Veterinarian Assistant

Veterinary assistants (VAs) are trained, entry-level members of the veterinary healthcare team. Working under supervision, they help veterinarians and allied professionals manage and treat nonfarm animals of all kinds in animal care clinics, veterinary hospitals, and research labs.

Veterinary assistants have animal care, client communication, and administrative responsibilities. They help out with office duties, like billing and record-keeping. They interface with incoming clients, assessing problems, providing educational support and responding to pet owners' questions. They also assist in each phase of healthcare delivery, restraining animals, anticipating clinicians' needs and facilitating a smooth workflow.

Most VAs do not need either an associate's or bachelor's degree to do their work. In fact, the majority have only a high school diploma and receive the bulk of their training on the job. Earning a degree is primarily a way to advance in the veterinary workforce and earn a higher income under the job title of a veterinary technician or technologist.

Degrees in Veterinary Assisting

Vocational Certificates

Veterinary assistants may be trained by their employer or they may learn their skills in a vocational certificate-granting program. A key advantage of earning a certificate over on-the-job training is that the skills acquired-and proof of having acquired them-easily transfer between employment settings.

At vet assistant schools, students develop an aptitude for problem-solving and communication that empowers them to provide knowledgeable support to veterinary clinicians. At this level, VAs are trained in animal handling, clinical hygiene, client education, and basic veterinary administrative concerns. It usually takes about a year to earn a certificate or diploma in Veterinary Assisting.

VAs who graduate from one of the 13 veterinary assistant programs approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) can now pursue the organization's Approved Veterinary Assistant (APA) credential after successfully sitting for an exam.

VAs can become additionally qualified in areas like kennel maintenance, bite safety, or animal shelter work. Some veterinary assistant programs offer training in laboratory animal maintenance, preparing students to seek certification as an Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician with the American Association for Laboratory Animal Sciences. Secondary credentials can enhance employability and are often among the minimum requirements for competitive positions.

Coursework for a certificate in Veterinary Assisting might include:

  • Small Animal Nursing & Pharmacology
  • Animal Life Stages Nutrition & Husbandry
  • Companion Animal Diseases

What kind of a job can you get with a vocational certificate in Veterinary Assisting?

  • Veterinary Assistant
  • Laboratory Animal Caretaker
  • Grooming Assistant

Associate Degrees

Around one-third of veterinary assistants attend community college for their training, earning a 2-year Associate of Science degree in Veterinary Assisting. This option is slightly more popular than the vocational certificate route. Although associate programs take longer than their certificate-granting counterparts, they typically provide more in-depth training and a broader base of general education to enrollees.

Associate programs teach students how to draw blood from animals, collect lab specimens for analysis, clean pets' teeth, and administer medication to sick creatures. By graduation, trainees are skilled in sterilization and the provision of post-op care. The best veterinary assistant schools also offer the chance to work in a laboratory or clinic, where students can get crucial real-world industry experience that will appeal to employers.

Additionally, veterinary assistants may work under the supervision of a veterinary technician with an associate's degree. Assistants can promote to this position by completing an associate's program designed specifically for veterinary technicians. Experienced vet assistants looking for career mobility are ideally positioned for success in such programs. Veterinary technician programs must be accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Associate-level courses in Veterinary Assisting might include:

  • Clinical Lab Procedures & Pathology
  • Comparative Veterinary Anatomy & Physiology
  • Aseptic Technique & Surgical Assisting

What careers are open to those with associate degrees?

  • Veterinary Technician
  • Pet Shop Manager
  • Animal Caretaker II

Bachelor Degrees

Veterinary assistants also work under the supervision of veterinary technologists. Technologists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), have a bachelor's degree. Ambitious veterinary assistants may skip the associate's degree and go directly to a 4-year bachelor's program in Veterinary Technology in order to access this higher-paying, potentially supervisory position.

At the bachelor's level, students learn animal biology and applied clinical skills like small animal nursing and laboratory testing. Veterinary technology programs teach students how to facilitate advanced clinical and diagnostic procedures as animal radiographers, anesthetists, and surgical nurses. Veterinary Technology programs should be accredited by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) of the AVMA.

The bachelor's credential qualifies graduates for entry-level work in a variety of unconventional clinical contexts, from biomedical research to livestock management and zookeeping. Students can also earn a bachelor's degree in an animal science to ultimately pursue graduate study as a veterinarian-the prevailing clinical authority over veterinary technologists, technicians, and assistants alike.

A Bachelor of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology may include courses like:

  • Safety & Regulatory Compliance in Veterinary Technology
  • Introduction to Veterinary Technology Research
  • Veterinary Ophthalmic Nursing

What jobs are open to a veterinary assistant with a bachelor's in Veterinary Technology or other animal science?

  • Veterinary Technologist
  • Field Biologist Assistant
  • Zookeeper

Featured Schools

Programs offered:

We found 114 schools offering veterinary assistant degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 114 Veterinarian Assistant Colleges in the U.S.

Veterinary Assistant Schools By Total Enrollment

Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI  |  Total Enrollment: 43366

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Houston Community College System
Houston, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 40929

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Purdue University - Main Campus
West Lafayette, IN  |  Total Enrollment: 39667

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Mt San Antonio College
Walnut, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 28329

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
North Harris Montgomery Community College District
The Woodlands, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 24554

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Portland Community College
Portland, OR  |  Total Enrollment: 24209

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Lincoln, NE  |  Total Enrollment: 22268

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Macomb Community College
Warren, MI  |  Total Enrollment: 22001

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
San Diego Mesa College
San Diego, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 21233

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
St Petersburg College
Clearwater, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 19900

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years

Browse All 114 Colleges With Veterinary Assistant Programs

Title City State Enrollment
Tri - County Technical College Pendleton SC 3612
Tulsa Community College Tulsa OK 16270
University of Cincinnati - Raymond Walters College Blue Ash OH 3668
University of Maine at Augusta Augusta ME 5617
University of Nebraska at Lincoln Lincoln NE 22268
Vermont Technical College Randolph Center VT 1145
Vet Tech Institute Pittsburgh PA 272
Wayne County Community College District Detroit MI 9008
West Hills Community College Coalinga CA 4344
Western Career College San Leandro CA 345
Western Career College Sacramento CA 574
Wilson College Chambersburg PA 764
Yakima Valley Community College Yakima WA 3916
Yuba College Marysville CA 10295
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