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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Should I train to work as a Veterinary Assistant?

August 20, 2018

Editor’s Note: This article was edited on December 16, 2021 to include updated BLS data.

Veterinary Assistant Student with Small DogDo you enjoy working with animals as much as people? Do you want a career that has a mix of medicine, compassion, and dedication? Do you want to be the link between the veterinarian, animal, and client? If so, then becoming a veterinarian assistant may be the right career path for you.

What does a Veterinary Assistant do?

Veterinary assistants typically do the following, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

  • Feed, bathe, and exercise animals
  • Clean and disinfect cages, kennels, and examination and operating rooms
  • Restrain animals during examination and laboratory procedures
  • Maintain and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment
  • Monitor and care for animals after surgery
  • Help provide emergency first aid to sick and injured animals
  • Give medication or immunizations that veterinarians prescribe
  • Assist in the collection of blood, urine, and tissue samples

Why should I become a Veterinary Assistant?

Veterinary assistants are in demand, and the job outlook for this career is good: The BLS shows that employment of veterinary assistants is projects to grow 14% through 2030, faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. With the increase in the number of households with pets, as well as spending on pets, there is going to be an increase in the demand for veterinary assistants to help care for household animals.

Also, in California, the demand and pay for veterinary assistants is among the best in the United States. The BLS shows that California has the highest employment level with 13,040 jobs, and also ranks fifth in pay, with an annual mean wage of $35,620.

Where do Veterinary Assistants work?

Veterinary assistants will usually work in animal hospitals and private clinics. They may also work at colleges, universities and laboratories, the BLS reports.

Is a career as a Veterinary Assistant right for me?

Working with animals can be very rewarding but it’s also hard work. The work of a veterinary assistant isn’t as glamorous as it might seem. Picking up feces and getting urinated on by animals is something that vet assistants will have to get used to.

According to the BLS, you may be bitten or injured by a frightened or aggressive animal. You’ll also have to work with abused and severely injured animals and help veterinarians when they euthanize animals. Since many clinics and labs are staffed 24 hours a day, vet assistants may be expected to work evenings, weekends, or holidays.

There are also important qualities that vet assistants must possess. According to the BLS, these qualities are:

  • Communication skills. Veterinary assistants often communicate with pet owners, veterinarians, veterinary technologists and technicians, and other assistants. They need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively when dealing with an emergency, such as an ill or injured animal needing immediate attention.
  • Detail-oriented. Veterinary assistants must follow instructions exactly as given by a veterinarian or other supervisor. This means being precise when sterilizing surgical equipment, monitoring animals, and giving medication.
  • Dexterity. Veterinary assistants must handle animals correctly, and use medical instruments and laboratory equipment with care.
  • Empathy. Veterinary assistants should treat animals with kindness. Being empathetic to both the animals and their owners is high priority.
  • Physical strength. Veterinary assistants must be able to handle, move, and restrain animals.

If you’re looking for a career where you get to play with animals, then this isn’t the career choice for you. Being a veterinary assistant is for those with a real commitment to taking care of animals and isn’t something to be taken lightly.

How do I start my training to become a Veterinary Assistant?

In order to become a Veterinary Assistant, one first step you can take is to enroll in a veterinary assistant program at an accredited college or university.

SJVC’s Veterinary Assistant program can train you to help animals. Our in-depth training covers all areas of animal patient care, from restraint techniques to lab tests and diagnostic imaging.

Students in SJVC’s program can earn a Certificate of Completion in approximately 9 months. Our Veterinary Assistant graduates can apply for licensure by meeting all of the Veterinary Medical Board requirements, including 4,416 hours of practical experience under the direct supervision of a California licensed veterinarian. Candidates must also submit all SJVC course outlines to the Veterinary Medical Board.

Request more information or call 866-544-7898 to speak with an admissions advisor about SJVC’s Veterinary Assistant Program.

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