See a list of Veterinary Assistant Programs by Clicking Here!
What is a Veterinary Assistant?
Veterinary assistants work alongside veterinarians to provide aid, treatment and care to injured and recovering animals in a veterinary hospital environment. Individuals working as assistants will be responsible for patient intake, recording medical histories, preparing animals for surgery, providing assistance during surgical procedures, and providing postoperative care while noting any changes in the patients health. Veterinary assistance requires individuals to be able to work with animals on a daily basis, to perform clerical tasks alongside other duties, and to perform tasks and treatments under the supervision of a veterinarian. An assistant should be courteous, knowledgeable, and capable.
A program in veterinary assistance will provide an individual with the skills and knowledge necessary to work with animals in a clinical environment. A veterinary assistant can obtain a certificate, associates or bachelors degree through various institutions. The length of the program will vary based on the type of degree pursued, but it will average between one and two years. A veterinary assistant will be responsible for the care of animals, maintaining a sterile environment, and treatment of animals under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Students enrolled in a veterinary assistant program will learn a variety of sciences related to animal biology and physiology, as well as courses providing instruction and regarding the care and treatment of a variety of animals. Students will work in clinical environments under the supervision of professionals to better understand the tasks and duties of their position and how to perform them. Depending on the program and its length, the education provided becomes more in depth and allows for a greater number of responsibilities.
A veterinary assistant program may include classes in:
- Animal Restraint
- Small Animal Nursing
- Surgical Preparation and Assisting
- Diagnostic Imaging
- Animal Identification
Job Growth and Employment Opportunities
Veterinary assisting is expected to grow over the coming years as the need for animal care and the effectiveness of treatment increases. Though a degree is not necessary to become an assistant and much of the training will be on the job, job availability is trending toward those who pursue a degree. As the role of the assistant becomes more complex and given more responsibility, positions will more likely be granted to qualified, educated individuals. Many veterinary hospitals operate 24 hours allowing for a flexible schedule.
Veterinary assistants will work under professional veterinarians by providing day to day care for ailing animals and assistance, logging progress and notes, assisting in the operating room, and fulfilling an overall support role within a veterinary hospital. Assistants may also be responsible for initial contact with pet owners, and thus must be cordial and professional to put the owner at ease in regard to his or her pet's health and safety.
Some duties of a veterinary assistant include:
- Record Patient History
- Nursing Care
- Collecting Samples
- Equipment and Animal Preparation
- Advising Animal Owners
Average Salary and Related Fields
The average salary of a veterinary assistant is between $19,000 and $25,000 per year. This is primarily due to the current demands and expectations of veterinary assistance, though with the expected increase in employment opportunities there should be an overall increase in salary for assistants. Additionally, more experience individuals will have a higher salary as will those individuals working in more populated areas due to increased work and higher demand.
For additional information about a career in veterinary medicine, check out our Complete Guide for Veterinarians on our blog. You can also read our blog post titled Top College Degrees for Animal Lovers for additional information.