If you have always wanted to work with and help animals, but you aren’t interested in going to school for as long as it takes to become a veterinarian, you have another option. Veterinary assistants get to work hands-on with animals, alongside veterinarians and technicians.
To become a veterinary assistant, you need to have a love for animals and at least a high school education. You may choose to complete a veterinary assistant post-secondary program, but you can also learn on the job, through hands-on experience. While an advanced degree or diploma is not required in Iowa, it is a great way to get the skills needed to be a veterinary assistant and to get a leg up over other candidates for jobs.
How to Become a Veterinary Assistant in Iowa
Iowa has no requirements for veterinary assistants. This means it is not necessary to get a certificate in veterinary assistance or to become certified or licensed. However, it does help to have training in the field in order to be hired. After completing a high school diploma, or GED, students can attend a short program at a technical college, community college or vocational school. Some students may choose attend these programs while still in high school to be ready to land a position right after graduating.
Iowa Veterinary Assistant Programs
Although a training program is not required, there are a few veterinary assistant academic programs in the state for those interested in a career working with animals. These programs typically are not degree-granting but do end with a diploma or certificate. They include courses like veterinary terminology, administration skills, basic animal health and handling, animal anatomy and other relevant subjects.
Iowa programs for veterinary assistants usually include about 40 credit hours of coursework. The classes are taught by experienced vet assistants or technicians and include both direct instruction and hands-on work with animals. Most students can complete these programs in six months to one year, depending on how many courses they are able to take at one time. Some of the veterinary assistant programs in Iowa are at:
- Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City
- Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo
- Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids
National Certification for Veterinary Assistants
To work as a veterinary assistant in Iowa you do not need to be certified through the state or through any professional organization. It does help, though, to have some level of certification, as it makes you a more desirable candidate for a job when employers are comparing resumes and experience.
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, or NAVTA, is a nationwide organization that offers a certification called Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA). To get this certification you must either enroll in and complete a program approved by NAVTA and then pass an examination, or use an alternative pathway if an approved program is not available near you.
Alternative paths to AVA certification include going through a high school vocational program for veterinary assistance. These students take vocational courses along with regular high school classes and can then apply for AVA certification. Another way to get certified is to get some job experience first. This will qualify you to take the AVA exam.
AVA certification, once achieved, must be renewed every two years to remain valid. The cost of renewal is just $10, but vet assistants must prove that they have been keeping up to date by taking continuing education courses.
Job Prospects for Veterinary Assistants in Iowa
Across the country, job growth in the field of veterinary assisting is strong. The number of jobs is growing at a rate of 19 percent, which is much faster than average job growth. While requirements for the job vary by state, getting training in Iowa and achieving certification for NAVTA prepares you to work nearly anywhere in the U.S.
In Iowa, there are approximately 820 people working as veterinary assistants. The number of jobs is expected to continue to grow in the state, along with the national trend. Currently, the average hourly pay for a vet assistant in Iowa is $12.68, and the average annual salary is $26,380.
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Cedar Rapids, IA||160||$11.91||$24,780|
|Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL||130||$11.44||$23,800|
|Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA||100||$11.81||$24,560|
|Iowa City, IA||50||$12.82||$26,670|
|Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA||**||$13.68||$28,450|
There are many opportunities for trained and dedicated veterinary assistants in Iowa. Large animal hospitals, smaller private practices, rural veterinary practices, and even laboratories and zoos need these professionals who are able and willing to care for animals under the supervision of veterinarians.
College and University Listings
4647 Stone Ave, Sioux City, Iowa 51102-5199Veterinary Assistant – Certificate Program
The Certificate program at Western Iowa Tech Community College can be taken at their campus in the city of Sioux City. Most of the school’s 6,399 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission. The cost of tuition for in-state students is about $4,104 and for students from other states in the order of $4,128 per year. Learning materials may cost in the order of $1,224, 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.