How to Become a Veterinary Assistant

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is a positive one, showing a growth of 14% between 2020 and 2030. That’s faster than average, and it might be the perfect time to learn how to become a veterinary assistant.

If you have a deep love for working with animals and a passion for veterinary medicine, you’ve probably considered it. But if you want to become a veterinary assistant, you need to follow the right steps. It begins with the right education.

This guide can help put you on the right path to your new career, so let’s get started.

What Is a Veterinary Assistant?

If you have a pet and you’ve taken them to veterinary offices to receive care, you’ve likely already encountered a veterinary assistant. They can work in the front office or perform basic animal care.

It’s a veterinary assistant’s job to help assist the veterinarian, veterinary technician, and pet owners. Keep in mind that clinics and animal hospitals have their own requirements for a veterinary assistant.

What Does a Trained Veterinary Assistant Do?

A trained veterinary assistant has many tasks, and they’re invaluable for help across the entire clinic or vet hospital.

Some responsibilities include:

  • Cleaning exam rooms
  • Cleaning equipment
  • Preparing surgical suites
  • Running laboratory tests
  • Stocking exam rooms
  • Filling and dispensing prescriptions
  • Feeding, exercising, and grooming animals
  • Restraining animals (if necessary) during examinations

Vet assistants also take care of administrative tasks, such as:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Customer service
  • Entering information into charts
  • Transferring patient records

Once you’ve received your education and training, you can also assist with tasks such as:

  • Collecting samples
  • Administering immunizations and medication
  • Observing animals and reporting to the vet
  • Helping with surgical procedures
  • Providing care before and after procedures

Obtaining Education

Before you can become a veterinary assistant, you need the right schooling. We’ll break each step down so you can determine the requirements that are needed and where you need to start.

General Admissions Requirements

First, there are general admissions requirements to meet before you can apply to a school.

Usually those interested in becoming a veterinary assistant must have a valid high school diploma or GED equivalency. In most cases, this is the minimum level of education necessary. Post-secondary schools offer training programs that teach you about all the aspects of becoming a veterinary assistant.

Requirements by State

In Pennsylvania, there are no state requirements. However, most vet practices will only hire individuals that meet the minimum education requirements mentioned above.

It’s not necessary to become an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA), though it may help your career progress.

In New York, there are no education or certification requirements to become a veterinary assistant. Individual employers determine the necessary requirements. However, simply because there are no state requirements doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attend a training program. It can make you stand out among employers and many employers prefer to hire assistants that already have a good foundation for the veterinary skills they require.

In Ohio, there are also no minimum educational requirements. Most employers will choose to hire individuals with a high school education or equivalent. Since vet practices set their own requirements, taking a program teaches you many invaluable skills that will give you the edge you need to succeed.

Completing a Veterinary Assistant Program

Although some veterinary clinics and offices may provide on-the-job training, it’s more likely you’ll be able to secure employment after you’ve obtained a certificate. Obtaining a certificate also makes you better prepared for the challenges you can face as a veterinary assistant and gives you a leg up in your career.

You can complete veterinary assistant programs online or in person.

Here are some examples of what you’ll learn in our program and is typical of other veterinary assistant programs:

  • Perform vital signs
  • Collect/record medical history
  • Receive hospital patients
  • Learn proper control and restraint techniques
  • Assist the vet
  • Prepare and clean tools for surgery
  • Perform inventories
  • Perform laboratory procedures
  • Obtain lab specimens
  • Obtain x-rays
  • Apply bandages
  • Administer medication

You can become a veterinarian assistant in 10 months through our program.

Externships gives you experience in the field working with veterinarians and vet techs. Having real world experience is invaluable to making yourself more employable and to further developing your skills.

What Qualities Should a Veterinary Assistant Have?

Is a career as a veterinary assistant right for you? Well, first, you need to understand what qualities a vet assistant should have.

Love of animals

The most obvious and most important qualification is a love for animals and a passion for taking care of them. Most veterinary assistants own several pets and are more than comfortable being around them all day long. If you love animals, you can check this qualification off.


Vet assistants also need patience. Many pets are scared of the vet and anxiety is common in dogs and other animals because the entire experience can feel traumatic to them. They may become difficult to handle or will not follow commands you give. Obviously animals don’t speak English so it’s rare that they will do the things you need them to do in order to treat them.

It’s important to remain calm and have patience so that you are able to accomplish the tasks you need to accomplish. It’s your job as a veterinary assistant to help calm and control animals for the vet.

Be in Decent Physical Shape

As a veterinary assistant it’s useful to be in good physical shape. You’ll spend much of your day on your feet walking around the office and sometimes you will need to move quickly. Also you may need to lift heavy animals during examinations and to get them on to scales for vital sign measurement.

Control Over Your Emotions

As a veterinary assistant you will see sick, injured, and abused animals frequently, which can be difficult when you have a love and passion for animals. It’s important to be able to keep your composure in these situations as you will need to be able to perform when animals need you the most.

Composure and the ability to remain calm in emergency situations are also crucial. You need to be ready for anything and handle any complex problems that arise.

Eagerness to Learn

Lastly, you should have an eagerness to learn and help however you can. You never know what you’ll be called upon to do, and an eagerness to learn helps you develop new skills you can use to help the animals you love.

Apply Today to Become a Veterinary Assistant

Do you have a desire to help animals and work with them on a daily basis? If so, you should consider becoming a veterinary assistant.

Take the steps outlined in this guide to get started. Make sure you meet all general admissions requirements and apply with us at the Great Lakes Institute of Technology.

You can apply online today or click below to learn more about the Veterinary Assistant program at Great lakes and get started on your career!