On the frontiers of Alaska there are always opportunities, and that includes opportunities to find work as a veterinary assistant. If you love animals and would like to help care for them when they’re sick or injured, becoming a veterinary assistant in Alaska could be your ticket to fulfillment.
In raw numbers, there number of people in Alaska working as veterinary assistants is small (less than 200). But with demand for veterinary assistants expected to grow by double-digit percentages over the next few years, men and women with advanced training should have legitimate chances to break into this in-demand profession.
Alaska Veterinary Assistant Training Programs
As a sparsely populated state, Alaska has a limited number of veterinary assistant training programs to serve aspiring students. However, admittance to the programs that do exist is not difficult to secure, and there are online training programs for Alaska residents as well that cater to people who require a flexible schedule.
Two on-campus training programs are available in Anchorage, through the private Charter College Alaska and the public University of Alaska-Anchorage. This is the state’s largest city and the location where half of Alaska’s veterinary assistants are employed.
Veterinary training programs usually require somewhere between 100 and 240 hours of classroom study plus hands-on training, the latter of which is essential for students who must learn everything there is to know about the complex demands of the veterinary profession. Programs can usually be completed in 12 months or less, and certifications will generally be given at the end of the training to signify the student’s qualifications to become a veterinary assistant.
Costs for veterinary assistant training programs normally run from $1,500 to $3,000, but prices for education (and other goods and services) tend to be higher than the national average in Alaska. Costs will likely be less if you choose an online program, and of course this option would be ideal if you are living in Alaska for only part of the year.
The Value of National Certification
Veterinary assistants in Alaska are only required to possess a high school diploma or GED to qualify for employment. But advanced training plus certification is desirable, and those who acquire it have better chances for employment.
One way to gain certification is to complete coursework at a school approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), which can only be done online in Alaska. After completing their programs of study, students can take the national NAVTA vet assistant certification test (for $100), and if they pass they will receive a certificate that grants them official recognition as an Approved Veterinary Assistant.
The second option to obtain certification is to combine direct experience with the NAVTA national examination. The three possibilities for prospective candidates who choose this approach are:
- Externship. Non-employed individuals can gain credit for on-the-job training, assuming they can if they find a licensed veterinarian willing to employ them.
- Experiential learning. Credit is given to those already working half-time as a vet assistant.
- Veterinary assistant employment. Those who are currently working full-time as a vet assistant can also receive permission to take the NAVTA exam, which can help qualify them for better positions.
Once the national NAVTA exam has been passed, the candidate will be certified as an Approved Veterinary Assistant, meaning they possess outstanding qualifications for employment. To stay current AVA designations must be renewed every two years, and to obtain renewal the applicant must continue working as a vet assistant or taking classes to deepen their knowledge of the profession.
Salaries for Veterinary Assistants
The median annual salary for Alaskan veterinary assistants is $30,730, with somewhat higher pay scales for those employed in the cities of Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. Most vet assistants in Alaska work at private clinics and animal hospitals in these three cities, but if you would prefer something more adventurous there are some interesting opportunities available in more remote villages.
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Job Prospects for Veterinary Assistants in Alaska
In the entire state of Alaska there are approximately 120 individuals working as veterinary assistants. This number is low but is expected to expand by 10-20 percent over the next several years, and offering more motivation for prospective candidates is the fact that salaries for vet assistants in Alaska are well above average.
Competition for veterinary assistant jobs in Alaska may become more heated in the years to come. However, if you enroll in a quality training program, either online or on-campus, and complete your studies and gain some type of certification, your prospects for finding employment will be considerably enhanced.
College and University Listings
3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508Veterinary Assisting – Certificate Program
The University of Alaska Anchorage’s Certificate-level Veterinary Assisting program is offered at their campus in the city of Anchorage. Of the 17,151 students, about 5% are postgraduates. The University of Alaska Anchorage has institutional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is about $5,545 and for students from other states around $17,177 for each academic year. Study materials can cost roughly $1,440, depending on the program chosen. Students will learn the fundamentals required for the care, treatment and management of both the animals as patients and people as clients.
505 South Chandalar Drive, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7500Veterinary Assisting – Certificate Program
The Veterinary Assisting Certificate program at University of Alaska Fairbanks is offered at their campus in Fairbanks in Fairbanks North Star County. This is a full, 4-year public college with 8,620 students, of which 87% are undergraduates. The University of Alaska Fairbanks has institutional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Fees for tuition for in-state students are likely to be in the order of $5,674 and for students from outside the state likely to be about $17,303 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $1,400, although this varies from program to program. Students learn the fundamentals of good customer service, communication skills and the essentials of clerical responsibilities. They further learn the fundamental skills of proper handling, nutrition and nursing care for both large and small animals and are introduced to clinical patient management and laboratory procedures.
* Tuition fees and accredition status are correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/). Confirm with college before applying.
You can find vet technician programs in Alaska here.