Veterinarian Assistant Training Programs and Requirements

Those interested in working with veterinarians can become veterinary assistants, technicians or technologists; each has increasing levels of responsibility. Associate and bachelor's degrees are available that prepare students for these positions.

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Essential Information

Most veterinarians require that assistants hold at least an associate's degree in veterinary technology from an accredited community college or technical school. Associate's-level programs generally take two years or less to complete. Some students, particularly those interested in veterinary technologist positions, may choose to complete a bachelor's degree program in the field. Both program levels may be found in online and on-campus formats.

All states require prospective veterinarian assistants to pass an examination before seeking employment. This exam may result in a license, certification or registration; the exact credential varies by state.

Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology

An Associate of Science degree program in veterinary technology introduces students to a number of basic veterinary topics, such as animal health care and management. Students learn animal anatomy and physiology and may engage in practical, clinical experience with live animals at a local veterinary office. Some course topics might include:

  • Animal anatomy
  • Small animal breeds and behavior
  • Animal nursing
  • Animal physiology
  • Large animal diseases
  • Animal medicine

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Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology

The Bachelor of Science degree in veterinary technology is earned through a four-year curriculum. Students in such a program may take many of the same courses available in an associate's degree program, such as veterinary pharmacology and veterinary radiology. The B.S. program may be more comprehensive and prepares students to assist with more complicated procedures and tests. Clinical study at a nearby veterinary office is usually included in the curriculum and may be expected for graduation. Course topics might include:

  • Principles and prevention of livestock diseases
  • Intro to veterinary anatomy
  • Functional histology
  • General pharmacology and toxicology
  • Neurobiology

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that veterinary assistants, as of May 2015, made a median yearly wage of $24,360. The BLS also states that from 2014 to 2024, the employment for these assistants is expected to grow 9%, which is faster than average.

Continuing Education Information

Although the process may differ by state, all states require veterinary assistants, technicians and technologists to be credentialed in some fashion. The credentialing process usually includes passing written, oral and practical portions of an exam. Many states use the National Veterinary Technician (NVT) exam.

Workshops may be available to students who are interested in veterinary technology and would like to know more about the field. Other courses and seminars may be available to veterinarian assistants who would like to stay current on new types of veterinary equipment and advances in treatment. General veterinary conferences often include workshops or courses that relate directly to veterinarian assistants.

There are both associate's and bachelor's degree programs designed to prepare aspiring veterinarian assistants for state credential examinations and careers assisting veterinarians in a variety tasks. While the bachelor's degree is longer, it does allow graduates to become veterinary technologists, which is a more advanced position.

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