Becoming an Veterinary Assistant in South Dakota
Would you like to have a career working with animals, but don’t want to spend years in veterinary school? A job in veterinary assisting may be what you are looking for. Veterinary assistants work side-by- side with veterinarians and veterinary technicians to care for and treat animals.
Veterinary assistant work requirements will vary by state. The state of South Dakota does not have any specific guidelines for working as a veterinary assistant; therefore, job requirements will most likely be determined by the veterinarian they work for. Veterinary assistant responsibilities might include cleaning and sterilizing exam rooms and surgical equipment, cleaning, grooming, feeding and exercising animals, restraining animals, assisting during exams and surgical procedures, explaining procedures and treatments to pet owners, filing records, managing appointments and answering calls.
Most of these skills can easily be learned on the job; however, having training or experience working with animals may increase your chances of being hired. South Dakota does not have any educational requirements for working as a veterinary assistant, but most employers will prefer potential employees who have a high school diploma or GED. Completing a veterinary assistant education program can help familiarize you with the necessary skills, as well as give you work experience through externships.
Veterinary Assistant Programs in South Dakota
If you are looking to enroll in a veterinary assistant program in South Dakota, you have a couple of options. The Rapid City location of National American University has a veterinary assistant program that can be completed in one year. This program consists of 53 credit hours. Coursework includes some general education classes as well as courses specific to veterinary assisting such as: medical terminology, basic animal anatomy, principles of animal care, basic clinical procedures, and veterinary office and hospital management. There are several NAU campuses, and tuition varies at each one. Contacting the admissions office is the best way to get an idea of program costs. Textbooks and supplies are not included in tuition costs. Financial aid and scholarships are available.
Penn Foster Career School online is another option. If you are unable to find an on-campus veterinary assistant program near you, or just prefer the flexibility of taking online classes at your own pace, Penn Foster is an excellent choice. This program can be completed in as little as seven months. Tuition is approximately $900. The following coursework is covered in the Penn Foster veterinary assistant program: emergency wound care, small and large animal nursing, animal behavior, handling and restraint, body systems and terminology, radiology and surgical preparation, and nutrition and physical examination. The program ends with an eight-week externship at a veterinary practice of the student’s choice.
How to Obtain National Certification
Some veterinary assistants may wish to become nationally certified as an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA). This certification is not required but may improve your chances of getting hired and your earning potential.
There are a few ways to become an AVA in South Dakota. The first would be to complete a veterinary assistant program that is approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). There are not any on-campus programs in South Dakota that are NAVTA approved, but the Penn Foster program is. Once you have completed this program, you will need to pay a $100 fee to take the certification exam. Once you pass, you will be nationally certified as an AVA.
If you have already taken or plan on taking a program that is not NAVTA approved, you can still become certified. If the program you completed included an externship or volunteer work, you will be able to take the certification exam. Also, if you are already employed as a veterinary assistant and working at least 20 hours a week you are qualified to take the certification exam.
Once you become certified as an AVA, that certification will need to be renewed every two years. A $10 renewal fee will apply, as well as proof of continued education.
Career Outlook in South Dakota
Veterinary assistant employment is low in the state of South Dakota, as compared to other states. There are currently only about 160 veterinary assistants in the state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, their mean hourly wage is $11.64, and their mean annual wage is $24,200. However, salary will depend on any certification or experience you have, as well as location. Veterinary assistants in the cities of Brookings, Deadwood, Rapid City and Watertown reported annual salaries of over $25,000. Those working in Sioux Falls make an average of more than $26,000 annually.
Salaries in South Dakota by Region
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Rapid City, SD||40||$11.92||$24,800|
When looking for employment as a veterinary assistant in South Dakota, there are several hospitals and clinics to choose from. Mountain View Animal Hospital is a small animal hospital located in Rapid City. Another hospital to consider is All Animal Pet Hospital in Sioux Falls. Finally, Northern Hills Veterinary Clinic in Sturgis has both a small animal and a large animal clinic. There are also other privately-owned clinics and smaller animal hospitals throughout the state. For those who have not worked in a veterinary setting before, an internship or volunteering first may be an option.
While the number of veterinary assistants employed in South Dakota is low, employment in this profession is expected to increase by six percent over the next six years. If a career working with animals is your dream job, in just a year you could have the education and certification needed to work at any veterinary practice in the state.