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Veterinary Assistant Program and Job Description

Not to be confused with veterinary technology, veterinary assisting is a mix of office management and caring for animals. Veterinary assistants work in veterinarian’s offices, animal hospitals, and other settings where animals live and are cared for.

Unlike veterinary technicians who perform more technical medical procedures on animals like surgery and laboratory tests, veterinary assistants are tasked with more general caretaking and clerical work, making it a perfect career for those who love animals and enjoy taking care of them.

What Does a Veterinary Assistant Do?

As a veterinary assistant you can expect to perform the following functions at your job. Of course, these may vary based on your employer.

  • Feeding, exercising, and bathing animals
  • Cleaning cages, kennels, operating rooms, and exam rooms
  • Restraining animals during nail trims, vaccines and other procedures
  • Caring for animals after surgery
  • Provide first aid to animals in need
  • Give animals medication and vaccines under veterinarian guidance
  • Assist in taking urine, fecal, blood, and tissue samples
  • You may also be charged with office management including checking in patients, ordering supplies, and more.

As a veterinarian assistant, you should also have excellent communication skills to effectively gather information, discuss treatment, and explain instructions to coworkers and patients. You also must be detail oriented and follow directions exactly.

Veterinarian assistants must also be good at handling animals on a daily basis and require good dexterity and physical strength to hold and handle creatures of all sizes. Finally, veterinary assistants must have a great deal of compassion and show kindness to animals and their owners at all times.

Classes in a Veterinary Assistant Program

Classes are a mix of laboratory and classroom learning. In your classes, you will learn animal physiology, nursing, diagnostic imaging, pharmacology, and anesthesia, sterilization techniques and much more. As a vet assistant, you will also learn:

  • Office management skills, patient reception, and computer skills
  • How to perform basic injections, blood taking, catheter placement
  • Animal teeth cleaning techniques
  • Concepts on animal husbandry, biology, diseases, and disease prevention
  • Applying laboratory procedures and processing and understanding x-rays
  • Learn and be confident in the exam room using proper animal restraint techniques, getting vitals, and gathering patient information.

How Much Do Veterinary Assistants Earn?

Veterinary assistants earned on average $37,310 in 2023 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% of veterinary assistants earned $46,630 or more. 

How Do You Become a Veterinary Assistant?

To become a veterinary assistant, you typically need to complete a veterinary assistant training program, though some workplaces may not require any prior education. 

How Long is Veterinary Assistant Training?

Veterinary assistant training is relatively short compared to other training programs. Most programs are around 10 months because you only learn what you need to know for your job during the program. For example, At San Joaquin Valley College you can train to become a veterinary assistant in as few as 9 months!

Program Prerequisites

In order to enroll in training for veterinary assisting training you must have a high school diploma or a GED. Select schools may have other prerequisites to enroll in their programs. 

Do I Need to Become Certified as a Veterinary Assistant?

Though it is not a requirement to become a veterinary assistant, getting certified is a way to make you stand out from other candidates. To become certified as an Approved Veterinary Assistant, you must complete a veterinary assisting program approved by The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and then take the exam.

Ready for veterinary assistant training? Find a school near you now. 

Read more on similar careers like medical assisting and dental assisting.

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