Becoming a Veterinary Assistant in Puerto Rico

Veterinary assistants are responsible for some administrative and clinical tasks in animal hospitals and clinics, and may also assist on calls to farms and private homes. They work with veterinarians to help treat the injuries and illnesses of various animals. Bathing, feeding and exercising animals form part of their duties, in addition to cleaning and disinfecting cages, examination rooms and surgical equipment.

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Veterinary assistants also help with immunizations and sample collection, examinations, answering phones and scheduling patient appointments. At times they will have to restrain patients and act as an attendant, orderly and clinical aide for the animals under their care. They will also be called on to assist the veterinarian to prepare patients for surgery and to monitor their progress during and after their procedures.

There are not any specific requirements to become a veterinary assistant in Puerto Rico. Most employers may opt for employees who are at least 18 years of age and who have a high school diploma or GED. Certification is not required but could potentially work to your advantage when seeking employment.

Veterinary Assistant Schools in Puerto Rico

Completing a veterinary assistant training program to work in Puerto Rico is not required, but it will provide you with experience and teach a lot of the basic skills you will need to know once employed in a veterinary setting. If you are interested in enrolling in a vet assistant program, you have a few options.

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PPG Technical College, located in Caguas, offers a veterinary assistant program that can be completed in 40 weeks. Coursework includes primary animal nursing, nutrition, animal restraint and pharmacology. Total cost for this program is approximately $8,000, and this includes tuition, fees, books and supplies. This program has a 64-percent job placement rate.

EDIC College has campuses in Bayamon, Caguas and Carolina. Coursework includes performing lab tests and X-rays, grooming techniques, animal nutrition and dentistry, caring for farm animals, business development and customer service. The program lasts about 16 weeks and includes clinical practice as well as classroom instruction. The total cost of the program is $14,500. This cost includes tuition and fees, as well as books and supplies. The EDIC program has a 57-percent job placement rate.

National Certification

Just as it is not required to complete any formal training to work as a veterinary assistant in Puerto Rico, national certification is not required either. But being certified would give you an advantage when seeking employment. Veterinary assistants who are nationally certified are called Approved Veterinary Assistants (AVA).

There are a couple of different ways to become an AVA in Puerto Rico. Completing a veterinary assistant program that is approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) is the first. None of the vet assistant programs offered in Puerto Rico are NAVTA approved at this time. However, Penn Foster Career School has an online veterinary assistant program that is NAVTA approved. This program can be completed in seven months and includes an externship that lasts eight weeks and can be done at a local animal hospital or clinic. Tuition for this program is $900, and a monthly payment system is offered. Once the program is completed, students can then pay $100 to take the certification test.

Veterinary assistants who have not completed a NAVTA-approved program can still qualify to take the AVA certification test. They would just need to volunteer, intern or be employed for at least 20 hours a week at a licensed veterinary practice.

If you do choose to become an AVA, you will need to renew that certification every two years. A $10 renewal fee plus proof of continued education will apply.

Career Outlook for Veterinary Assistants in Puerto Rico

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary of a veterinary assistant in Puerto Rico is $20,070. However, actual salary is likely to be lower than the bureau reports and will depend on several things including the employer, location, work experience, education and certification.

Veterinary Assistant Salaries in Puerto Rico by Region

AreaTotal EmployedAverage Hourly WageAverage Annual Salary
San Juan-Carolina-Caguas, PR300$9.43$19,600

Veterinary assistants in Puerto Rico may find employment in animal hospitals, clinics, privately owned practices and even farms. Banfield Pet Hospitals are nationally known for their veterinary service and have several locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. There are four Banfield hospitals in Puerto Rico. They can be found in Bayamón, Caguas, Guaynabo and South San Juan. There are also several 24-hour emergency animal clinics throughout Puerto Rico that you might take into consideration when looking for work.

Good job opportunities exist within this field, partially due to high turnover. At present there are approximately 330 veterinary assistants working in Puerto Rico, and this number is expected to increase by nine percent over the next six years.

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