If you love animals and would find it rewarding working with them, a veterinary assistant may be the career for you. Veterinary assistants spend their days providing medical and health care assistance to animals. There are relatively minor education requirements to become a veterinary assistant, and certification is optional.
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A veterinary assistant helps a veterinarian provide medical and health care for animals. Their duties include taking blood samples and administrating medication to animals, as well as assisting during examinations and procedures. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for veterinary assistants, though there are several certificate and associate degree programs that can provide adequate training and education for the job. Most veterinary office train assistants through on-the-job training.
|Required Education||High school diploma|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training|
|Licensure and Certification||Optional|
|Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)*||19% for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers|
|Median Salary (May 2017)*||$26,140 for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Though high school graduates can qualify academically for a job as a veterinary assistant, there are several educational options available at the college level. Degree or certificate programs are often supplemented by on-the-job training or through an internship or externship. Community colleges with a veterinarian assistant program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association may offer a 2-year associate's degree program for interested students. Alternatively, 4-year bachelor of science programs are available at some colleges and universities for students looking for additional education. Regardless of the program, work experience is the most common path for this job.
The majority of veterinary assistant courses are built around scientific principles. Classes are designed to be a mixture of lecture and laboratory work, allowing for students to develop an understanding of scientific theory as well as hands-on experience. Courses in animal nursing, diagnostic imaging, physiology, animal terminology and anatomy help students develop the skills needed to handle and assist animals.
Towards the end of the degree program, coursework focuses on learning about office and patient procedures. Courses focus on topics like pharmacology, anesthesia, surgical assisting and aseptic techniques. Students will develop specific skills like how to prep an animal for surgery or to take an animal's vital statistics, like weight and heart rate.
Veterinary assistants aren't required to be licensed or credentialed by any state. However, those interested in demonstrating their expertise in the field can test for optional certification, such as the Approved Veterinary Assistant credential offered by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. To be eligible to take the exam, candidates need to have completed an educational program approved by the NAVTA.
Veterinarian assistants work with veterinarians to provide health care to animals. To be able to work in this field, it is necessary to complete an accredited program that may be part of an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Prospective veterinarian assistants must usually complete an internship to gain hands-on experience and take written and oral exams to be eligible for state licensure.