A veterinary clinic doesn’t run properly without the right vet assistants. If you want to work with animals, learning how to become a vet assistant can help you achieve this goal.
There are many careers out there for those that love animals. However, you might need a long education to enter into the fields. Becoming a vet assistant won’t require nearly the same amount of time or commitment.
If you want to become a vet assistant, you want to know the job duties first. This can help ensure you make the right career choice. Let’s look at the job duties and the steps for how to become a vet assistant.
Job Duties of a Vet Assistant
As a vet assistant, your main duties will be to help the veterinarians and vet techs with their daily tasks. This will include helping to regulate the animal care routine daily and assisting with many other things within the clinic or animal care facility. Some of your job duties may include:
- Clean cages and kennels to ensure they remain sterile
- Clean and sterilize the operating and examination rooms
- Feed and bathe the animals
- Provide exercise for the animals
- Help with emergency first aid for animals
- Keep tools and equipment properly cleaned and sterilized
- Collect necessary samples for testing
These are the most common job duties of a vet assistant. Your job duties may vary a bit, depending on the type of clinic or facility you work in.
How to Become a Vet Assistant in 3 Steps
Step #1 – Get Your High School Diploma
You will need a high school diploma or GED to become a vet assistant. This may not be required by all employers, but most will want to see that you have completed high school education.
The ability to communicate effectively is necessary for this career. You will also need a basic foundation of mathematics, biology, chemistry, and business communications. With a high school level education, you can show you have this type of education.
Step #2 – Get a Certification
While you don’t have to be certified to work as a vet assistant, it can certainly help. You will gain the validation you need to land a job as a vet assistant when you get certified.
Some online programs will provide the education you need to become a vet assistant. While certification isn’t necessary, it can help set you apart from the rest. You will gain knowledge of health and welfare, animal husbandry, and facility administration.
You can get the Approved Veterinary Assistant certification through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America. It will require you to complete the NAVTA program and pass a 150-minute exam. The exam fee is $100 and you will need to score a 75% or higher to pass.
The NAVTA program is often offered in high school. It can also be found at adult learning facilities and some community colleges.
When you become certified, you will study topics, such as administering medications, how to handle animals, animal nutrition, how to assist during surgeries, and how to work with specific veterinary equipment. You can also complete a three-level certification from the American Association for Laboratory Science (AALS). This certification will include:
- Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician
- Laboratory Animal Technician
- Laboratory Animal Technologist
If you prefer to work in a laboratory setting, this is the right certification for your needs.
Step #3 – Consider More Education
You can advance your career by earning an associate’s degree. This can lead to a career as a vet technician or technologist. If you want to advance your career, you will want to continue your education.
Common Qualities of a Good Vet Assistant
If you want to become a vet assistant, you will likely need to have the right qualities. The qualities that make vet assistants successful include:
- Patience – Working with animals requires patience. They are not always cooperative and you will need to show compassion when they need extra care.
- Respect – You will need to be able to respect the animals and those you work for. This includes veterinarians and vet techs.
- Ability to Adjust – your job will require you to adjust regularly if you want to provide quality work.
- Integrity – As a vet assistant, you will need to have integrity. Many tasks will need to be performed in a timely and correct manner.
- Resilience – You will need to persist under unique conditions when working in a veterinary clinic.
These are just some of the necessary qualities to find success as a vet assistant. The best candidates for this type of career will have all or most of these qualities.
Skills Needed to Become a Vet Assistant
If you want to become a vet assistant, you should have the right skills. It’s best to develop the following skills:
- Empathy – You will likely deal with injured animals and owners that are emotional. Empathy is vital if you want to be a vet assistant.
- Communication skills – You will need to communicate with vet techs, veterinarians, and pet owners. This is a very important part of the job.
- Organizational skills – As an assistant in a veterinary office, you will need to keep things organized.
- Flexibility – You may need to work a flexible schedule. It’s also necessary to be able to adjust where you work and what you do on a day-to-day basis.
These skills will help you to be more successful as a vet assistant.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Vet Assistant
How much can I earn as a vet assistant?
The position of a vet assistant is an entry-level position. It pays an average of nearly $14 per hour, according to Indeed.com. With more experience, you can earn more.
The location where you work will also determine your actual pay. Seattle, Portland, New York City, Chicago, and Denver all pay an above-average hourly wage for vet assistants. Some top employers will pay as much as $20 per hour for this position.
If you gain certification as a veterinary technician, you can earn more. This can lead to an increase in your wages of nearly 15%.
What type of benefits do veterinary assistants enjoy?
Your benefits will be determined by your employer. The most common benefits for vet assistants include paid time off, health insurance, and a 401(k). You may also get disability, vision, and dental insurance as a part of your package. Some employers also offer pet insurance, employee discounts, and a flexible schedule.
What other types of jobs are similar to a vet assistant?
There are several jobs similar in pay and duties to a vet assistant. Some of the most common entry-level jobs similar to this job include:
- Kennel Assistant
- Kennel Technician
- Veterinary Technicians
- Veterinary Receptionist
- Pet Sitter
- Animal Caretaker
These positions are similar and offer a similar rate of pay, as well.
What type of education do I need to become a veterinary assistant?
It’s not necessary to have any specific level of education. However, most employers want you to have at least a high school education. It can help if you have taken biology and chemistry in high school, as well.
How long does it take to become a veterinary assistant?
You can work as a veterinary assistant without any experience or education. However, if you want to complete a certification program, it will likely take you 6 to 12 months to complete. Some online programs allow you to finish in about seven months.
Where will I work as a veterinary assistant?
It’s common for veterinary assistants to work in veterinary offices. You may also work in an animal clinic or animal hospital. Some will work in research laboratories, colleges, and universities, as well.
What type of hours will I work as a veterinary assistant?
It’s common for veterinary assistants to work a full-time job. You will likely work 40 hours per week. Some weekends, nights, and holidays may be necessary, depending on your employer.
While many vet assistants will work full-time, there are part-time jobs available in this field. You may work overnights as a part-time vet assistant in some settings.
Do I need experience with animals to become a vet assistant?
It’s not always required, but experience with animals can be helpful. Even just owning a pet dog or cat can be helpful. Your job duties will have quite a bit to do with caring for animals, so this can be helpful.
It can also be helpful to volunteer at an animal shelter or in another job working with animals. This can be done during high school.
Is this job growing?
Vet assistants are in high demand right now. This job is expected to grow by about 16% over the next ten years. This is more than three times as fast as the average of all occupations.
With the right skills and education, you can enter into a career as a vet assistant. It’s necessary to understand the job duties of this entry-level position. You won’t need much education to enter this career, but getting certified can certainly help.