Veterinary Assistants: Career Profile

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

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With a high school diploma or GED it is possible to begin a career as a veterinary assistant; however, some employers prefer applicants who have a certificate in veterinary assisting. This is an ideal career for people who enjoy working with animals and is currently experiencing faster than average job growth.

Essential Information

Veterinary assistants help veterinarians provide health care to animals of all sizes. Their duties can range from assisting in surgeries to feeding and grooming the animals. Many veterinary assistants begin work with just a high school diploma or GED, but others complete certificate programs at community colleges or vocational schools. These programs combine classes with hands-on experiences. While not required, veterinary assistants can seek certification through programs in some states or via professional organizations.

Required Education High school diploma or GED; certificate in veterinary assisting available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% for all veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers*
Median Salary (2015) $24,360 for all veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Career Profile for Veterinary Assistants

Job Description

Veterinary assistants work in veterinarian offices, laboratories, animal clinics and veterinary hospitals performing routine daily care for animals. They may feed and bathe animals, clean kennels, pass instruments during surgery, provide first aid, administer medication, provide post-surgery care and hold animals during procedures. They typically work under the supervision of a veterinarian or veterinary technician.

Education Requirements

While it is possible to become a veterinary assistant with only a high school diploma, many individuals choose to receive formal training through certificate programs at vocational and community colleges. Classes in such programs may include animal anatomy and physiology, veterinary office procedures, medical terminology and animal laboratory procedures. The programs often include coursework, lectures, laboratory studies and internships. Clinical practicums and internships at approved clinical facilities provide hands-on learning experiences.

Certification

While not usually required, some states, such as Texas, offer certification for veterinary assistants. Texas offers four levels of certification. To earn any level of certification, individuals must meet work experience requirements, complete a skills validation checklist and pass an examination. Veterinary assistants begin with the first level of certification and can progress to subsequent levels over time. Continuing education activities are required for annual certificate renewal.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to experience employment growth of 9% between 2014 and 2024, which is about average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS also stated that the annual median salary was $24,360 in May 2015. The bottom ten percent earned $18,060 or less, while the top ten percent earned $36,690 or more.

With strong job growth projected through 2024 there should be many opportunities for applicants interested in working as veterinary assistants. Completion of a post-secondary certificate or an internship can help applicants compete for jobs, and it is important to demonstrate an ability to work well with animals.

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