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.
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.
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.
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||3,900||$13.91||$28,940|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||210||$16.35||$34,000|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||970||$13.77||$28,640|
|San Diego-Carlsbad, CA||1,460||$14.60||$30,370|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||1,700||$16.73||$34,790|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||550||$14.98||$31,160|
|San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA||230||$14.27||$29,680|
|Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA||80||$14.97||$31,140|
|Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA||190||$14.21||$29,560|
|Santa Rosa, CA||200||$14.39||$29,930|
|Yuba City, CA||40||$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.
College and University Listings
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division
- Salinas, CA
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
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.
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.
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.