How to Become a Veterinary Assistant Today! Practical Advice for 2024

How to become a veterinary assistant? Becoming a veterinary assistant is a rewarding career choice for those who love animals and want to make a difference in their lives.

As a veterinary assistant, you will usually work alongside vet techs and veterinarians to care for animals and assist in medical procedures. Keep in mind that some clinics utilize veterinary assistants instead of vet techs.

To become a veterinary assistant, some folks will complete a training program that teaches you the skills necessary to work in the field. However, some people gain the skills on the job. It all depends on what clinic you are working in.

These veterinary assistant programs are available at vocational schools, community colleges, and online institutions. You will study and learn about animal anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and basic medical procedures.

In addition to completing a training program, you must gain experience working with animals. You can acquire knowledge by volunteering at animal shelters, veterinary clinics, or other animal-related organizations.

By gaining hands-on experience, you will develop animal husbandry skills and make yourself more attractive to potential employers. While a vet assistant is not one of those “animal jobs with no experience needed,” you might get lucky and get in with a clinic who gives you a chance.

How to become a veterinary assistant

Education and Training

To become a veterinary assistant, you’ll need a solid education and training in the field.

Although, a vet tech usually has more formal training than a veterinary assistant. Learn more about the differences between a vet tech vs a vet assistant.

Here are some of the critical areas you’ll need to focus on:

High School Education

The first step for becoming a veterinary assistant is to earn your high school diploma or GED. The schooling will give you the basic skills and knowledge you need to succeed in this field.

You’ll need to have a good understanding of science, math, and English and solid communication and problem-solving skills.

Certification Programs

Many veterinary assistants choose to complete a certification program to gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in this field.

These veterinary assistant programs typically take a few months to a year to complete and cover topics such as comparative animal anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and veterinary office procedures.

You’ll find some popular certification programs by looking at:

  • American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
  • National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA)
  • Penn Foster Career School

On-the-Job Training

Another way to gain the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to succeed as a veterinary assistant is through on-the-job training. It can be one of those jobs with animals without a degree.

veterinary assistants can help with monitoring during surgery

Many veterinary clinics and hospitals offer training programs for new employees, which can provide you with hands-on experience working with animals and performing basic medical procedures.

This type of training can be a great way to gain experience and get your foot in the door in the veterinary field.

Overall, you can take many different paths to become a successful veterinary assistant.

Whether you complete a certification program or gain experience through on-the-job training, the key is to be dedicated, hardworking, and passionate about working with animals.

Job Responsibilities

As a veterinary assistant, you will play an important role in the day-to-day operations of a veterinary clinic or hospital. Your daily job responsibilities will vary depending on the specific needs of the clinic, but some general duties will include the following:

Animal Care

One of a veterinary assistant’s most important responsibilities is to care for animals.

Animal care may include feeding, walking, and bathing animals, administering medication, restraining animals during exams, and assisting with medical procedures.

You will need to be comfortable handling animals of all sizes and temperaments and understand animal behavior and body language well.

veterinary assistants help with restraining animals during exams

Client Communication

Another important aspect of your job will be communicating with clients. You will need to be able to answer questions about pet care, explain medical procedures, and provide guidance on preventative care.

Good communication skills are essential, as you must empathize with clients and provide them with the support they need during difficult times.

Administrative Tasks

In addition to providing animal care and communicating with clients, you will also be responsible for various administrative tasks.

Veterinary assistant administrative tasks may include scheduling appointments, maintaining medical records, and processing payments. It would help to be organized, detail-oriented, and comfortable using computer software programs.

Skills and Qualities

If you want to become a veterinary assistant, you need to have specific skills and qualities to succeed in this career. Here are some of the essential skills and qualities that you should possess:


As a veterinary assistant, you will work with animals that are often sick, injured, or in pain. You need to have a compassionate nature and be able to provide comfort and support to these animals.

Understanding their needs and responding to them in a caring and empathetic manner is crucial.

Attention to Detail

Working as a veterinary assistant requires a high level of attention to detail. You will be responsible for maintaining and updating accurate records, preparing medications, and assisting with surgeries.

You need to be able to follow instructions carefully and pay close attention to details to ensure that everything is done correctly.

Physical Stamina

Veterinary assistants often have to lift and move heavy animals, stand for long periods, and perform other physically demanding tasks. You must have good physical stamina and work long hours without getting tired.

You’ll also need to handle the stress and pressure of working in a fast-paced environment.

Career Advancement

As a veterinary assistant, there are various opportunities for career advancement. Here are some ways you can advance your veterinary assistant career:

Specialization in the Veterinary Assistant Field

If you want to specialize in a particular area of veterinary medicine, such as pathology, surgery, dentistry, or emergency care, you can take additional courses or training programs.

Specializing will help you gain more knowledge and skills in your area of interest, making you a valuable asset to your employer.

You can also consider obtaining a certification in your specialization, which can demonstrate your expertise and dedication to your profession.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is crucial for veterinary assistants who want to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements and techniques.

You can attend conferences, workshops, or seminars to learn about new technologies, treatments, and procedures. Plus, taking online courses or webinars to expand your knowledge and skills.

Continuing education not only helps you improve your job performance, but it also shows your commitment to your profession.

As a veterinary assistant, you can also become a licensed veterinary technician. Can a vet tech become a vet? The simple answer is yes, but getting into vet school can be challenging!


Experience is another way to advance your career as a veterinary assistant. The more experience you have, the more responsibilities you can handle and the more valuable you become to your employer.

You can gain experience working in different veterinary settings, such as animal hospitals, shelters, or research facilities.

