Becoming an Veterinary Assistant in Arkansas
Veterinary assistants are individuals who care for and treat animals, as well as perform some administrative skills, while working under the supervision of a veterinarian or veterinary technician. They are employed mainly in animal hospitals and clinics but can also be found working in animal shelters, zoos and wildlife parks. Veterinary assistants usually have the most contact with pet owners as they schedule and manage appointments and explain procedures and treatments. Other duties they might perform include:
- Answering phone calls
- Managing files and records
- Taking vital signs of animals
- Feeding and grooming animals
- Restraining animals during exams and procedures
- Exercising animals
- Cleaning and sanitizing equipment and exam rooms
- Assisting with procedures and aftercare
- Taking samples and managing labs
There are no educational requirements to become a veterinary assistant in Arkansas, but most employers require that their employees have at least a high school diploma or GED. Most skills can be learned firsthand through working the job itself. However, there are numerous veterinary assistant training programs available that can teach the job skills beforehand and give students a chance to perform an externship in a veterinary practice. This experience will be advantageous when looking for employment.
Veterinary Assistant Programs and National Certification in Arkansas
Petra Allied Health has campuses in Springdale and Fort Smith, Arkansas, and has a veterinary assistant program that can be completed in as little as two months. Students must be 16 years of age to enroll in this program; however most veterinary establishments require that their employees be at least 18. The Petra veterinary assistant program consists of 72 credit hours. Forty-eight of those hours are spent in the classroom and lab, and the remaining 24 hours are completed as an externship. Coursework includes: basic anatomy, handling and restraining animals, dressing and bandaging wounds, and basic surgical techniques and preparation. This program costs a little over $1000, and that includes tuition, books, registration fee, lab fee and uniform.
If an on-campus program is not a viable option for you, Penn Foster Career School is a considerable online option. The Penn Foster veterinary assistant program can be completed in approximately seven months, ending in an eight-week externship at a veterinary practice. The following coursework is covered: wound care, animal behavior, small and large animal nursing, animal handling and restraint, medical terminology, surgical preparation and radiology. Tuition for this program is approximately $900. This can be paid in monthly installments or paid in full at the time of registration. A discount will apply to tuition that is paid in full.
Another positive aspect of the Penn Foster program is that it is approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). Students who complete a NAVTA-approved program automatically qualify to take the test to become nationally certified as an approved veterinary assistant (AVA). There is a $100 fee to take the exam, and students will gain national certification once they pass the test.
For students who wish to become an AVA but have already taken a veterinary assistant program that is not NAVTA approved, there are still a couple of options available. If a student completes an externship, whether through another program or on their own, this training by a licensed veterinarian will enable them to be qualified to take the AVA certification exam. For those who are already employed as a veterinary assistant, whether part or full time, working in a veterinary practice for 20 hours a week or more will qualify them to take the exam.
Once a veterinary assistant receives AVA certification, they must renew it every two years to remain certified. A $10 recertification fee will apply, as well as proof of continued education (at least 10 credits).
Finding Work as a Veterinary Assistant in Arkansas
The average hourly salary for a veterinary assistant in Arkansas is $11.25. The mean annual salary is $23,400. The actual salary will depend on several things, including the employee’s work or volunteer experience, if they are an AVA, and location. Veterinary assistants in the cities of Bentonville, Fayetteville, Pine Bluff, Rogers, Springdale and Texarkana report average salaries of more than $26,000. The annual salaries of veterinary assistants in the cities of Conway, Jacksonville, Jonesboro and Little Rock average at about $27,000.
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Fort Smith, AR-OK||50||$11.70||$24,340|
|Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR||310||$9.62||$20,010|
When looking for employment as a veterinary assistant in Arkansas, there are a couple of larger hospitals to consider. Banfield Pet Hospital is a nationally known veterinary establishment with over 900 animal hospitals located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. There is a Banfield Pet Hospital located in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Jonesboro Family Pet Hospital in Jonesboro, Arkansas, is another employer to consider. Jonesboro Family Pet Hospital has been in business for over 30 years and is one of the leading veterinary hospitals in northeastern Arkansas.
Veterinary assistants may also be able to find employment at other privately owned practices and smaller animal hospitals and clinics throughout the state. Those without prior work experience who have not completed an externship may want to consider volunteer work or an internship, since most veterinary practices prefer employees who have some experience working with animals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of veterinary assistants in Arkansas at this time is low compared to most states (less than 510). This is good news for aspiring veterinary assistants, especially those with training, experience or certification. With the number of veterinary assistants in Arkansas projected to grow by nine percent over the next six years, now would be a good time for those considering a career in this field to enroll in a training program or seek employment.