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Veterinary Technicians and Veterinary Assistants

Animal Behavior College offers educational programs for a number of animal related careers. One of which is the Veterinary Assistant Program. When the school first considered offering the Veterinary Assistant program, many of the staff were skeptical. Why? Veterinary assistants, unlike veterinary technicians, don't require a college degree. In fact, some veterinary hospitals train their own veterinary assistants. Why then would someone wishing to become a veterinary assistant want to go to a school, such as Animal Behavior College, when they might not have to? And, how would veterinarians view a formal veterinary assistant certificate program? Would they consider it necessary or desirable?

Would A Veterinary Assistant Program Be Worthwhile For ABC?

These and many other questions needed to be satisfactorily answered before Animal Behavior College could decide whether a veterinary assistant program was worthwhile. After a great deal of consideration and feedback from numerous pet professionals we decided that the need was there and that offering a program of this type would be an excellent decision to make.

The Veterinary Assistant Program Takes Off!

Animal Behavior College launched the Veterinary Assistant Program in 2008. Today, the Veterinary Assistant Program is the school’s most popular. As of July 2016, more than 12,400 students have enrolled in the program and more than 6,000 have graduated.

Differences Between Veterinary Technician and Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary Technician - Degree Program

Veterinary technicians must be a graduate of an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) approved program. This means, at minimum, a 2-year associate's degree in veterinary technology or animal science. Hands-on training is a mandatory part of degree programs of this type. Veterinary technician students must work a specific number of hours at a veterinary hospital, learning how to execute a variety of tasks, including obtaining blood samples, taking X-rays, assisting in surgery, client education and more. Hands-on training not only provides realistic insight to the daily operations of a working clinic, it also teaches students how to handle stressful situations that occur in veterinary hospitals in a calm and professional fashion. After successfully completing the program, the graduate is eligible to take a state or national board examination to become a registered or certified veterinary technician. Graduates are also well positioned to continue their schooling and enroll in 4-year Bachelor of Science programs in animal science or pre-veterinary studies. Some veterinary technicians continue on to become veterinarians.

Veterinary Assistant Certificate - A Competitive Advantage

Veterinary assistants do not need an associate's degree or any type of college degree. Many veterinary assistants were and are trained by the hospitals they work for. As the industry grows and becomes more competitive, some veterinary hospitals are seeking out veterinary assistants who have graduated from a certificate program, ideally one that includes hands-on experience in real-world veterinary facility. Many veterinary assistants love their job experiences so much that they go back to school to become veterinary technicians or even veterinarians.

Different States Have Different Requirements

The difference between veterinary assistant and veterinary technician job tasks largely depends upon the state they work in. For example, in Alabama, a veterinary assistant (under the direct supervision of a veterinary technician) can draw blood, prep a surgical site, take X-rays, give certain IV drugs to patients, remove sutures, etc.

In Arizona, a veterinary assistant can perform most of the duties that a veterinary technician can, such as drawing blood, some dental work, including cleaning teeth and giving IV injections. However, they have to be under the direct supervision of the veterinarian or certified veterinary technician.

In many other states, however, veterinary assistants are not allowed to draw blood or give injections of any sort. Instead their role is to support the veterinary technician and/or the veterinarian, albeit in a more limited fashion.1

Whichever profession you choose, you may become a member of a dynamic team that helps animals and saves lives. You will also be entering a field that is growing by leaps and bounds. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects better than average growth in both job categories throughout the next decade.2

Dig A Little Deeper

Which type of program is right for you? It depends on what you’re looking for. Speak to a few veterinarians in your area and ask them what veterinary technicians can do versus veterinary assistants. Research the laws in your state or province to determine the legal limits of each profession. You should also consider volunteering at a veterinary facility. Does the reality match your preconceived notion? Many people who spend a little time on the "working side" of a veterinary hospital never look back. They spend their careers in what for them is a wonderful and rewarding job. Others find the hard work, pain (yes, you will see some), blood, long hours and hard choices to be more than they want to handle.

Whichever profession you choose, you will become a member of a dynamic team that helps animals and saves lives. You will also be entering a field that is growing by leaps and bounds. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (projects better than average growth in both jobs categories throughout the next decade.2

Veterinary Assistant Career Information and Opportunities