How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

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Veterinary medicine is an essential part of the medical field that deals with caring for a variety of animals. Veterinary assistants are vital members of veterinary teams that help provide care to large and small animals.


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What does a veterinary assistant do?

Veterinary assistants support veterinarians and other veterinary personnel with daily tasks and duties. They feed, exercise, groom, weigh, restrain, and handle animals and make sure the veterinary environment is comfortable and safe by cleaning and maintaining equipment and holding areas. They also examine animals for signs of injury, illness, or disease and prepare and sanitize surgery areas. Some experienced veterinary assistants administer medication under the supervision of the veterinarian. Veterinary assistants also provide support to pet owners when their beloved animals are undergoing procedures. They are also responsible for administrative and clerical tasks such as greeting clients, answering phones, making appointments, handling charts, filing paperwork, filling out forms, and taking payments.

What kind of training does a veterinary assistant need?

Veterinary assistants must have at least a high school diploma. Many community colleges offer veterinary assistant programs and most programs can be completed in less than a year and result in a certificate. Many aspiring veterinary assistants work or volunteer in animal hospitals, veterinary clinics, animal shelters and other animal care facilities to gain practical experience. Many employers prefer veterinary assistants that are certified. The American Veterinary Medical Association can certify veterinary assistants. Most employers also provide on the job training, but if a veterinary assistant is certified they will need less on the job training. Veterinary assistants must keep current on advancements in the field and often attend workshops, conferences, and seminars.

What are the prospects for a career as a veterinary assistant?

Employment of veterinary assistants is expected to grow faster than average for all professions from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increase in pet owners and demand for veterinary services will drive job growth.

Job prospects are projected to be good especially for veterinary assistants with advanced education and extensive experience. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace veterinary assistants that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do veterinary assistants make?

As of October 2009, the middle 50% of veterinary assistants earned annual salaries between $21,366 and $31,986. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $36,965 (2).

A career as a veterinary assistant is a great choice for people who have a strong passion for caring for animals. Veterinary assistants must be organized, pay close attention to detail, and be able to work efficiently independently and as part of a team. They must feel comfortable working with a wide variety of animals. They must have also excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they interact with a variety of clients and other veterinary personnel. Veterinary assistants must be quick on their feet and be able to work in stressful and emergency situations.

Joshua T Osborne

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