Anyone whose pet has ever been sick or injured knows it's important to have a team of loving, knowledgeable people available to treat animals. Veterinary assistants are key members of that team.
According to the 2017-18 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, over two-thirds of American households have pets, so veterinary assistants clearly have plenty of potential patients in the U.S. And fortunately for all those pets, it is becoming easier to find veterinary assisting programs being offered online. This can make it surprisingly convenient for dedicated students to get the education they need to start off in this career.
Read this page to find details about several featured programs, what veterinary assistants do, how you could prepare for this career and what to expect from an online program in veterinary assistance.
A degree or certificate isn't always required in order to become a veterinary assistant. However, it's often preferred. Formal training helps to demonstrate that veterinary assistants have experience working with animals and knowledge of veterinary medicine, both of which are very important qualities for the job.
To help students thinking about beginning an online veterinary assisting program, we have identified three noteworthy online colleges for veterinary assistance and are featuring them here on this page. The data on these schools came from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and was analyzed using our unique methodology to determine which colleges to feature on this list.
Veterinary Assistant Department Head
Community Care College
Veterinary Assistant Department Head
Community Care College
Q: What qualities make Community Care College's online veterinary assisting program outstanding?
A: It gives our students the knowledge they need to begin their careers and to work with doctors and technicians. During the 10-month program, students follow a curriculum that includes skill areas like working with small animals, anesthesia, animal restraint, etc. Even though it's an online program, students receive the hands-on training they need by working with mentors in veterinary offices or hospitals to follow that curriculum.
Q: What support does Community Care College offer its online student body?
A: First, students have access to instructors pretty much 24/7. Someone from the school is always available to help. We have career services to assist students in finding mentors for their online training, updating resumes and other job search skills. We want them to be successful.
Q: How does the online veterinary assisting program differ from the on-campus program?
A: The on-campus program has a set schedule, which goes Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for 24 weeks. At the end of the program, they have to do a 180-hour externship. The online program has no externship. Instead, students are doing their hands-on training throughout the program with mentors. Online courses are each four weeks long, and in each four-week course, a set of skills is emphasized. As part of their hands-on training, they work with mentors on those skills during those four weeks. Mentors are usually at veterinary offices in students' own communities, so the students often have good relationships with those offices already. We'll work with mentors to ensure they are committed for the 10-month program and are providing the skills those students need.
Historically, veterinary technicians learned their trade through training on the job. However, in a competitive employment market, it can be nearly impossible to earn a veterinary job without prior experience. In many cases, the best way to break into the field is to augment your resume with formal education or certification, and an online veterinary assistant program can make that process easier than ever before. Here's what students can expect when they choose to pursue online education for veterinary assistants.
Most veterinary assistant programs take less than one year to complete and result in a diploma or certificate. It is important to note that while an online program allows most classes to be taken virtually, there will likely be a hands-on element required for graduation. Fortunately, this can often be completed at a local veterinarian's office through an agreement with the student's school.
Students in a veterinary assistant program are likely to encounter courses in areas such as:
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America currently approves a variety of veterinary technician programs across the nation, including three online options. Students who graduate from these programs are eligible to sit for the national exam, which certifies them as an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA). Having this esteemed designation could make quite the difference when applying for particularly competitive positions.
In addition to the wide variety of practical skills learned through the veterinary assistant program — such as how to give injections, handle stressed animals, and provide proper care — there are a few skills that students can practice during the program that will likely hold them in good stead throughout a career in the field.
Students can expect their physical strength, dexterity and agility to increase as they practice handling animals that aren't complacent, especially when those animals are very large or aggressive. The assignments and tests given in these courses are also helpful for teaching students to become more detail-oriented, often requiring students to study every detail of a animal's situation to discover the correct diagnosis or treatment option, as would be necessary in a veterinary career. Excellent communication skills are a virtual necessity for the job, as a veterinary assistant must often speak with distraught pet owners or quickly communicate requests to other professionals.
Finally, empathy is one of the most important qualities a veterinary assistant could have. They must treat animals with kindness and care, even when the animal is quite aggressive and lashing out; they must also be prepared to offer understanding and support to animal owners who are upset, worried, or grieving.
Below is a description of the veterinary assistant career as well as some data on the outlook of the field. Here you see the average salary, the number of annual job openings and the typical entry-level education.