How to Become a Veterinary Aide: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a veterinary aide. Research the education and career requirements, certification information, and experience required for starting a career as a veterinary aide. View article »

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  • 0:03 Should I Become a…
  • 0:49 Career Requirements
  • 1:38 Earn a High School Diploma
  • 2:29 Consider Obtaining a…
  • 3:12 Locate Employment and…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Veterinary Aide?

Veterinary aides, also called veterinary assistants, look after and care for non-farm animals in veterinary facilities and clinics or in laboratory settings. Specific duties of an aide include monitoring and caring for animals after surgery, feeding and bathing animals, sterilizing surgical instruments, cleaning cages, and collecting samples. Aides work under the supervision of veterinarians and veterinary technicians.

These jobs allow workers to interact with animals daily; however, they might also have to see animals euthanized or work with abused animals. Veterinary assistants further face risk of injury from animal attacks. Professionals might be expected to work evenings or weekends delivering emergency animal care.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma is standard for entry-level
Certification Certification can enhance employment opportunities
Experience On-the-job training is provided; familiarity handling animals is preferred
Key Skills Experience using muzzles, animal clipping equipment, injection and vaccination accessories, X-Ray units, and urine analysis equipment; physical stamina and strength, basic knowledge of animal restraint and behavior; ability to maintain a hygienic work environment
Average Salary (May 2015)* $11.71 per hour or $24,360 per year (for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings (August 2012), O*NET Online.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

The minimum educational requirement to become a veterinary aide or assistant is a high school diploma. While very few animal-related classes may be offered at the high school level, courses that may prepare students to work in the field include biology, chemistry, and geometry. Also, some veterinary assistants also perform clerical duties, so taking business and accounting-related courses may also be beneficial.

Success Tip:

Care for animals. Owning a pet can help individuals become more familiar and comfortable around animals. Furthermore, finding a summer or part-time job that involves animals will likely prove to be advantageous. Volunteer or paid opportunities may be available at local animal clinics, zoos, or non-profit organizations.

Step 2: Consider Obtaining a Certificate

While not required for employment, prospective veterinary aides or assistants may want to think about completing a veterinary assistant certificate program. Students will have an opportunity to learn about handling and treating large and small animals living with various conditions. Specific courses may include surgical preparation, sterilization techniques, sanitation, and animal care.

Success Tip:

Work in a veterinary setting. During a certificate program, students may have an opportunity to work in a clinical setting. Not only will students be able to work with animals, but this may also be a chance to work and learn under the supervision of an experienced veterinary assistant.

Step 3: Locate Employment

Work opportunities may be available in veterinary offices, kennels, animal hospitals, laboratories, and grooming shops. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians will often provide veterinary aides and assistants with on-the-job training to teach them about office policies and regulations. In addition to caring for animals, veterinary aides or assistants may also need to answer phones, schedule appointments, order supplies, and keep records.

Success Tip:

Become certified. The AALAS has several voluntary certifications that veterinary aides can pursue. The options have varying education and work experience requirements. For example, aides with a high school diploma and one year of laboratory animal experience can pursue the Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician credential. Aides and assistants will need to pass an examination that covers areas involving animal identification, species, nutrition, breeding, clinical procedures, animal husbandry, and animal welfare.

Step 4: Get an Associate's Degree

Veterinary assistants may want to pursue an associate's degree in veterinary technology, which can lead to career advancement as a veterinary technician. These professionals perform a variety of laboratory and diagnostic tests, as well as explain procedures, conditions, and medications to pet owners.

With a high school diploma, familiarity with animals, and maybe even some voluntary experience, you can earn an average of $24,360 working as a veterinary aide.

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