5 Career Paths for Veterinary Assistants
In the veterinary field, there are many options for prospective employees to choose from. Whether you’re interested in being a veterinarian or just working with animals in general, there are plenty of jobs to consider. Working as a veterinary assistant is one such opportunity.
Since these professionals are not vet techs or veterinarians, they usually operate at an entry-level position within the industry. While a veterinarian is a general practitioner who can diagnose and treat animals for whatever disease they might have, the demanding work environment requires an assistant with a different skill set.
Veterinary assistants have always helped veterinarians conduct physical exams, monitor patients, and document their findings, but the role has grown and expanded over the decades. Now, they provide various support services to help veterinarians and other staff members deliver animal care more efficiently. And because demand for vet assistants is expected to grow considerably over the next decade, these are ideal career options for anyone interested in working with animals.
But this doesn’t mean that you need to be a vet assistant your entire professional life. Read on to learn more about what it takes to become a veterinarian assistant and some of the opportunities available in this field.
Top Career Paths for Veterinary Assistants
Getting a veterinary assistant diploma doesn’t mean you’ll be an assistant forever. Many opportunities await you if you’re willing to maximize your educational background. Here are some career paths you can take after you become a veterinary assistant.
- Vet Tech
The most common career path for a veterinary assistant is becoming a veterinary technician/technologist or vet tech. Vet techs are like nurses to doctors as they often work closely together. They help veterinarians provide first aid, administer medications, and prepare animals for surgery. Veterinary assistants will need to pursue an associate’s degree, which usually takes two years to complete.
Most American Veterinary Association accredited technical schools offer flexible classes that allow vet assistants to continue working while taking their education further. Unlike a vet assistant, vet techs must pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination after program completion.
- Animal Clinic Manager
Veterinary assistants can also take on a more leadership or managerial role by becoming an animal clinic manager. In this position they won’t be working directly with animals; their role will mostly include administrative activities within the clinic. They’ll be in charge of scheduling pet check-ups and dealing with customers to ensure they get maximum satisfaction.
To become a manager who will deal with financial transactions and other business decisions, vet assistants may require business and management-related courses. They can also increase their employability by getting a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager certification. This recognition is from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association.
- Veterinary Assistant School Trainer
Veterinary assistants can also build their careers by becoming veterinary school trainers. They can use the knowledge they learned from their veterinary assistant program and the skills from clinical practice.
If you advance your career on this path, you will need to give lectures, write lesson plans, and assess student progress, among other things. Aside from classroom activities, you may also participate in other responsibilities, including preparing a departmental budget, maintaining student records, and working with other faculty members. You can also serve as a mentor to your students by offering different career services.
Working in the animal care industry, you may realize you have a strong affinity for the profession. It’s common to see veterinary assistants using their knowledge, skills, and experience to advance and become full-fledged veterinarians. It helps that the industry remains among the fastest-growing careers, with a projected growth rate of 19%.
A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program lasts for four years. The first two years would include coursework completion, including learning the basic anatomy and physiology of animals. Vet assistants have an advantage here since they’re more familiar with the curriculum—these topics are part of their vet assistant program.
The more in-depth and clinically focused courses usually start in the third year. The final year is when you’d complete clinical rotations to get hands-on and practical experience working with different animals.
Working with animals can likewise inspire you to become a zoologist. This role will focus on observing animals or conducting experiments in their natural habitat. You may need to collect data or animal specimens to study in the lab. While you can study different animals, some zoologists specialize in one species.
You need to complete a bachelor’s degree to become a zoologist. If you want to explore animal research, getting a master’s or doctoral degree is advisable.
Take the First Step to Advance Your Veterinary Assistant Career
In the expanding world of vet practices, practitioners must address numerous animal care tasks. Even though it may not carry the same cache as being a vet, assisting will give you hands-on experience under your supervisor’s watchful eye. It will also provide you with a valuable skill set you can take anywhere. If you think the veterinary field is for you, take the first step by becoming a veterinary assistant.
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