What Kind of Education Do You Need to Become a Veterinary Assistant?

There are many great reasons to consider a career as a veterinary assistant. You would get to work with both animals and people, making a difference in lives every day; there is high demand in this field, so you would enjoy job stability and have your choice of positions; and there are few to no requirements for education and training, so this is a career you can get into quickly to start working and earning sooner.

Veterinary Assistant Roles and Requirements Are Defined by States

Exactly what a vet assistant can and cannot do on the job is outlined by each individual state, although some states do not make any official definition of the role. In general, these professionals are considered to be the people who work in veterinary settings but are not licensed veterinary technicians. They assist vet techs and veterinarians and may be able to perform limited duties or procedures without direct supervision.

While many of the duties and responsibilities of veterinary assistants are outlined in state laws, no states have set out specific requirements for education, training or licensing. This means that what you need to be hired in this role depends entirely on each individual employer. Some may hire only those vet assistants who have completed a post-secondary educational program, while others may require national certification. Others will hire anyone with a high school diploma who is willing to train on the job.

Veterinary Assistant Education Programs

Although it may not be required, completing a veterinary assistant program is a good way to get started in a career working with animals. These programs typically confer diplomas or certificates rather than degrees, and as such they take less than a year to complete, often only a few months. The coursework will give you a solid foundational knowledge in animal anatomy, basic veterinary care, medications, procedures, animal care, animal behavior and veterinary office procedures.

National Certification and Approved Programs

To take your education to the next level, you may also want to consider getting certified. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, or NAVTA, certifies both vet techs and assistants. The Approved Veterinary Assistant program (AVA) gives you credibility and proves to employers that you are already trained to work in the field.

NAVTA requires that you earn a diploma or certificate from an approved educational program before being considered for AVA. Their website lists approved veterinary assistant programs that include both campus and online courses. Once you complete one of these programs, you will be eligible to take the AVA exam. With a passing score you will be certified.

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Training on the Job

An alternative to getting an education or working toward certification is to train on the job to become a veterinary assistant. To do so you will need to find a veterinarian who is willing to hire someone with no training or background working with animals. You will likely need to show that, at a minimum, you have a high school diploma or GED.

You will then be trained on the job by a veterinarian and probably also by veterinary technicians. This is a great option if you need to get to work and start earning immediately. But a downside is that it may be more difficult to find a veterinary office willing to hire and train a new vet assistant.

The lack of official requirements for education for veterinary assistants in all states means that you have options. You can choose how best to approach this new career by enrolling in a post-secondary program, becoming nationally certified or by training on the job. Regardless of how you get there, if you love animals you will enjoy your new career as a veterinary assistant.

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