Becoming a Veterinary Assistant in Tennessee
To become a veterinary assistant in Tennessee, all you really need is a passion to work with animals. There are no statewide educational or licensing prerequisites, but completing a formal training program and holding national certification would boost your chances of getting hired and earning potential.
A veterinary assistant has less education and training than a veterinary technician and works alongside vet techs and veterinarians to provide basic animal care. They are also responsible for several administrative tasks on their own. Some duties veterinary assistants perform include:
- Communicating with pet owners
- Making follow-up calls
- Scheduling appointments
- Assisting with filling prescriptions
- Managing and filing patient records
- Cleaning cages, equipment and exam rooms
- Preparing rooms for exams and surgery
- Walking, feeding and grooming animals
Veterinary Assistant Programs in Tennessee and National Certification
There are no educational requirements to become a veterinary assistant in the state of Tennessee, and the only requirement most employers have is that their employees have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, those who have completed a post-secondary veterinary assistant training program may be more sought after for employment. On-the-job training through volunteer work or an internship is also an option, if you can’t find a training program or are unable to attend one right away. This will give you experience working with animals that will benefit you in the future.
There are a few Tennessee colleges that offer veterinary assistant programs. The Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Memphis offers a certificate program that takes 12 months (three terms) to complete. Coursework includes veterinary terminology, animal anatomy and physiology, hygiene and sanitation, feed and nutrition, recordkeeping, genetics and breeding, animal diseases and treatments, diagnostic techniques, veterinary pharmacology and anesthesia and more. The cost of tuition, books and fees is approximately $5,500. This program reports a 100-percent job placement rate.
Lincoln Memorial University is a private university located in Harrogate, Tennessee. Their program is designed for students who wish to continue their education in veterinary health. They offer a two-year program from which you can graduate with an Associate degree in Veterinary Health Science. Coursework is a combination of general education curriculum and veterinary health science classes. Tuition is approximately $21,000 per year, plus $4,000 for room and board. This does not include books, supplies, program fees and graduation fees. Financial aid and scholarships are available. They also offer an installment payment plan, but the cost of books and supplies cannot be paid using the payment plan.
Vol State Community College’s veterinary assistant program is a two-semester technical certificate program. Coursework includes medical terminology, introduction to veterinary anatomy, veterinary assistant nursing, veterinary economics and clinical procedures. Clinical practice is also included. Total tuition for the program is approximately $3,800. This does not include books and supplies.
For students unable to attend an on-campus veterinary assistant program, another option is Penn Foster Career school. Penn Foster’s program is online and can be completed in seven months. The following coursework is included:
- Emergency wound care
- Small and large animal nursing
- Body systems and terminology
- Radiology and surgical preparation
- Veterinary practice administration and procedures
- Nutrition, medical history and physical examination
The Penn Foster program ends in an eight-week externship at a local veterinary practice. Tuition cost is approximately $900, which can be broken down into monthly payments. If tuition is paid in full at the time of enrollment, a discount will be applied. Another benefit of this program is that it is approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), meaning those who complete this program will be qualified to take the exam and become an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA). After completing a NAVTA-approved program, students would then pay $100 to take the certification exam. If they pass the exam, they are then certified as an AVA. Working for a veterinarian, whether it be part or full time, or even interning, for a certain number of hours a week will also qualify you to take the certification exam. After becoming an AVA, certification needs to be renewed every two years by paying a $10 renewal fee and taking 10 continuing education credits.
Finding Employment as a Veterinary Assistant
There are currently 2,620 veterinary assistants employed in the state of Tennessee, with over 700 of those being employed in the city of Knoxville. The average yearly salary of a vet assistant in Tennessee is $24,410. However, veterinary assistant salaries in various parts of the state are higher. The average annual salary in Chattanooga is $26,000, while vet assistants in Franklin, Knoxville and Nashville have average annual salaries of over $27,000. Veterinary assistants in Memphis reported average annual salaries of over $28,000. Previous work experience, education and any certifications will also factor in to determine one’s salary.
Salaries in Tennessee by Region
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Johnson City, TN||80||$11.08||$23,040|
In Tennessee, veterinary assistants can be found working in veterinary offices, animal hospitals, specialty hospitals and clinics, ranches, shelters, zoos and aquariums. Some major employers include VCA Animal Hospitals and Banfield Pet Hospitals. There is a VCA hospital located in Mt. Juliet, and there are more than a dozen Banfield hospitals across the state. The College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee employs veterinary assistants to work in their Small Animal Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. There are several other animal hospitals and specialty clinics throughout Tennessee, with several of them being in Knoxville and Nashville.
Job growth in veterinary assisting is rapidly growing in all states, with 19-percent growth projected by the year 2026. If you’re ready to begin a career of working with animals every day, think about training to become a veterinary assistant in Tennessee. There is plenty of opportunity for employment. In two years or less, you could be trained, nationally certified and ready to find work anywhere in the state.
College and University Listings
1480 Nashville Pike, Gallatin, Tennessee 37066-3188
Veterinary Assistant – Associate Program
Volunteer State Community College’s Associate program in Veterinary Assistant is taught at their campus in Gallatin in Sumner County, TN. The majority of of the school’s 7,664 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-state students are about $3,925 and for students from other states likely to be about $15,325 yearly. Study materials can cost about $1,200, depending on the program chosen.
* 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.