Veterinary Assistant Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a veterinary assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and professional licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

If you love animals and would find it rewarding working with them, a veterinary assistant may be the career for you. Veterinary assistants spend their days providing medical and health care assistance to animals. A career as a veterinary assistant requires licensing attained by completing an accredited program and passing an exam.

Essential Information

A veterinary assistant helps a veterinarian provide medical and health care for animals. Their duties include taking blood samples and administrating medication to animals, as well as assisting during examinations and procedures. An associate's or bachelor's degree along with job training and completion of a certification examination are required to become a veterinary assistant.

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Licensure and Certification Professional license required in all states; certification, licensing or registration requirements vary by state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers
Median Salary (May 2015)* $24,360 for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Several educational options are available to those interested in becoming veterinarian assistants. Degree programs are often supplemented by on-the-job training or through an internship or externship. Community colleges with a veterinarian assistant program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association may offer a 2-year associate's degree program for interested students. Alternatively, 4-year bachelor of science programs are available at some colleges and universities for students looking for additional education. Regardless of the program, work experience and training must be supplemented in some way.


The majority of veterinary assistant courses are built around scientific principles. Classes are designed to be a mixture of lecture and laboratory work, allowing for students to develop an understanding of scientific theory as well as hands-on experience. Courses in animal nursing, diagnostic imaging, physiology, animal terminology and anatomy help students develop the skills needed to handle and assist animals.

Towards the end of the degree program, coursework focuses on learning about office and patient procedures. Courses focus on topics like pharmacology, anesthesia, surgical assisting and aseptic techniques. Students will develop specific skills like how to prep an animal for surgery or to take an animal's vital statistics, like weight and heart rate.

Credentialing Information

All states require veterinarian assistants to hold a professional license in order to maintain high standards of animal health care and safety and sanitation in the workplace. After completing the degree program, aspiring veterinary assistants must successfully complete both a written and oral examination. In some cases, a hands-on practical test is issued to test the student's physical ability to perform common veterinarian assistant job duties. Upon passing the examination, a veterinary assistant becomes certified, licensed or registered depending on the state.

Veterinarian assistants work with veterinarians to provide health care to animals. To be able to work in this field, it is necessary to complete an accredited program that may be part of an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Prospective veterinarian assistants must usually complete an internship to gain hands-on experience and take written and oral exams to be eligible for state licensure.

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