Volunteering at animal rescue organizations or wildlife rehabilitation centers to gain hands-on experience and learn new skills is critical.

By specializing in a particular area, continuing your education, and gaining experience, you can advance your career as a veterinary assistant and take on more challenging and rewarding roles.

FAQs on Becoming a Veterinary Assistant

What is a veterinary assistant?

A veterinary assistant is a crucial member of the veterinary healthcare team. They provide support to veterinarians and veterinary technicians in various tasks.

These tasks include handling animals, assisting with medical procedures, administering medications, maintaining clean and organized workspaces, and offering comfort and care to animals and their owners.

With their dedication, empathy, and hands-on skills, veterinary assistants play a vital role in ensuring veterinary clinics and hospitals’ well-being and smooth operation.

What are the typical duties and responsibilities of a veterinary assistant?

As a veterinary assistant, you’ll wear many hats – from compassionate caregiver to skilled technician.

Your typical duties may include:

  • Assisting in animal examinations.
  • Administering medications.

  • Handling laboratory samples.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing equipment.
  • Providing essential grooming and hygiene care.

  • Offering comfort and support to both animals and their worried owners.

It’s a rewarding role that requires a love for animals, strong organizational skills, and a willingness to go above and beyond to ensure the well-being of our furry friends.

What qualifications or education do I need to become a veterinary assistant?

Formal education or a degree is only sometimes required to become a veterinary assistant. Many veterinary assistants receive on-the-job training or enroll in veterinary assistant certificate programs.

However, having a high school diploma or equivalent is typically necessary. Some clinics may prefer candidates with experience working with animals or completing relevant coursework in animal science or veterinary medicine.

Strong communication skills, a compassionate nature, and the ability to handle physically and mentally demanding tasks are essential qualifications for this role.

Is certification required to work as a veterinary assistant?

The certification requirements for veterinary assistants vary depending on the region and employer.

Certification is sometimes optional, and individuals can gain practical experience through on-the-job training or vocational programs.

However, obtaining certification through recognized organizations such as the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) or the AVMA can provide a competitive edge and demonstrate a commitment to professional development.

It’s advisable to research the specific requirements of your desired work setting to determine if certification is necessary or beneficial for your career as a veterinary assistant.

Are there any specific skills or characteristics that are important for a veterinary assistant to have?

Being a veterinary assistant requires a unique combination of skills and characteristics. First and foremost, a passion for animals and their well-being is essential.

Compassion, patience, proactive thinker, and the ability to remain calm and empathetic in stressful situations are crucial when handling animals and comforting worried pet owners.

Strong communication skills are also necessary, as veterinary assistants often must explain procedures or provide instructions to clients and colleagues.

Additionally, having a keen eye for detail and following instructions is vital in administering medications or labeling samples.

Physical stamina and skill are necessary for lifting, restraining, or assisting with animal examinations. Adaptability and a willingness to learn are valuable traits as veterinary medicine evolves.

With these skills and characteristics, a veterinary assistant can provide exceptional care and support to animals and their human companions.

What career opportunities are available for veterinary assistants?

One potential path is to become a veterinary technician, which involves additional schooling and allows for a higher level of responsibility in animal care, diagnostics, and treatment.

Veterinary assistants could also specialize in emergency medicine, dentistry, or animal behavior, with further education and certification.

Another exciting avenue is pursuing opportunities in research institutions, zoos, or wildlife rehabilitation centers, where veterinary assistants can work with diverse exotic species.

Additionally, veterinary pharmaceutical and pet insurance companies hire veterinary assistants for sales, customer support, or product development roles.

With dedication, empathy, continuous learning, and a passion for animal care, veterinary assistants have the potential to explore a fulfilling and diverse range of career paths within the field of veterinary medicine.

How much does a veterinary assistant typically earn?

According to my research, the average salary of a veterinary assistant in the United States in 2023 is around $32,917 per year. However, the salary range can vary, typically between $26,523 and $50,000 annually.

A vet tech will earn more, and check out this list of vet tech salaries in NY.

It’s worth noting that salaries can also vary by state or location. For example, in North Carolina, veterinary assistants earn an average yearly salary of $29,530, while wages in other states may differ.

It’s always advisable to consider factors such as experience, education, and specific job requirements when determining salary expectations.

Are there any risks or challenges associated with working as a veterinary assistant?

Working as a veterinary assistant comes with its own set of risks and challenges. Some of these include:

Emotional Challenges:

Veterinary assistants often work with animals that are ill, injured, or distressed, which can be emotionally challenging. Witnessing the suffering of animals and dealing with their owners’ emotions can take a toll on mental well-being.

Physical Risks:

Veterinary assistants may face physical risks while working with scared or aggressive animals. Bites, scratches, kicks, or injuries while restraining or handling animals are common hazards in this profession.

Compassion Fatigue:

Constantly caring for sick or injured animals and witnessing their pain can lead to compassion fatigue. This psychological and physical condition can cause burnout, stress, and a decline in overall well-being.

Salary Limitations:

Compared to registered veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants generally earn a lower salary, which can pose financial challenges.

Workload and Hours:

Veterinary assistants often work long and irregular hours, including weekends and holidays. The demanding nature of the job may require them to be available at all times, which can impact work-life balance.

Occupational Hazards:

Handling chemicals, medications, and potentially contagious animals can expose veterinary assistants to occupational hazards. It’s essential to follow proper safety protocols to minimize any associated risks.

It’s important to note that while these challenges exist, many individuals find immense fulfillment in their work as veterinary assistants. With proper support, self-care practices, and a passion for animal care, a vet assistant can manage these challenges effectively.