What does a veterinary assistant do?

A veterinary assistant is a profession growing in popularity day by day. It’s a very responsible job with which you are able to perform a large variety of duties inside private veterinary clinics. Veterinary assistants make the jobs of veterinary technicians and veterinarians a lot easier and that’s why they represent a valuable part of the vet healthcare team.

Not only that this is an opening gate for becoming someone who spends most of the time helping animals in need, but also a start of building a more serious veterinary career and using all the possibilities it offers in future.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary Assistant with Dog in Vet Clinic

Veterinary assistants can find their place in helping around the clinic in many ways. First of all, they have a face to face contact with clients. Upon arrival, they greet the clients, make follow-up calls and schedule appointments. They control the inventory and continuously update medical records of patients.

On the more medical aspect, vet assistants prepare the examination and operating room and sanitize the necessary equipment for everyday work at the clinic. The interesting aspect is that the veterinary assistants are responsible for the dietary needs of some special pets. They can be involved in the process and are trained to properly administer medication, calm animals, safely and properly restrain them and guarantee the safety of working personnel and the animals. It sure sounds intriguing and in a while, we will explain how to become a vet assistant.

It might seem as the vet assistants get to work the dirty work inside a private practice, but that’s not the case. Actually, vet assist professionals have to be the most caring individuals in the team, because they have most frequent contact with the animals. And probably, at the end of the therapy, the animals will most likely connect with them. They can never forget the individual that fed them and gave them water, provided a clean environment and walked them while they were in the hospitalized.

So generally that means that the assistant is the person responsible for the wellness of the hospitalized animal. And while the society takes animal wellness with more and more consideration, for sure this is a quite caring and important role to have.

Characteristics of a great vet assistant

Except for loving animals, veterinary assistants need to be physically endurable, especially when restraining strong animals. They also need to be patient, mature and emotionally stable, especially when encountering animals that have been abused, during putting animals to sleep and of course, when talking to some very challenging clients. Clients usually interact with the vet assistants first, therefore a good assistant has to know how to calm scared and stressed owners, and even know what to do and say in panicking situations.

How much is the average vet assistant salary in the USA?

According to the USBLR (United States Board of Labor Statistics), the average annual vet assistant salary in the USA is about $24.300. However, the average differs significantly between states. In some states, the potential for earning money as a vet assistant increases a lot more rather than other states. A professional can be able to earn up to $38.000 per year in 13 states in America, and even more than $40.000 in the ones on the top of the ladder. New Haven is the Promised Land for veterinary assistants where the annual average vet assistant salary is $48.000. The dispersion of professional is not equal in the United States. The highest density of workers is in California with an estimated number of around 10.000 employed veterinary assistants.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

Is your pet tagged and chipped?

 Other sources indicate that the annual salary for vet assistants was an approximate $29.000 in late 2016. Except for location and state, another factor is the type of industry where the vet assistants work, be it the health care industry or government agencies. Vet assistant job also includes work in pet shops with in-house clinics, some research facilities, shelters and animal rescue facilities.

Vet assistant salary compared to some other similar occupations is a bit lower. For example, veterinary assistant earns less than medical assistant (around $2000 less annually) and about $7000-8000 less than veterinary technicians per year.

As we said before the profession has a significant rise in open working positions to the point that some states struggle to find enough certified and trained assistants to fill in the blanks. The average growth rate of veterinary assistant jobs places exceeds the average with a projected 13% expansion rate in the next seven years.

At the moment, there are around 80.000 vet assistant professionals across the United States.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

The vet assistant programs are one of the easiest to get in because there aren’t any strict education requirements in initiating the educational program.  Diplomas from high school or GED are not always required, but for sure they help during the training process. Actually, every institution and veterinary assistant school that offers a vet assist training program can decide about the criteria for admission.

Across the United States, you can begin your education for becoming a veterinary assistant by attending courses provided by community colleges, training centers, vocational schools and technical institutes. Also, online vet assist programs become more and more popular. Each program is designed by the institution and the curriculums may vary. Even so, the main concepts that are being taught are pretty much similar between institutions and will provide the necessary training for an individual to become a skillful veterinary assistant.

When answering the question on how to become a vet assistant fast and easy, the best answer is by using online programs. If you decide to take an online course you get certified within six months.

Some of the courses provided by the certified programs include handling and assisting animals, animal terminology, anatomy, animal nursing, physiology, diagnostic imaging etc. The hands-on experience is as important as the theoretical part, therefore except for regular lectures the students often have laboratory work during the studies. Later on, at the end of the program, the students explore the fields of surgical patient procedures and learn a lot about pharmacology, aseptic techniques, anesthesia and surgical assisting. Through this, future veterinary assistants will learn how to properly prepare an animal for surgery and correctly measure the vital statistics of an animal.

Programs through training-on-the-job and externship and internship are available as well. One can get a certificate for veterinary assistant through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). NAVTA offers a couple of vet assistant programs and has an approved program distinction issued for about 35 other programs in the United States. This type of certification (Approved Veterinary Assistant) is recognized everywhere in the United States.

The main difference between veterinary assistant programs and rest of veterinary fields is that the assistant program is a certificate program and not a degree program.

Certification, licensing and registration

In order to maintain and promote high standards of health care of animals, all of the states in the country require a professional license by all veterinary assistants. You can get a professional license by passing an oral and written examination process. Sometimes there is even a practical test. With the practical examination, a veterinary assistant proves that he is physically able to work in an animal-filled environment and perform all daily duties successfully. After passing the exam you get licensed, certified or registered.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary Assistant in Vet Clinic Performing Dog Clipping

Many people get confused by these terms and don’t exactly know whether they should be a certified, registered of licensed veterinary assistant in order to work in the field. Well, pretty much that’s dependent on the state. In one state you are a certified veterinary assistant and in other registered, but the requirements for becoming one are the same.

Advancement in a vet assistant career

Becoming a vet assistant probably is the easiest way to enter the world of veterinary private practice. The hierarchy inside a clinic puts vet assistants on the lowest scale, but that doesn’t mean that veterinary assistants aren’t cherished for what they do and for the help they provide.

This is because of the educational requirements, since vet assistants only need certification by taking a course which can last for as little as 6 months. Compared to the DVM programs that usually exceed 5, and even 6 years of education it’s incomparable.

But the interesting point of the veterinary assistant position and title is that there are many options for career advancement in future.

A veterinary assistant can advance in his/hers career with continuous education or certification in the future. You can make a decision to restart your education and become a veterinary technician by completing an associate’s degree.

Everyone knows that getting into vet school and becoming a future certified veterinarian is hard, mostly because veterinary colleges have a limited number of opened positions for new students. Previous experience in the field of vet medicine for veterinary assistants makes them highly competitive for getting accepted and securing a place in some veterinary college.

If you are interested in different veterinary professions, read the article with personal touch by Nicole LaForest – Becoming a veterinary technician.