If you live in California and are looking to start a career as a veterinary assistant, begin by finding the right program. The best program will be taught by professionals in the industry and teach you everything you need to know to launch your career. You’ll learn procedural techniques, how to handle equipment and chemicals, breed identification and information, medical terminology and more. Luckily, California has plenty of different programs to choose from. Each has their own benefits but be sure you choose a properly accredited curriculum that offers all of the information you’ll need to launch your career as a veterinary assistant.
Job Criteria and Program Basics
Veterinary assistants are heavily relied upon no matter where they work. You need to be versatile and trustworthy in order to do the job properly. As a vet assistant, you’ll have to interact with the clients and their pets regularly. You’ll need to feed and care for all the animals, prepare for surgical procedures and normal examinations, keep the equipment clean, maintain office records, groom the animals and perform other office duties. A proper program will teach you everything you need to know to do each aspect of the job correctly once you’re out in the field.
All programs are unique in terms of their length and cost. In general, most programs take anywhere from 100 to 240 hours to complete. This can span weeks or months depending on the program. As for the cost, physical classes in institutions can range from around $1,000 up to $3,000. Online courses are usually more affordable, starting around $500 and increasing to as much as $2,000. There are usually additional costs for books, especially for the physical classes. Similarly, those physical classes might require you to purchase a uniform or other materials. There are also, generally, hands-on requirements that will be done in laboratories or actually in the field through on-the-job training.
There are plenty of program options across California. Some of the schools that offer training courses for veterinary assistants are:
- Modesto Junior College in Modesto, California
- Animal Behavior College (online course)
- Pima Medical Institute-Chula Vista in Chula Vista, California
Always compare programs regarding the cost, length and what they offer when looking for the right one for you.
Salaries for Veterinary Assistants
While the courses might seem a little pricey, they’re usually worth it in the end as the average veterinary assistant in California makes close to $30,000 a year. In bigger cities like San Francisco, you can earn over $40,000 a year. More so, job openings for veterinary assistants seem to be on the rise.
|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|
Educational Requirements to Begin Training and Work
While the state of California has not set a statewide mandatory program for veterinary assistants, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) does offer a special certification for veterinary assistants who complete their own program first. This is through their Certified Veterinary Assistant program.
These programs are only available for veterinary assistants who have already completed their training through an approved program. The CVMA option is offered through veterinary hospitals, some high schools and technical colleges. You’ll learn basic skills and will then need to pass competency exams. There is also an option that is like an apprenticeship and offered with on-site training. At the end of the program, you’ll have to pass the approved veterinary assistant (AVA) examination.
The AVA is a national certification that you can obtain by taking and passing a NAVTA (National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America) accredited program. The test costs $100 with a $10 renewal fee due every two years. It isn’t necessary to get this certification in order to work as a vet assistant in California, but people who do get it can usually demand a higher salary or work with larger employers like big animal hospitals. The certification is nationally recognized, too. This gives you the opportunity to move out of state and still work in your chosen career. NAVTA programs can be found online, as there aren’t a lot of physical locations that offer them.
After you finish your training and certifications, you can find work in a variety of places including:
- The Veterinary Centers of America (120 locations in California)
- Vetco Wellness Centers in Petco (locations throughout the state)
- Banfield Pet Hospital (locations across the country)
The CVMA, besides offering certification programs, also hires their own veterinary assistants, so you can potentially work there, too. Of course, you’ll be able to find work at local kennels, vet offices, pet hospitals, groomers and even zoos in your own city.
With all of this information at your fingertips, you can find the veterinary assistant program right for you and begin your successful career. Remember, you have a lot of options choose the program that fits all of your personal needs.
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 90746-7323Veterinary Assistant – Certificate Program
The Certificate program at California Healing Arts College is offered at their campus in the city of Carson, CA. The college has around 44 students in total, with most students on programs that last under 2 years. The cost of tuition for the Vet Tech program is broadly about $16,910 for each academic year. Usually, the program is completed in 8 months.
480 S Main Street, Salinas, California 93901-3301Veterinary Assistant – Certificate Program
The Certificate program at Central Coast College is based at their campus in the city of Salinas, California. The majority of of the school’s 276 students are on diploma programs of under two years. Tuition fees for the Vet Tech program are usually around $12,800 yearly. Typically, the program is completed in 9 months.
12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos Hills, California 94022Veterinary Assisting – Associate Program
Foothill College’s Associate-level Veterinary Assisting program is offered at their campus in Los Altos Hills in Santa Clara County, California. This public college has in the region of 15,030 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Tuition fees for in-state students are generally around $1,551 and for out-of-state students approximately $8,391 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,764, although this will depend on 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.