Becoming an Veterinary Assistant in California

Veterinary assistants work with veterinarians and veterinary technicians to care for animals. They feed, bathe and exercise animals. They help restrain the animals while they’re being treated and help with their aftercare. Veterinary assistants also sanitize and sterilize surgical equipment and exam rooms, clean cages, and collect lab samples. Additionally, some clerical duties may be required, such as taking calls, managing appointments and records, and discharging clients.

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While most employers may prefer to hire veterinary assistants who have at least a high school diploma or GED, there are no specific educational requirements for becoming a veterinary assistant in the state of California. However, completing a veterinary assisting program may work to your advantage, as employers are more likely to hire someone with at least some veterinary awareness and experience. Experience may also be preferred.

Veterinary Assistant Programs in California

There are several California colleges that offer veterinary assistant programs, both online and on campus. The Chula Vista campus of PIMA Medical Institute in San Diego has a veterinary assistant program that can be completed in nine months. In this program students will learn how to provide animals with preventative healthcare, collect lab samples, administer medication, assist with surgeries, record medical information and much more. The program consists of 30 credit hours including a clinical externship.

Yuba College has a veterinary assistant certificate program that can be taken completely online. Through online discussions, video presentations and textbooks, students will learn veterinary terminology, animal behavior, restraint and grooming, bookkeeping skills and medical assisting. The Yuba veterinary assistant program can be completed in one year. Tuition is free for residents of California. Other fees may apply, including the cost of textbooks. Textbooks can be purchased used or even rented.

Featured School

Penn Foster College – Veterinary Assistant Program

  • NAVTA-Approved Veterinary Assistant Program
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  • Call 1-800-851-1819 today.

OC Veterinary Assistant School (OCVAS) in Orange County is committed to educating aspiring and current veterinary professionals. This school is owned and operated by veterinarians and registered vet techs. There are three levels of classes at OCVAS: veterinary attendant, veterinary assistant and the alternate route.

The veterinary attendant program is for entry-level students who have little to no experience working with animals. They will be taught the basic skills of working with animals and complete an internship at a local veterinary hospital while taking classes. Graduates of this program are also given job placement assistance.

The veterinary assistant classes are for students who are currently working in a veterinary office but have not completed any other certificate programs. There are six classes in this program.

The last program, referred to as the alternate route, is for students who are planning on becoming a veterinary technician. Students must take this program before applying to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). More advanced veterinary medicine classes are taught in this program.

To find out more about these programs, including cost and duration, prospective students can fill out a contact form on the school’s website or schedule an admissions appointment.

National Certification for Veterinary Assistants

Just like it is not required for veterinary assistants in California to complete any specific educational training or certificate programs, national certification is not a requirement to find work, either. However, becoming nationally certified as an approved veterinary assistant (AVA) may increase one’s chances of becoming employed.

To become certified as an AVA in the state of California, one must first complete a veterinary assistant program that is approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), complete an internship or externship at a veterinary practice, or be employed at least 20 hours a week by a licensed veterinarian. Once a student has done any of these, they will then pay a $100 fee to take the certification test. If they pass the test, they will receive national certification as an AVA.

There are no campuses that offer NAVTA approved veterinary assistant programs in California. However, Penn Foster Career School has an outstanding online program that is NAVTA approved. Coursework includes animal behavior, handling and restraint, body systems and terminology, and veterinary practice administration and procedures. The Penn Foster program can be completed in seven months and ends with an eight-week externship at a local veterinary practice. This program costs approximately $900. Tuition can be made in monthly payments, but if it is paid in full at the time of enrollment a discount will be applied.

Once someone becomes an AVA, they need to renew their certification every two years by paying a $10 renewal fee and taking at least 10 continuing education credits.

Veterinary Assistant Certification California

Veterinary assistants In California may be able to find work in many environments, such as private veterinary clinics, animal hospitals, animal shelters and zoos. The Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) and Banfield Pet Hospitals are nationally known veterinary establishments with hundreds of hospitals and clinics throughout the United States. There are over 100 VCA clinics in California, and Banfield Pet Hospitals are located in the cities of Bakersfield, Clovis and Fresno. Most PETCO stores have animal wellness and vaccination clinics inside of them called VETCO clinics. There are VETCOs in over 150 California cities, including Bakersfield, Claremont, Fresno, Hollywood, Modesto and Sacramento.

The mean hourly wage for veterinary assistants in California is $13.59, and the mean annual salary is $28,260. However, more than 80 California cities have veterinary assistants that reported average annual salaries of more than $29,000. The cities of Fresno, Visalia, Chico and Lompoc, you’ll find average salaries of $29,000 – $30,000 yearly. Veterinary assistants in Fremont, Santa Clara and San Francisco report average annual salaries between $35,000 and $36,000.

Veterinary Assistant Salaries in California by Region

AreaTotal EmployedAverage Hourly WageAverage Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA190$13.79$28,680
Chico, CA130$12.35$25,690
Fresno, CA**$13.85$28,800
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA3,900$13.91$28,940
Merced, CA70$13.10$27,250
Modesto, CA160$11.77$24,480
Napa, CA90$14.10$29,320
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA210$16.35$34,000
Redding, CA60$13.19$27,440
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA970$13.77$28,640
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA660$13.48$28,030
Salinas, CA110$13.80$28,710
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA1,460$14.60$30,370
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA1,700$16.73$34,790
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA550$14.98$31,160
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA230$14.27$29,680
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA80$14.97$31,140
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA190$14.21$29,560
Santa Rosa, CA200$14.39$29,930
Stockton-Lodi, CA70$13.78$28,670
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA100$15.54$32,320
Visalia-Porterville, CA70$13.04$27,120
Yuba City, CA40$13.05$27,130

There are currently more than 11,000 veterinary assistants employed in the state of California. That number is expected to increase by 19 percent over the next six years.

A veterinary assistant is a rewarding job for someone who enjoys working with animals. Little training or experience is required, but certified veterinary assistants with at least some experience working with animals may find more options available to them when looking for employment.

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College and University Listings

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division Area

California Healing Arts College

500 East Carson Plaza Drive, Suite 103, Carson, California 90746-7323
Veterinary Assistant – Certificate Program

California Healing Arts College’s Certificate-level Veterinary Assistant program is offered at their campus in the city of Carson, CA. Most of the school’s 44 students are on diploma programs of under two years. Tuition fees for the Vet Tech program are around $16,910 for each academic year. Typically, the program is completed in 8 months.

Salinas, CA Area

Central Coast College

480 S Main Street, Salinas, California 93901-3301
Veterinary Assistant – Certificate Program

Central Coast College’s Certificate program is taught at their campus in the city of Salinas. The college has round 276 students in total, with the majority of students on programs that last under 2 years. Tuition fees for the Vet Tech program are around $12,800 for each academic year. The typical program completion time is 9 months.

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Area

Foothill College

12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Veterinary Assisting – Associate Program

The Veterinary Assisting Associate’s degree program at Foothill College can be taken at their campus in Los Altos Hills in Santa Clara County, CA. The majority of of the school’s 15,030 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The cost of tuition for in-state students is usually in the order of $1,551 and for students from outside the state in the order of $8,391 per year. Learning materials may cost in the order of $1,764, although this will vary with the program.

* 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.

Other Options

See also the neighbor states of Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. You can find vet technician programs in California here.