How To Become A Veterinary Assistant

Today’s veterinary sector requires a wide range of professional care providers to ensure that the animals entrusted to them by private owners and businesses alike receive the high quality care that is so vital to their long-term health and comfort.

Veterinary assistants are a vital link in ensuring that veterinarians, vet techs and other animal care specialists can provide the best possible veterinary care for their charges.

The Duties of the Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary assistants work to support the daily activities of the veterinary care clinic or practice. Unlike vet techs and veterinarians, veterinary assistants are forbidden from providing direct veterinary medical care to animals in most states. Rather, they work to ensure that the clinic remains a clean and healthy environment for the animals under its care.

Among the most common duties veterinary assistants provide are the following:

  • Veterinary assistants provide all animals with food and water. They also make certain that any special dietary instructions are followed in order to ensure the long-term health of the animals.
  • In their daily work, veterinary assistants are expected to remain observant and inform a vet tech or vet if they notice any unusual behavior on the part of the animals under their care.
  • Veterinary assistants are expected to ensure that the clinic is maintained in a clean condition at all times.
  • Animal enclosures must be cleaned on a regular basis, with bedding and litter materials removed and replaced in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. When an animal leaves the practice, its enclosure must be cleaned and sterilized before it is used for another animal.
  • Veterinary assistants help prepare test and surgical tools for use. This includes sterilizing them before and after their use.
  • Veterinary assistants can administer topical and oral medication under the supervision of a vet tech or vet. However, some states place further restrictions on their ability to dispense medications of any type.
  • Veterinary assistants often serve as receptionists or other clerical staff, interacting with customers, maintaining medical records and providing them to the professional veterinary staff on request.

Becoming a Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary assistants do not require any licensure or certification by state or private agencies.

Because of this, many veterinary assistants enter the field by being hired at a local veterinary practice, where they will receive on-the-job training. However, those wishing to become veterinary assistants can take measures to improve their likely career prospects.

Volunteering at Veterinary Clinics

Perhaps the simplest method is to volunteer at veterinary clinics, humane shelters and other animal care facilities. By doing so, the individual will become known to the local veterinary community, which can improve the possibility that he or she will be hired. Additionally, volunteer work will familiarize the individual with the types of duties that veterinary assistants perform, reducing the amount of training that his or her employer will have to provide.

Entering a Veterinary Assistant Program

There are a variety of veterinary assistant programs that interested individuals can enter. In most cases, these programs take approximately one year, although that can vary depending on the program and the student’s schedule.

Many schools also offer part-time and distance learning options to accommodate students who are currently working or otherwise unable to attend the program on a full-time basis.

While veterinary assistant programs do not have any national credentialing authority, they are usually taught by experienced instructors, many with extensive veterinary experience. In some cases, instructors may actually be practicing veterinarians or vet techs, which can assist qualified students in finding employment after they complete the program. Most veterinary assistant programs provide a certificate upon completion, and the student can also use the school as a reference when seeking employment.

The advantage of completing a veterinary assistant program can be found in demonstrating that the applicant has already received training in the duties that he or she will be required to perform. As such, many veterinarians will prefer to hire those individuals who have completed a program in preference to an applicant without any experience in the field.

Career Options for Veterinary Assistants

In addition to the salary and career benefits found in the veterinary assistant’s profession, many individuals can use this field to prepare themselves for other veterinary care professions. Working as a veterinary assistant can allow individuals to determine whether or not they wish to make veterinary care their long-term career.

If so, working with vets and vet techs on a regular basis can be an excellent way to prepare for entry into a veterinary or veterinary technology program. Furthermore, a skilled veterinary assistant can easily obtain the letters of recommendation that many programs require.

Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has determined that veterinary assistants have a median annual wage of over $22,000. This, coupled with the growing demand for veterinary assistants, makes this field an ideal one for those who are seeking a well paying field that does not demand extensive post-secondary school education or training. For those seeking both a career and method to help provide excellent care for America’s treasured companion animals, becoming a veterinary assistant is an ideal choice.