to focus and stay on task in a noisy, busy environment is key.

Interpersonal skills

Good communication and interpersonal skills are highly valued in veterinary assistants since they interact so vitally with clients and must work as members of a cohesive team together with the other staff of the hospital/facility, always with the same goal in mind: a happy, healthy pet and pet family.

Love of animals

Veterinary assistants should love animals and have a passion for animal welfare.

Ability to handle stress with poise

Patience and the ability to maintain a calm demeanor are essential as the animals coming to the facility might be scared, stressed or in pain, which can result in erratic or aggressive behavior. Additionally, a busy day at a veterinary hospital, with multiple illnesses and/or surgeries, will be much smoother for all concerned when approached with a patient, caring attitude.

Good temperament

Veterinary assistants must possess emotional strength, stability and maturity for those instances in which they must treat abused animals, assist in euthanizing animals who cannot be returned to a reasonable quality of life, and communicate with emotional or challenging clients.

Additional Credentials

Vet assistant certification by NAVTA is optional but preferred by some employers. To become credentialed as an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA), you must graduate from a NAVTA-approved training program and pass an exam.

Joey Bryant, DVM

Joey Bryant, DVM attended Texas A&M University and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science before pursuing her career in veterinary medicine. She was employed as a veterinary technician for 2.5 years before attending veterinary school at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2004, Dr. Bryant practiced high quality, small animal veterinary medicine for several years as an associate before opening her own practice, Plum Creek Veterinary Hospital, in 2010. She has been married for nineteen years, has three children, two beagles and a very lucky rescue cat.

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