What Are the Education Requirements for Veterinary Assistants?

Veterinary assistants work with veterinarians to provide medical treatment and care to a variety of animal species. A high school diploma and on-the-job training is usually enough for this career, although formal education programs do exist. Read on to find out more details about educational requirements for veterinary assistants. Schools offering Veterinary Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

As a veterinary assistant, your main responsibilities would be to take care of animals in a veterinary clinic, zoo, animal shelter or other facility involving animal care. You'd mainly be following orders given by a veterinarian or veterinary technician involving surgical and nursing care, medication administration, routine laboratory procedures and other elements of basic animal care. You might also be in charge of maintaining kennels, examining rooms and operating rooms.

Important Facts About Veterinary Assistants

Continuing EducationRequired every two years to maintain NAVTA certification
Online AvailabilityFull coursework online; practicum/internship onsite
PrerequisitesPhysical stamina, ability to lift up to 50 pounds
Similar OccupationsVeterinary technologist, animal care worker, nursing assistant
Job Outlook (2016-2026)19% (all veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers)
Average Salary (May 2018)$28,690 (all veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinary assistants generally need a high school diploma. (www.bls.gov). Most employers provide on-site training to candidates, though some prefer those who have prior experience with animals. You can also earn a certificate from a veterinary assistant program offered by several universities, community colleges and vocational schools. While formal education might not always be required, it can provide you with the fundamental knowledge and experience to increase your employment opportunities.

Certificate Programs

Veterinary assistant certificate programs consist of 22-32 credit hours of classwork and can usually be completed in one year or less. You can study the fundamentals of animal care, gain basic scientific knowledge regarding many different species of animals and learn how to conduct veterinary clinical procedures. Most veterinary assistant certificate programs require an internship or practicum experience at the culmination of the program to provide hands-on learning in a real-world environment.

Common Courses

Some topics that you might encounter during a certificate program include the following:

  • Veterinary medical terminology
  • Animal anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Restraint techniques
  • Zoonotic diseases
  • Veterinary mathematics
  • Veterinary laboratory processes
  • Office procedures
  • Sterilization of surgical instruments
  • Animal grooming fundamentals

Certification Options

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) credential. To become an AVA, you have to complete a program approved by NAVTA and pass an exam. In addition, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) has certifications for veterinary assistants who have laboratory work experience. Three options include the Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT) and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG) credentials.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, veterinary assistant and laboratory animal caretaker employment is projected to grow 19% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increases in consumers' pet-related spending are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers. The average salary for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers in May 2018 was $28,690, according to the BLS.

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