How to Become a Veterinary Assistant & How Long Does It Take?

Shares

Before looking at how to become a veterinary assistant, it is important to look at a brief overview of the career. Getting a job as a vet assistant can be very fulfilling for you if you love animals.

Assisting your vet is a key factor in both an animal hospital and clinic.

Assisting your vet is a key factor in both an animal hospital and clinic.

The job description is to ease the experience of visiting veterinarians for pet owners and pets by assisting in all aspects of animal care as well as managing pet owners’ concerns and questions.

As an assistant to the vet technician you will be required to perform many tasks revolving around keeping animals clean and safe. You will also be required to sterilize surgical equipment, disinfect & clean animal cages and perform daily caretaking duties like weighing and feeding animals.

You may also be called upon to administer medication, collect blood, skin tissue and urine samples for testing, monitor animals during surgery, perform lab tests and perform other important tasks like maintaining daily care charts.

In addition to performing the above tasks, you may also be required to help pet owners since they are the initial point of contact. In regards to the assistance they offer pet owners, veterinary assistants usually offer advice to pet owners on medication, illnesses and general care. They also answer any questions or concerns pet owners may have so as to not disturb the work of the vet techs.

Job Requirements

A Veterinary assistant checking a cat's ear.

A Veterinary assistant checking a cat’s ear.

How long does it take to become a vet assistant?

Having looked briefly at what vet assistants do, let’s now shift our focus on to the career requirements and time it takes to become one.

Educational

In order to become a vet assistant in the US and many other parts of the world, you must have a GED or high school diploma. Advanced education is also required. It is important to note that you can earn certificates through non-degree veterinary related programs. Most employers however prefer hiring individuals with bachelor’s or an associate’s degree in animal science or a related field.

Training

Although most certificate programs offer hands-on training, majority of training occurs in a job setting. Veterinary assistants are usually trained by vets among other professionals in veterinary clinics and not in schools. Training involves doing front desk and animal care tasks. Animal care training includes feeding, watering & examining animals, cleaning & disinfecting work areas and animal/pet cages, sterilizing lab equipment & surgical instruments, offering post-operative care, administering topical and oral medications as well as preparing specimens for laboratory examination. Front desk training includes; managing records and assisting clients on phone and in person when they visit.

Certification

It is important to note that you don’t need certification to become a vet assistant like you do to become a vet tech. Most employers however prefer hiring people with veterinary certification. You can obtain optional certification in private organizations and state veterinary societies. Certification requirements vary from one program to the other, but generally encompass relevant educational coursework, practical training with veterinarians and a final examination.

Skills & Qualities

Becoming a veterinary assistant  is not easy task. For one, you must love animals and be passionate about animal welfare. It is also important to be in good physical shape since the job usually called upon to carry and/or restrain animals. You also need to be patient and calm since most of the animals that are taken to veterinarians are usually in pain, stressed or scared which usually causes them to display aggressive or erratic behaviour. You should also be mature individuals who are emotionally stable and strong since they may be required to care for abused animals. Good people skills are also crucial since vet assistants are client facing professionals. If you meet all the above skills and qualities requirements, you are shouldn’t have a problem qualifying.

Becoming a Vet Assistant

Working in a Zoo is one of the more sought after jobs for a vet assistant.

Working in a Zoo is one of the more sought after jobs for a vet assistant.

Before you decide to pursue the career, it is important to look at the work environment, job and salary outlook. Such information is important in helping you decide if the career is good for you.

Work Environment

As an assistant, you should expect to work in animal hospitals and veterinary clinics. You may also work in research facilities. In regards to working hours, you are free to work full-time or part-time. You also have the option of working flexible hours. It is also worth noting that the working environment is usually loud. It is therefore important for you to be able to focus in a noisy environment.

Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the veterinary industry shows signs of growth in the future because there is increasing emphasis on responsible pet ownership and animal safety. The BLS indicates a growth rate of 14% in the employment between 2010 and 2020.

Salary

The average annual salary of a vet assistant stands at $22,040 (a bit lower than a vet tech’s annual income), according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics. The range is $16,000 – $34,000. Institutions which pay the best salaries are research facilities. Other factors which dictate the salaries include; years of experience, certification and location.

In asking yourself How to become a vet assistant you have embarked on the first part of a journey that will lead you a great starting career in animal care and will be the stepping stone to future more rewarding position within the veterinary practice.