How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

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What is a Veterinary Assistant?

Veterinary assistants play an important role in the pet industry. They take care of animals as well as aid veterinary technicians and veterinarians. Given the advancements in veterinary medicine and compartmentalization of jobs, the role of the veterinary assistant is becoming more relevant than ever.

Veterinary Assistant Job Description

At the base of many animal hospitals and veterinary clinics are veterinary assistants. Veterinary assistants may look after animals, maintain cleanliness of the facility, and help veterinary technicians and veterinarians successfully complete surgical procedures. As the first to greet patients, veterinary assistants are also frequently in contact with pet owners. They may even educate owners of diseases and health problems, and explain to them how they can better take care of their pets.

Duties of veterinary assistants include, but are not limited to:

  • Feed, bathe, and exercise animals
  • Clean cages and vicinity
  • Communicate with pet owners
  • Set up examination rooms
  • Read medical charts
  • Assist with medical administration
  • Aid with surgical procedures
  • Prepare patients for x-ray imaging

Veterinary Assistant Education

Veterinary Assistant Infographic

An education in veterinary medicine and veterinary hospital protocol provides students with an important foundation. Veterinary assistant programs may teach students everything from animal restraint to surgical preparation. ABC's veterinary assistant course provides students with both a formal education and on-site training at an animal hospital or veterinary facility. This combination allows students to gain real experience in the field as well as a foundation in veterinary medicine. Earning a veterinary assistant certificate from Animal Behavior College gives job seekers more credibility when applying to positions or seeking further education in the veterinary field.

Differences Between Formal Education & On-the-Job Training
ABC's Vet Assistant School On-the-Job Training
Formal education Hands-on training
Real work experience Real work experience
Knowledge of terminology
Possibly biased education
Mastery in pet body language
Lack of a formalized educational process

To learn how to become a veterinary assistant through Animal Behavior College, call 800-795-3294 or fill out our contact form.

Employment Opportunities

As of 2014, there are currently 73,400 veterinary assistants (and laboratory animal caretakers) employed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is expected to increase by 19 percent from 2016 to 2026. Aside from working at an animal hospital or veterinary clinic, veterinary assistants can pursue a career as a veterinary technician, veterinary technologist, or even veterinarian.

Requirements vary for each position. Veterinary technicians have their associate’s degree in veterinary technology or animal science from a school approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Veterinarians possess their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, or D.V.M., from an AVMA-approved institution. Currently, the AVMA has approved more than 40 colleges worldwide as veterinary colleges. Both prospective veterinary technicians and veterinarians must complete a certain number of hours working at an animal facility.

Is This the Right Career for You?

Apart from education and experience, veterinary assistants must love animals. More importantly, veterinary assistants must not only have dedication, but passion for working with animals as well. Working with animals isn’t always a pleasant time. Animals can get sick, become helpless, and even die. For this reason, it’s important vet assistants have a grounded mindset when approaching an emotionally charged situation.

Being a veterinary assistant can be more than taking care of animals. There are times when an animal needs to undergo surgery, in which case, the veterinary assistant might have to stand ready to provide assistance to the veterinary technician and veterinarian. The sight of blood, bones, and feces is not uncommon in the veterinary world. Therefore, veterinary assistants must be prepared and able to approach these situations and focus on helping the veterinarian without distraction so they can focus on the animal.

How to Become a Veterinarian Assistant

Contrary to what many believe, veterinary assistants are in frequent communication with people. Communication skills are a major plus, as the veterinary assistant often has direct contact with pet owners. Being able to thoroughly explain to pet owners of any health problems and effectively communicate with veterinary technicians and veterinarians are essential skills expected in any animal care career.

In addition, veterinary assistants might receive injuries at work. When veterinary assistants restrain animals prior to or during a surgical procedure, they may get bitten or scratched. Veterinary assistants must remember that those aggressive responses are only natural for the animal and, therefore, should not be taken personally. Those who pay close attention to details and have a reliable memory are better at making the right judgment calls and taking preventative measures when needed.Veterinary assistants must also be conscientious. As mentioned above, veterinary assistants are in direct contact with pet owners, but they’re also constantly talking with veterinary technologists and veterinarians. Veterinary assistants must be able to accurately read patient’s charts and pass on that information to the veterinary technician or veterinarian in an efficient manner.

Qualifications employers look for in veterinary assistants include:

  • Compassion
  • Dedication
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication skills
  • Ability to multitask
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Accuracy
  • Honesty
  • Reliable
  • Physical strength

For more information on the physical requirements please visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

Please note that no school can offer any type of guarantee as to whether a graduate will find employment. Animal Behavior College makes no promises or guarantees about employment. 

If you’re interested in becoming a veterinary assistant, please call 800-795-3294 or fill out the form on the right.
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