Many pet owners who enjoy being with their pets become veterinary assistants when they start considering a career change or a potential career path out of high school. The good news is that the pathway to a veterinary assistant career is not complex, but it will take some work and a one-year education. If that sounds like a potential fit, it may be time to look deeper into becoming a veterinary assistant.
With that in mind, if you feel you are a good fit for becoming a veterinary assistant, here is a quick look at the steps it will take to get there.
Steps to Become a Veterinary Assistant
Step 1: Graduate from High School
To begin veterinary assistant training, applicants must first graduate from high school. Most training programs will also accept a GED or an equivalent diploma.
Classes to Take
If you know that you want to become a vet assistant, it is a good idea to start taking biology classes while in high school or for dual credit from a community college.
It is also a great idea to start getting experience by volunteering at a local vet clinic or animal hospital. This experience can help set you apart from other applicants.
Step 2: Find and Enroll in an Approved Veterinary Assistant Program
There are over 51 training programs across the US approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. It is in your best interests to check your program to ensure that it has been approved to ensure that you are not wasting your time or money.
Learn from Home
Out of these options, a few are distance-based which means that virtual schooling is an option, although most practices will prefer to hire applicants with in-person training opportunities on their resume.
Throughout the program, attempt to intern at veterinarian offices or volunteer at area shelters and animal hospitals to help boost your resume and gain experience within the field.
Step 3: Get Professionally Certified
Certification Test Online
After you complete your NAVTA veterinary assistant training program, you should be given a code that will allow you to take the Approved Veterinary Assistant Credential (AVA). This code will allow you to log in to the website and take the official certification online.
About the Test
The test is proctored and has 100 questions, of which students must answer 75 correctly to pass. You have 150 minutes to complete the test before it closes.
Improves Your Job Potential
While you do not need to hold this certification to be hired, it will usually increase the starting salary you can obtain as a veterinary assistant and help you find a job quickly.
Some states have their own certification measures, such as Texas and Florida, so always check with your local board of veterinary medicine to determine which certification is best for your career.
Step 4: Maintain Your Certification
The basic certification is only valid for two years, so if you want to keep your certification valid so that you can continue to pursue new positions, you will need to take at least ten credits of continuing education over two years.
Step 5: Consider Career Advancement
Continuing credits can be a great way also to advance your career.
Many veterinary assistants choose to work towards becoming veterinary technicians because the pay is higher, and they can do more within traditional practices. Maintaining your certification by carefully taking coursework that will help you complete a two to four-year veterinary technician program is a great way to slowly grow your career while maintaining a current career as an assistant. This is something that all veterinary assistants should consider.
What Do They Do?
Vet assistants are considered front-line workers within the animal care industry and are tasked with many routine care tasks such as feeding, exercising, and bathing animals during medical stays.
They are also responsible for assisting vets with many tasks during procedures and essential examinations, including restraint, assistance, and disinfecting cages.
Outside of direct animal care, veterinary assistants are often responsible for scheduling appointments and talking to pet owners over the phone. They will often document care questions and concerns and then bring them to the bet.
Therefore, the veterinary assistant must be aware of fundamental care issues with pets and able to relay information to the vet professionally.
Every veterinarian has their own preferences and training procedures, so it is essential to be prepared for a wide berth of responsibilities as a veterinary assistant.
Some everyday responsibilities may include:
- disinfecting cages
- assisting during medical procedures
- restraining animals
- scheduling appointments
- taking phone calls
- sterilizing equipment
- cleaning surgery rooms
- monitoring animals’ health following procedures
- talking to pet owners
- feeding & bathing animals
- exercising animals
- administering medications
- preparing or processing lab samples
- working as radiologists within the practice (sometimes)
Veterinarian assistants should be aware that it is not a 9-5 job since animals require care the entire time they are at a veterinary practice. For that reason, they may be required to work weekends, nights, and holidays depending on the practice’s needs.
How Much Do They Get Paid, On Average?
The average salary of a veterinary assistant varies based on experience and credentials, but most can expect to make between $25,694 to $38,465, with the average base salary landing at $31,000.
What Kind of Personal Traits Are Helpful?
While we have mentioned some of the job duties of a veterinary assistant, the job comes with various tasks that will vary based on the practice that a person is hired at.
Veterinary assistants need to be good with animals and comfortable working with all animals’ species and temperaments.
Vet techs also need to understand that animals will behave differently when in pain or while being treated due to the fear and uncertainty that comes along with the experience. Therefore, veterinary assistants must have a calm demeanor and be able to work with agitated animals safely.
In addition, these professionals need to have a strong mind for math and science since both are heavily involved in the medical side of treating animals. This is also helpful if they are expected to play a role in scheduling and billing within the office environment.
Finally, veterinary assistants need to be good at handling people and connecting to people when they are emotionally stressed or agitated. It can be challenging for pet owners to learn about medical issues and expenses associated with pet care.
The veterinary field can be extremely tough to work in because of the vast depth of emotions that staff must deal with daily. A veterinary assistant needs to be prepared and mentally component at managing their own emotions while helping others.
How Are the Long Term Options?
One step into a pet store will tell you that people care deeply about their pets. Everything from organic dog food to specialty dog treats to pop-culture-themed toys indicates people are willing to go above and beyond for their pets. An American Pet Products Association survey revealed that over 67% of all homes have pets. Pets have actually proven to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and much more.
Right now, the career outlook is good for veterinary assistants, with a 19% increase in available job positions anticipated by 2029. This is likely due to the population growth, which leads to a boost in pets.
If you are interested in becoming a veterinary assistant there are a variety of schools that you can check out. Take a look and launch your new career today.