Becoming a Veterinary Assistant in Florida
If you love animals and have considered working with them as well, a career as a veterinary assistant may be an option for you. Vet assistants are a vital part of veterinary teams. Not only do they work alongside veterinarians and veterinary technicians, they usually have the most contact with the owners of the animals they care for. Some of the duties a veterinary assistant may have to perform include:
- Scheduling appointments
- Answering phone calls
- Managing files and records
- Communicating with pet owners and explaining procedures and treatments
- Feeding and grooming animals
- Restraining animals
- Exercising animals
- Cleaning and sanitizing equipment
- Assisting with procedures and aftercare
- Taking samples and managing labs
There are no educational requirements to work as a veterinary assistant in the state of Florida. Most employers, however, will prefer someone who has at least a high school diploma or GED. Many employers in Florida also prefer to hire assistants who have experience working with animals, so choosing a program that includes some clinical experience may be something to consider.
The state of Florida does not require that veterinary assistants hold national certification as an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA), but having such certification may improve your chances when looking for employment.
Veterinary Assistant Programs in Florida
There are several veterinary assistant programs in Florida, both on campus and online. The Westside campus of Orange Technical College, located in Winter Park, Florida, offers a three-course program consisting of Animal Care Giver, Kennel Tech and Veterinary Assistant. The only educational requirement for this program is that the student must have completed math, reading and language at a ninth-grade level. This program is open to adults and is also offered as dual enrollment, meaning high school juniors and seniors can take these courses while also finishing high school. Adults that pass the first two courses with at least an 80-percent average will be eligible to complete an externship while taking the final course. Tuition for this program is approximately $4,000.00 and that includes books, supplies, parking fees, insurance and the cost of certification.
If you are unable to find an on-campus veterinary assistant program within a reasonable distance from where you live, Penn Foster Career School is an excellent online option. The Penn Foster program covers the following coursework:
- Emergency wound care
- Small and large animal nursing
- Animal behavior, handling and restraint
- Body systems and terminology
- Radiology and surgical preparation
- Veterinary practice administration and procedures
- Nutrition, history and physical examination
This veterinary assistant program also ends in an eight-week externship at the practice of the student’s choosing and can be completed in as little as seven months. The cost of this program is approximately $900, which can be broken down into monthly payments. If tuition is paid in full at the time of enrollment, a discount will be applied. This veterinary assistant program is also approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), meaning those who complete this program will be qualified to take the exam to become a nationally certified AVA.
Veterinary assistants interested in becoming an AVA must first complete a NAVTA-approved program, then pay $100 to take the certification test. After becoming certified as an AVA, certification needs to be renewed every two years by paying a $10 renewal fee and taking 10 continuing education credits.
Finding Employment as a Veterinary Assistant
There are nearly 5,000 veterinary assistants employed in the state of Florida, ranking it third in the United States in terms of employment of veterinary assistants. Vet assistants in Florida currently earn an average of $12.62 per hour and $26,260 annually. However, a veterinary assistant’s salary will depend on a number of things, including experience and location. Veterinary assistants in the cities of Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Melbourne, Palm Bay, Pensacola and Tallahassee have average annual salaries of over $26,000. Those employed in Boca Raton, Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood, Pompano Beach and West Palm Beach reported annual salaries over $29,000.
If you are looking for employment as a veterinary assistant in the state of Florida, there are several places for you to consider. The Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) have over 750 hospitals across the nation and are well known for their distinctive service. These are a few of their Florida locations:
- Coral Springs
- West Miami
Established in 1955 by veterinarian Warren J. Wegert, the Banfield Pet Hospital has over 900 locations in the United States and Puerto Rico. You can find Banfield Pet Hospitals in these Floridian cities:
Many PETCO stores have wellness and vaccination clinics in them, called VETCO clinics. They offer preventative care and vaccinations at low cost. Florida has VETCO clinics in several cities, including:
- Palm Beach Gardens
- North Miami Beach
- Vero Beach
There are also several smaller animal hospitals and privately-owned practices located throughout the state. If you have no prior work experience as a veterinary assistant, volunteering first or taking an internship with a veterinarian may be something for you to consider before applying for jobs.
College and University Listings
1014 SW 7th Rd, Ocala, Florida 34471-3172Veterinary Assisting – Certificate Program
Marion County Community Technical and Adult Education Center’s Certificate-level Veterinary Assisting program is taught at their campus in the city of Ocala, FL. The college has about 381 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. The college’s retention rate for full-time students is over 80%. Fees for tuition are broadly around $2,312 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,506, although this will depend on the program.
955 E Story Rd, Winter Garden, Florida 34787-3733Veterinary Assisting – Certificate Program
Westside Tech’s Certificate-level Veterinary Assisting program is taught at their campus in Winter Garden in Orange County, Florida. Most of the school’s 964 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. Tuition fees are around $3,484 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,077, although this will depend on the program.
10119 East Ellicott Street, Tampa, Florida 33610Veterinary Assisting – Certificate Program
The Certificate program at Aparicio-Levy Technical College can be taken at their campus in Tampa in Hillsborough County, FL. Most of the school’s 181 students are on diploma programs of under two years. The Vet Tech program, with a duration of 750 contact hours, is the college’s largest program. Tuition fees are around $2,370 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $98, 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.