Studying Online to Become a Veterinary Assistant
A career as a veterinary assistant is perfect for anyone who loves animals, helping people and making a difference every day on the job. It’s also a good option if you want to get into a career with animals but don’t have a lot of time or money to spend on an education. You can find traditional campus programs—usually short diploma or certificate programs—at your local community or career college. But you should also be able to find online courses that can help you prepare to be hired by a veterinary office.
What is a Veterinary Assistant?
Working as a vet assistant, you can expect to work in a veterinary practice, where most are hired, but other options include research laboratories, animal shelters and universities. As a veterinary assistant you will work to support the veterinarian and any veterinary technicians. You may do clerical work at the front desk, maintaining files and scheduling appointments, but you will also spend a lot of hands-on time caring for animals. This includes bathing, feeding and exercising animals. Vet assistants also help during procedures and exams and may handle and distribute medications and laboratory samples.
There are no minimum training and education requirements at the state or national level for becoming a veterinary assistant. Many employers have their own requirements, though, and often prefer to hire assistants who have completed a basic training program.
Most veterinary assistant programs take a few months or at most up to a year to complete. They are important because they give you the skills and knowledge needed to work in a veterinary office and with animals. These include basic veterinary science and animal anatomy, emergency care, medications, office procedures and how to work with clients.
Online vs. On-Site Courses
Going to actual classes on a college campus is not your only option to prepare to become a vet assistant. There are online programs available as well, and while these won’t give you hands-on experience, they do provide valuable training and education. Here are some factors to consider when choosing between online and in-person education:
- If you don’t have a school near you that offers veterinary assisting programs, online courses provide a viable alternative.
- Online schools are often less expensive than traditional programs.
- Online programs are more flexible so that you can learn and work at your own pace and finish earlier or take more time if you need it.
- An online program can also allow you to keep working and earning at your current job while you learn.
- Many online programs in veterinary assisting require that you complete an externship to get practical, hands-on experience in a veterinary setting. You may be expected to find a veterinarian on your own who will sponsor you for this externship.
How to Choose an Online Veterinary Assistant Program
If an online program for veterinary assisting makes more sense for your current needs, your next step will be to choose a school. One important consideration is whether or not a program is approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). You don’t have to choose an approved program, but NAVTA sets high standards so you’ll have a better idea of the quality of education you’ll get if you choose one of their programs.
NAVTA is also the organization that offers national certification. Called Approved Veterinary Assistant, or AVA, this certification may or may not be required by an employer as you seek out a job. It is a good designation to have and can give you an advantage over other job candidates, but you can only achieve AVA if you complete a NAVTA-approved program.
Of course, you’ll have other considerations as well: cost of tuition, flexibility of programming, availability, accreditation, and reviews and feedback from former students. Once you have chosen an online program, you’ll be ready to start your training and can look forward to an exciting and rewarding career in the future.