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

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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
Adult & Continuing Education - Bcts Hackensack NJ 77
Bay De Noc Community College Escanaba MI 2073
Becker College Worcester MA 1166
Bel - Rea Institute of Animal Technology Denver CO 608
Bellingham Technical College Bellingham WA 3682
Berkshire Community College Pittsfield MA 2494
Brevard Community College Cocoa FL 13265
Camden County College Blackwood NJ 12131
Cedar Valley College Lancaster TX 3280
Central Carolina Community College Sanford NC 4113
Colby Community College Colby KS 2160
College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls ID 5452
Columbia State Community College Columbia TN 4261
Columbus State Community College Columbus OH 18094
Cosumnes River College Sacramento CA 16493
Crownpoint Institute of Technology Crownpoint NM 841
Cuny La Guardia Community College Long Island City NY 11778
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland OH 19518
Delaware Technical and Community College - Owens Georgetown DE 3439
Duluth Business University Dultuh MN 267
Eastern School of Technology Virginia Beach VA 197
Eastern Wyoming College Torrington WY 1420
Fairmont State University Fairmont WV 6496
Foothill College Los Altos Hills CA 14193
Fort Valley State University Fort Valley GA 2561
Fortis Institute - Forty Fort Forty Fort PA 99
Gaston College Dallas NC 3954
Globe College Oakdale MN 642
Great Lakes Institute of Technology Erie PA 277
Gwinnett Technical College Lawrenceville GA 4814
Harcum College Bryn Mawr PA 545
Hartnell College Salinas CA 7757
Heart of Georgia Technical College Dublin GA 1068
Hinds Community College Raymond MS 16032
Holyoke Community College Holyoke MA 5754
Houston Community College System Houston TX 40929
Jefferson College Hillsboro MO 3876
Johnson College Scranton PA 166
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids IA 11645
Kirtland Community College Roscommon MI 1307
Lansing Community College Lansing MI 16011
Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate TN 1753
Long Technical College Phoenix AZ 299
Los Angeles Pierce College Woodland Hills CA 16111
Macomb Community College Warren MI 22001
Madison Area Technical College Madison WI 14474
Manor College Jenkintown PA 684
Maple Woods Community College Kansas City MO 5294
Mercy College - Main Campus Dobbs Ferry NY 9244
Michigan State University East Lansing MI 43366
Mid Michigan Community College Harrison MI 2316
Midland College Midland TX 4842
Midwest Institute Kirkwood MO 78
Minnesota School of Business - Brooklyn Center Brooklyn Center MN 306
Moorpark College Moorpark CA 13233
Morehead State University Morehead KY 8316
Mount Ida College Newton MA 1196
Mt Diablo Adult Education Concord CA 637
Mt San Antonio College Walnut CA 28329
Murray State College Tishomingo OK 1768
Murray State University Murray KY 9136
National American University - Rapid City Rapid City SD 525
Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture Curtis NE 234
New Hampshire Community Technical College - Manchester/stratham Stratham NH 4024
Newberry College Newberry SC 724
North Central Michigan College Petoskey MI 2196
North Dakota State University - Main Campus Fargo ND 9902
North Harris Montgomery Community College District The Woodlands TX 24554
North Shore Community College Danvers MA 6285
Northampton County Area Community College Bethlehem PA 4797
Northeast Community College Norfolk NE 4520
Northwestern Connecticut Community College Winsted CT 1596
Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches LA 9292
Nunez Community College Chalmette LA 1884
Oklahoma State University - Oklahoma City Oklahoma City OK 3995
Omaha College of Health Careers Omaha NE 269
Palo Alto College San Antonio TX 5951
Parkland College Champaign IL 8026
Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom Lakewood WA 9238
Pima Medical Institute Mesa AZ 422
Pima Medical Institute Tucson AZ 364
Pima Medical Institute Chula Vista CA 159
Pima Medical Institute Albuquerque NM 385
Pima Medical Institute Seattle WA 297
Pima Medical Institute Denver CO 288
Portland Community College Portland OR 24209
Purdue University - Main Campus West Lafayette IN 39667
Ridgewater College Willmar MN 3762
San Diego Mesa College San Diego CA 21233
San Joaquin Valley College - Fresno Fresno CA 669
Savannah Technical College Savannah GA 2048
Siena Heights University Adrian MI 1972
Snead State Community College Boaz AL 1579
St Andrews Presbyterian College Laurinburg NC 644
St Petersburg College Clearwater FL 19900
Stautzenberger College Toledo OH 18
Suffolk County Community College - Western Campus Brentwood NY 5574
Suny College of Technology at Canton Canton NY 2126
Suny College of Technology at Delhi Delhi NY 2151
The Community College of Baltimore County Dundalk MD 18168
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