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Complete Veterinary Assistant Career Guide

Do you want to make a career out of working with animals?

Are you limited in the amount of time that you can devote to your training and education?

If this sounds like your situation, why not consider becoming a veterinary assistant?

Not only are vet assistant programs quite short, but there is also a growing need for these professionals all across the United States.

veterinary assistant career

Typical Job Responsibilities For Veterinary Assistants

Veterinary assistants are important team members in veterinary clinics, animal hospitals, research centers and educational facilities all over the country.

The assistance they provide helps to keep these types of facilities running smoothly.

While the tasks they are responsible for may vary from one employer to another and from one state to another, some of their common responsibilities can be found listed below.

    • Sterilizing and Maintaining Medical Equipment
    • Feeding, Exercising and Grooming Animals
    • Cleaning Cages and Exercise Areas
    • Preparing and Sanitizing Surgical Rooms
    • Restraining Animals During Exams and Treatments
    • Reporting Changes in Patients’ Conditions and Behavior
    • Cleaning Wounds and Applying Bandages
    • Collecting Fecal and Blood Samples
    • Administering Medications
    • Maintaining Patients’ Medical Records
    • Taking and Recording Patients’ Vital Signs

Requirements for the Career

Perhaps one of the most attractive features of veterinary assistant careers is that they do not require extensive training. You do not need a degree or licensing to work as a vet assistant today. In fact, many employers even offer on-the-job training! Of course, the more training you acquire, the more job opportunities you will enjoy.

If you choose to acquire your veterinary assistant training in a formal setting, there are many community colleges, trade schools and online training centers that offer such programs. In most cases, these types of programs last just a few weeks and will award you with a certificate or diploma upon completion.

Required Coursework

The courses you will need to complete in a veterinary assistant program may vary from one school to another. However, there are some classes that are common to most all vet assistant programs, and you will find these courses listed below. Keep in mind that the names of these courses may vary from one school to another.

    • Animal Anatomy and Physiology
    • Animal Reproduction
    • Animal Nutrition
    • Restraint and Handling
    • Infectious and Metabolic Diseases
    • Neoplasia and Toxicities
    • Preventive Health and Wellness
    • First Aid for Animals
    • Diagnostics and Surgical Room Procedures
    • Large Animal Topics
    • Veterinary Facility Regulations

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Average Annual Salary - Vet Assistant Salary

Another great feature of veterinary assistant careers is that they offer excellent starting salaries. According to the United States Department of Labor, the average salary for vet assistants in 2013 was approximately $23,550 per year. This is equivalent to around $12.00 per hour for full time employees.

However, this is just an average: the salary you will earn in this profession could range anywhere from just over $17,000 to more than $35,000 per year. So, just where will you fall on this pay scale? The answer to this question depends on several different factors such as those listed here.

    • Your Education Level
    • Any Certifications You May Possess
    • Experience You Have Accumulated
    • Your Individual Employer
    • The Type of Facility Where You Work
    • The City and State Where You Work

Highest-Paying States

As mentioned above, the state where you choose to work as a vet assistant can have an impact on the wages you earn. What this means is that some states simply offer higher wages than others.

Although these statistics may vary from year to year, the highest-paying states for vet assistants in 2013 were as follows:

  • Washington DC – $36,020 Per Year
  • Massachusetts – $31,730 Per Year
  • Connecticut – $29,550 Per Year
  • Delaware – $29,360 Per Year
  • California – $29,040 Per Year

Top-Paying Cities

The city where you choose to work can have an impact on your yearly salary as a vet assistant as well. Due to such factors as economic conditions and overall pet ownership, some cities offer higher wages than others. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, the top-paying cities for this career in 2013 were those listed below.

Highest-Paying Places of Employment

Another factor that can affect your salary as a veterinary assistant is the type of facility where you choose to work. As stated above, vet assistants can be found working in many different places including veterinary clinics, animal hospitals and research centers.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the top-paying industries for vet assistants in 2013 were those facilities listed below.

  • Government Facilities and Research Centers – $39,880 Per Year
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Centers – $35,720 Per Year
  • Veterinary Clinics and Animal Hospitals – $35,500 Per Year
  • Community Colleges and Trade Schools – $34,920 Per Year
  • Universities – $33,000 Per Year

Career Outlook and Advancement For Vet Assistants

Veterinary taking care of a small cat

As mentioned previously, there is a growing demand for qualified veterinary assistants all across the United States.

In fact, according to statistics provided by the United States Department of Labor, positions for vet assistants will likely increase at a rate of about 10 percent until the year 2022.

This is due primarily to increased pet ownership and a growing awareness of proper healthcare for pets. As a vet assistant, you can enjoy numerous employment opportunities as well as several options for advancement in your career.

The most common advancement options for veterinary assistants today are as follows:

States With the Highest Demand

Just as with most other careers today, some states have a higher demand for veterinary assistants than others. Again, this is probably due to the states’ current economic conditions and overall pet ownership.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, states with the highest demand for vet assistants in 2013 were as follows:

Cities With the Highest Demand

Just as some states have a higher demand for vet assistants than others do, some cities have a higher demand for them as well. While these statistics may vary from year to year, according to the United States Department of Labor, the following cities had the highest demand for vet assistants in 2013.

Typical Work Schedules

Veterinary assistant careers are extremely popular today and for many great reasons. One reason that this career is so popular is because of its flexibility in work schedules. If you decide to become a veterinary assistant, you can choose to work either part or full time.

Further, depending on the facility where you are employed, you can work days, afternoons or evenings. This is terrific for people who have families or who are attending school to further their education. It is also perfect for people who have other jobs or hobbies taking up their time.

Getting Started

We hope that we have answered any questions you may have pertaining to veterinary assistant careers today.

After reading the information above, you may now be wondering how to launch your new career.

If this sounds like you, the following steps can help lead you to the job of your dreams.

    1. Earn Your High School Diploma or GED
    2. Locate a Veterinary Assistant Program
    3. Complete Your Program With at Least a 2.0 GPA
    4. Create an Attractive Job Resume
    5. Apply to at Least Three Jobs Per Week
    6. Follow Up on Job Applications
    7. Above All, Be Persistent!

Increasing Your Chances of Employment

If you would like to increase your chances of employment as a veterinary assistant, there are many things you can do. As stated above, completing a vet assistant training program can increase your job opportunities. However, there are many other ways to increase your chances of obtaining a job as well, and the best ways are as follows:

  • Obtain Experience in the Field (Pet Shops, Animal Shelters or Volunteer Work)
  • Complete an Animal Grooming Course
  • Obtain Professional References (Teachers, Veterinarians or Other Professionals)
  • Enroll in Continuing Education Courses (First Aid, Husbandry or Animal Training)

The field of veterinary medicine is a lucrative field that is growing by leaps and bounds today. If you would like to make a career out of your love for animals, one career that is growing at a rapid rate is that of a veterinary assistant.

Just some of the benefits you will enjoy as a vet assistant include excellent wages, plentiful job possibilities, and flexible work environments and schedules.

Search Veterinary Assistant Programs

Get information on Veterinary Assistant programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.