Veterinary assistants clean and maintain examination rooms, take animal vitals, administer wound care and assist with medical procedures. Oftentimes, veterinary assistants do not have formal education and learn their trade on the job. Those interested in gaining an educational background can enroll in a certificate program, which usually requires 24 credits for completion. Diploma and certification programs do not exist in this field.
The only program prerequisite is possession of a high school diploma or GED.
Veterinary Assistant Certificate
Veterinary assistant certificate programs offer students experience working with animals through hands-on experiences. Students should be capable of lifting a larger size animal. Basic computer skills are also helpful. Students can use the animal care skills they have acquired in a variety of settings. While there is limited online course availability, many programs are offered on-site because lab work is an important component of veterinary assisting programs. A practicum may also be required. Courses often offered include:
- Animal health vocabulary
- Grooming basics
- Methods of animal restraint
- Animal nutrition
- Veterinary pharmacology
- Animal injury care
- Front-office procedures
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
As of 2015, veterinary assistants across the U.S. earned an annual median salary of $24,360, notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Veterinary assistants work in animal shelters, clinics, grooming shops and kennels. From 2014 to 2024, the BLS anticipates a 9% rise in the employment of vet assistants, which is faster than average for all jobs.
Individuals who have earned a veterinary assistant certificate can stay abreast of industry changes and relevant topics through various programs offered by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, www.navta.net. Additionally, individuals with an undergraduate certificate in veterinary assisting may decide to pursue a 2- or 4-year program in veterinary technology.
While students who earn a veterinary assistant certificate will enter a job field growing faster than the national average, the median salary is just $24,360. Continuing education is available and may increase graduates' earnings potential.