Becoming a Veterinary Assistant in New Jersey
A career in veterinary assisting is a great choice for anyone in New Jersey who loves animals and is thinking about what to do after high school or is interested in changing careers. This work is meaningful for anyone who enjoys being around animals, and helping both animals and the people who care for them. Training to become a veterinary assistant doesn’t take long and is a quick way to get into a new career with a great income.
Veterinary Assisting in New Jersey
Many states define what it means to be a veterinary assistant or a veterinary technician, but New Jersey does not. What a vet assistant is and what they do on the job depends on individual employers. In general, though, veterinary assistants in any state work in veterinary offices, animal hospitals, animal clinics, shelters and laboratories. The duties they are responsible for may include:
- Managing appointments
- Filling prescriptions
- Cleaning and feeding animals
- Exercising animals
- Prepping exam rooms
- Monitoring and taking care of animals after surgery
- Assisting with procedures
- Collecting samples
- Giving medications
How to Become a Veterinary Assistant in New Jersey
New Jersey does not define veterinary assisting or what these professionals can do on the job, nor does it have any requirements for training, education or licensing. Although there are no state-level requirements, most employers look for candidates who have some training or experience with animals and at least a high school diploma or GED. The best candidates are those who have completed a post-secondary training program in veterinary assisting.
New Jersey Veterinary Assistant Programs
In spite of the lack of official requirements for training, New Jersey is home to several schools that offer programs for becoming a veterinary assistant. Most take less than a year to complete and some are even available at technical and vocational high schools. Students still in high school can train to become a veterinary assistant after graduation by completing a program through Bergen County Technical Schools or Morris County Vocational School District.
For high school graduates there are also programs at community colleges. Ocean County College in Toms River offers a 20-week program with classes that meet on weekends for a total tuition cost of $2,499. Mercer County Community College in West Windsor offers a program in four modules. Each module takes about a month to complete and costs $494.
The veterinary assistant program at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft is run in collaboration with Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. Classes take place at the college and the hospital for hands-on instruction. The entire program runs about five months and costs $2,599.
National Certification for Veterinary Assistants in New Jersey
In addition to training to become a veterinary assistant, students in New Jersey also have the opportunity to become certified through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). NAVTA offers an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) certification, which is not required for getting a job, but which proves to employers that an individual has the requisite skills.
Both technical high school programs and the vet assistant programs at Brookdale, Mercer County and Ocean County are NAVTA-approved. This means that students who complete these programs are eligible to take the exam to become AVA certified. Vet assistants who have not completed NAVTA-approved programs must have a specific amount of experience working in the field to qualify for the exam and certification.
The Outlook for Veterinary Assisting Careers in New Jersey
The outlook for careers in veterinary assisting is great across the country. Jobs in this field are growing much faster than in others. The rate of growth between 2016 and 2026 is expected to be 19 percent, with more than 16,000 new jobs available for qualified assistants in all states. This means that those in New Jersey should have their pick of jobs after training.
New Jersey veterinary assistants should also expect to earn a decent living doing what they love. While the national average salary for vet assistants is $25,250 per year, in New Jersey it is $29,740 or $14.30 per hour. With experience, training and certification, vet assistants can earn even more.
There are currently just over 1,500 veterinary assistants working in the state, mostly in veterinary offices or animal hospitals. Some work for rescue groups, like the Humane Society, or for specialty veterinary facilities. Many vet assistants are employed in and around the state’s largest cities: Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Elizabeth.
If you think you would enjoy a career working with animals, but you don’t have the time or money to get a two- or four-year degree, consider becoming a veterinary assistant in New Jersey. With a few months of training and national certification, you should be able to land any job.