Learn precisely what you need to do in this guide on how to become a veterinary assistant and the answer to questions such as how long does it take to become a veterinary assistant and what does a vet assistant do. Discover if being a vet assistant is right for you!
What Does a Veterinary Assistant Do?
Veterinary assistants provide vital medical and practical support to veterinarians and veterinary technicians, and essential care services to animals that have been brought in for treatment. They work alongside veterinarians in clinical settings, or occasionally in the field.
Each day, veterinary assistants perform a broad range of animal care-related duties. They will feed, bathe, groom, and exercise animals that have been admitted to the clinic, while carefully monitoring their health and behavior. They will assist with surgeries and lab work, administer medications, and provide basic or emergency first-aid services to animals in distress. Veterinary assistants will clean and sterilize equipment and facilities, and perform basic clerical duties that help veterinary practices survive. They will frequently interact with pet parents or animal owners in person and over the phone, making appointments, answering questions, and providing updates on the health and medical condition of the pets in their care.
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How Much Does a Veterinary Assistant Make?
The job prospects for aspiring veterinary assistants appear bright. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the demand for veterinary assistants to grow by 16 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is four times greater than the average projected growth rate for all job categories combined.
The need for veterinary assistants is rising. But at the moment wages for the profession are below average. The median annual wage for American workers regardless of category is about $40,000 per year, while the yearly median salary for veterinary assistants was $28,590 in 2019. With demand for the services of veterinary assistants growing rapidly, market forces seem likely to push this figure upward in the coming years.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Veterinary Assistant
If you’re wondering how long does it take to become a vet assistant, we have good news for you. Becoming a veterinarian assistant is actually a fairly quick process. If you have your high school diploma and you can show previous animal care experience, you can start looking for work right now! If you have your diploma, but no experience, you may also find work, but it may take a few weeks or months more to find a position.
In addition, you can seek certification to dramatically improve your chances of finding work as a vet assistant. How long does it take to be a vet assistant if you attend a vet assistant school? Even with seeking certification, it will likely take less than a year to become a vet assistant.
Continue reading for details.
How to Become a Veterinary Assistant: A Step-by-Step Guide
Below is our guide detailing all the steps showing you how to become a vet assistant.
Step 1: Acquire a High School Diploma
Having a high school diploma is the minimal qualification required to secure a job as a veterinary assistant. If you plan to further your education at the postsecondary level, you’ll also need that diploma to qualify for admittance at any institution of higher learning.
Step 2: Demonstrate Previous Experience Caring for Animals
A high school diploma alone will not convince potential employers of your qualifications for a veterinary assistant position. But you can increase the strength of your resume substantially by proving that you’ve had previous experience caring for animals. This may be enough for you to secure employment as a veterinary assistant, especially if you’re applying for an entry-level position that requires no specialized knowledge or aptitudes.
If you don’t already have this type of experience, you could gain it by volunteering at an animal shelter, an animal rescue and rehabilitation center, or a zoo. Assuming you’re diligent and attentive to your duties, recommendations from your supervisors or fellow volunteers could go a long way toward convincing a veterinary practice to give you a chance.
Step 3: Improve Your Qualifications by Seeking Certification
The strongest job candidates for veterinary assistant positions are those who combine previous animal care experience with some higher education. You can acquire this by enrolling in a college-level veterinary assistant training program, which will prepare you specifically to handle a full variety of duties that are routinely assigned to veterinary assistants.
If you’re admitted to such a program, you’ll take courses that cover animal biology, anatomy, and physiology. You’ll learn all about veterinary technology and terminology, and be introduced to the principles of clinical management. Some of your technical instruction will be provided in a classroom setting, but you’ll learn even more while serving an internship or externship that gives you real-world experience working in an actual veterinary practice.
How long is vet assistant school? Veterinary assistant training programs take between nine months and one year to finish.
