Becoming a Veterinary Assistant in Massachusetts
Working with animals is a dream job for many. Caring for animals provides both a meaningful and enjoyable career as well as skilled work that leads to a stable income. While becoming a veterinarian or even a veterinary technician requires a lot of education, it is possible to get into a career in veterinary assisting almost immediately.
Veterinary assistants work directly under the supervision of veterinarians and provide assistance with procedures, exams and treatments. They provide basic care for animals, such as exercise and feeding. They also work with pet owners and do administrative work.
How to Become a Veterinary Assistant in Massachusetts
The state of Massachusetts takes a very hands-off approach to veterinary assisting. There are no educational or certification requirements or any listed duties that a veterinary assistant can or cannot perform. It is simply defined by the state as anyone assisting a veterinarian or providing animal care under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.
While a training program is not technically required, it does help to prepare for the job and to get hired by a veterinarian. A program at a vocational school or community college teaches students the basic knowledge and skills necessary for working with animals.
Opportunities for National Certification
While the state of Massachusetts does not have educational or certification requirements for veterinary assistants, there are important benefits of formal training and getting certified, including being qualified for more jobs. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers a certification called Approved Veterinary Assistants, or AVA. There are a few ways to get this certification, including the completion of a NAVTA-approved program.
Completing an approved program qualifies a veterinary assisting student to take the AVA exam to seek certification, but it is not the only way to get access to the exam. Experiential learning can also qualify individuals for the AVA test. Working under a veterinarian in an externship or through a field-based training program can also qualify an individual for the exam.
Massachusetts Veterinary Assistant Programs
Massachusetts has two NAVTA- approved veterinary assistant programs. One program is at Worcester Technical High School in Worcester and is a vocational program for high school students. The program houses a low-cost animal clinic run by the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Students learn to be veterinary assistants through coursework and gain valuable experience in a hands-on setting in the clinic.
Another NAVTA-approved program in Massachusetts is the IVG Hospitals Veterinary Assistant Program for adult students. This program is run by a group of veterinary hospitals with three locations in the state:
- Boston West Veterinary Emergency and Specialty, Natick
- Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital, Woburn
- Bulger Veterinary Hospital, North Andover
The IVG program trains students to become veterinary assistants through hands-on work in the hospitals, providing assistance to veterinarians and vet techs. The program is designed to train students to become certified through the AVA program, but also to prepare them to continue their education with a veterinary technician program.
Working as a Veterinary Assistant in Massachusetts
There are many great opportunities to get hired as a veterinary assistant in Massachusetts, especially in the Boston area where there are many animal hospitals and veterinary practices. There are currently about 1,780 veterinary assistants working in the state, but this is a field that is growing rapidly. Across the country there is an increasing need for dedicated people to work with animals and to assist veterinarians.
In Massachusetts the average salary for veterinary assistants is highly competitive and much higher than the national average. The average hourly rate in the state is $16.78, and the average annual salary is $34,900. This is compared to the national averages of $12.14 per hour and $25,250 annually.
Veterinary Assistant Salaries in Massachusetts by Region
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Barnstable Town, MA||50||$16.01||$33,300|
Demand for veterinary assistants will continue to grow in Massachusetts and around the country over the next several years. Trained animal workers will have the chance to find employment in veterinary offices big and small, in specialty veterinary centers, in large animal hospitals, in educational institutions and in zoos. If you live in Massachusetts and are looking for a rewarding career with animals, consider becoming a veterinary assistant.
College and University Listings
Berkshire Community College offers multiple training options, including a Certificate program and an Associate program. All programs are offered at their campus in Pittsfield in Berkshire County. The majority of of the school’s 2,230 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is in the order of $4,866 and for students from outside the state around $10,482 for each academic year, while books and supplies may cost roughly $1,009, although this varies from program to 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.
Massachusetts residents have further educational options in the neighboring states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont. You can find vet technician programs in Massachusetts here.