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.
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:
What kind of a job can you get with a vocational certificate in Veterinary Assisting?
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:
What careers are open to those with associate 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:
What jobs are open to a veterinary assistant with a bachelor's in Veterinary Technology or other animal science?
We found 114 schools offering veterinary assistant degree programs in the U.S.
|Adult & Continuing Education - Bcts||Hackensack||NJ||77|
|Bay De Noc Community College||Escanaba||MI||2073|
|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|
|Great Lakes Institute of Technology||Erie||PA||277|
|Gwinnett Technical College||Lawrenceville||GA||4814|
|Harcum College||Bryn Mawr||PA||545|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Minnesota School of Business - Brooklyn Center||Brooklyn Center||MN||306|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|