If you enjoy being around animals, you may find that becoming a veterinarian assistant is an easy and straightforward way to enter the veterinary field. Most assistants are trained on the job, though postsecondary training is available and often preferred.
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A veterinarian assistant provides support services to veterinarians and veterinary technicians. They may restrain animals during procedures, monitor them, give them medications and provide first aid, as well as keep the veterinarian's work area clean. Veterinarian assistants typically receive on-the-job training but may receive postsecondary education through a diploma or certificate program. Having a background caring for animals is also helpful for this career. Veterinarian assistants may opt for professional certification.
|Required Education||On-the-job training; optional completion of a diploma or certificate program in veterinarian assisting|
|Other Requirements||Optional certification through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)|
|Projected Job Growth||9% for all veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers from 2014-2024*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$24,360 for all veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers annually*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Veterinarian Assistant Education and Training
Short-term on-the-job training is more common than formal post-secondary education for those who wish to become veterinarian assistants. Those seeking formal education may choose to enroll in a program at a 2-year college. After one year or less, participants may earn a certificate or diploma. Courses may cover medical terminology, animal nutrition, animal anatomy and veterinary technology. Business classes may be included so that veterinarian assistants can learn to maintain records and help the front office staff. A few programs can be completed entirely online.
Career Information and Job Duties
A veterinarian assistant provides basic care for animals recovering from injuries and/or surgery. Assistants clean, disinfect and maintain cages. They provide emergency first aid to animals that are injured or sick. They may take and develop x-rays as well as perform diagnostic procedures, such as urinalysis.
Veterinarian assistants also assist veterinarians during surgery by handing off instruments, applying anesthetics and monitoring results or recovery. It is up to the veterinarian to clean and disinfect surgical instruments. Assistants provide postoperative care by administering oral and topical medications. Employment for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was expected to grow by 9% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to the BLS, 73,400 veterinarian assistants and laboratory animal caretakers were employed in 2014. The BLS also published the median annual wage of veterinary assistants as $24,360 in May 2015. Assistants and animal caretakers who worked for professional, scientific and technical service industries (such as private veterinarian's offices) earned a mean of $24,890 the same year. Veterinary assistants working in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and Connecticut had the highest mean wage, according to BLS statistics published in May 2015.
Though you can earn a diploma or a certificate in the area of veterinary technology at a 2-year college, most veterinary assistants armed with only a high school diploma or GED can enter the field by way of on-the-job training. While it's not a requirement, you might find that earning professional certification through the NAVTA can enhance your standing and serve as a testament to your competence.