When looking to begin your career as a veterinary assistant you have to start by finding the best training program for your specific needs. The right course will give you all the information you need in order to start working as soon as you complete the course.
All of the accredited programs will generally teach you the same types of things. You’ll learn procedural techniques, medical terminology, animal breed identification and information, administrative duties and other skills, taught by industry professionals who know the ropes. With a number of programs available throughout Illinois as well as on the internet, you have plenty of options to choose from. The most important thing is to find a training program that is properly accredited and fits your personal needs.
Job Criteria and Program Basics
As a veterinary assistant, you’ll be asked to do everything from answering the phones, managing the files, taking care of the animals and interacting with clients. If working in a veterinarian office, you need to be able to handle administrative duties as well as be ready to jump in to help with procedures and exams. If you end up working in another type of animal facility, like a zoo, kennel or with a grooming company, your duties may differ, and more or less might be expected of you. No matter where you end up working, though, you can be confident that you’ll know everything you need thanks to your training program.
While there are a lot of different courses available in Illinois and on the internet that offer their own structures, there are some generalities that prepare you for what to expect from the course you end up choosing. A typical course lasts for 100 to 300 hours that are usually spread over a period of weeks or months, with some taking multiple semesters to complete. In general, these programs are split into in-class sessions and then a hands-on section where you’ll be able to put all of the information to work in an actual facility. Even online classes usually offer this hands-on training through externships.
In terms of pricing, training programs tend to run from $1,000 to $3,000 when offered through a physical location. Online classes are usually cheaper, ranging from $500 to $2,000. While some programs include books and materials in that overall cost, most programs tend to charge separate fees for those things, with the base price only covering tuition for the course. Some courses, especially those offered by colleges, offer financial aid or payment plans to help make paying for the program easier.
The perhaps seemingly expensive training is worthwhile, since the average salary for a veterinary assistant in Illinois is around $27,000 a year. More experienced employees can earn over $30,000 a year. If you find work in a larger city, you can expect a similar salary even without previous experience.
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL||130||$11.44||$23,800|
|St. Louis, MO-IL||870||$12.18||$25,340|
Some of the available training programs in Illinois are located at:
- College of Lake County in Grayslake
- Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills
- McHenry County College in Crystal Lake
There are, again, online classes you can take as well. Compare your options and see what program fits your needs the best before choosing one.
Educational Requirements to Begin Training and Work
Illinois currently does not have any minimum education requirements to become a veterinary assistant. However, most employers want their assistants to have at least a high school diploma or a GED equivalency. Most programs given by colleges do require you to have the same before enrolling in a course, but there are some that do not.
In terms of job requirements, there are no state-required licenses or certifications to begin working. You will, however, receive a completion certificate when you finish your individual program. There is also a national certification known as the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) certificate offered by NAVTA (National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America). This isn’t required, either, but it can help you request a higher salary or help you get a job faster or with more prestigious companies. More so, you’ll be able to find work in other states since this is a national designation.
In order to get an AVA, you have to take a NAVTA-approved course and pass the exam. The exam costs an additional $100 every time you take it (if you don’t pass it the first time). Once you pass the test, you’ll get your AVA certificate and can begin working anywhere in the US. In order to maintain your certification, you’ll have to renew it every two years by paying a $10 renewal fee and taking continuing education courses. You can find online NAVTA programs through their website or take one of the two NAVTA-approved courses in Illinois through McHenry County College or College of Lake County.
Wherever you decide to go for your training, upon completion you can expect to work in places like:
- Veterinary Centers of America (multiple locations in Illinois)
- Banfield Pet Hospital (multiple locations in Illinois)
- Vetco Wellness Centers in Petco (multiple locations in Illinois)
You’ll also be able to find work through local veterinarian offices, animal hospitals, zoos and similar facilities throughout the state.
Knowing all that you do now about veterinary assistant training programs in Illinois you can start your journey toward your new career. Remember, compare all of your options before making a final decision and always check a program’s credentials.