After graduation you’ll be awarded a certificate or diploma that testifies to your expertise in veterinary animal care, which can help you impress potential employers.
Many community colleges, technical schools, and a few four-year universities offer veterinary assistant training programs. Consequently, you should have no trouble finding multiple options regardless of your state of residence. An increasing number of schools are offering online training alternatives, which can save you money and allow you to pursue an education without relocating.
While any certificate program can expose you to valuable learning experiences, training programs approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America (NAVTA) carry extra prestige. On the NAVTA website, there are currently 33 community colleges, technical institutes, and industry-sponsored initiatives listed that offer NAVTA-approved veterinary assistant training programs. According to a study by one of those institutions, Penn Foster College, 87 percent of veterinary clinics say they would prefer to hire veterinary assistants who’ve graduated from NAVTA-approved schools.
As a further verification of their credentials, individuals who successfully complete a NAVTA training program will be given permission to sit for the Approved Veterinary Assistant examination. If they pass the exam, they will receive another certificate designating them as an Approved Veterinary Assistant, which represents the official NAVTA seal of approval.
It won’t be necessary to obtain an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree to land a job as a veterinary assistant. Many community colleges do offer two-year programs in animal science or veterinary technology. But these degree programs are primarily intended for people who want to become veterinary technicians, a more technically-oriented position with responsibilities that fall somewhere between those of a veterinary assistant and a veterinarian.
Step 4: Find Employment in a Veterinary Clinic
With demand for veterinary assistants rising, if you meet the preferred criteria of veterinary clinics your job prospects should be excellent. Even if you only meet some of those criteria, however, you will still have a decent chance of getting hired, although perhaps not in the city or state in which you currently live.
It is customary for newly hired veterinary assistants to receive some hours of on-the-job training, regardless of the credentials they carry. This can make it easier for those who lack previous training, if they convince potential employers that they’re truly passionate about helping animals and are ready and willing to learn.
Even if you pursue certification, it may only take you a year after you graduate from high school to begin your career as a veterinary assistant.
Pros and Cons of a Career as a Vet Assistant
A career as a veterinary assistant is ideal for those who enjoy being around animals, and want to make a positive difference in their lives. The time and training requirements for veterinary assistants are modest, meaning those who choose this route can begin doing what they’re passionate quite soon after graduating from high school. The short time frame for becoming a veterinary assistant should also make is an attractive option for career changers. No veterinary practice can succeed without efficient and dedicated veterinary assistants, which should bring great satisfaction and a sense of purpose to those who choose this career path.
The salaries of veterinary assistants are not commensurate with the importance of their duties or the demands of their profession. While they can participate in caring for animals in distress to some extent, they are neither licensed nor qualified to offer the same depth and breadth of healthcare services as veterinarians or veterinarian technicians. As people who truly care about the health and wellbeing of animals, it can be difficult for veterinary assistants to cope with the emotions they experience when they see animals who’ve been neglected or mistreated, or who are too ill or injured to survive.
Important Characteristics of a Successful Veterinary Assistant
People are drawn to veterinary medicine by their love of animals. But mostly, they enter this profession because of the sense of idealism that love inspires. The best veterinary assistants are determined to help animals in need, and consequently they are resolute in their commitment to their chosen careers.
Veterinary assistants must have the capacity to remain calm, cool, and collected when dealing with anxious pet parents, and with frightened animals. They must be intensely focused and not easily distracted when assisting veterinarians with various sensitive tasks. They must also be resilient in the face of tragedy, which they will inevitably encounter working in veterinary clinics. Veterinary assistants should be essentially optimistic and hopeful by nature, so the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment they gain when they help animals recover will be powerful enough to keep them going, despite the occasional emotionally devastating outcome.
Was this explanation on how to become a vet assistant useful and help you to solidify your plans? That is the goal of this guide. In the future we also plan to add an article on how to become a veterinary technician and other animal professions, so stay tuned and, we wish you a very bright and exciting future!
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