Veterinary assistants, also known as veterinary technician assistant, serve as part of animal healthcare teams. A veterinary assistant works under the supervision of a licensed veterinary technician as well as a veterinarian. They complete a postsecondary training program, and starting in 2011, are eligible for certification through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).
An aspiring veterinary assistant can complete training at a community college or vocational or technical school. Most programs will require applicants to be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED. Applicants to veterinary assistant training programs may also be asked to take entrance exams in math and demonstrate fluency in English, along with passing a drug test and criminal background check. In order to qualify for NAVTA certification, an aspiring veterinary assistant will need to attend an accredited program. As of spring 2011, three programs are accredited; an NAVTA committee meets quarterly to review submissions from programs seeking accreditation.
Training for veterinary assistants combines didactic, or classroom learning, with clinical practice. In an accredited program, such as the one at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey — which is offered in conjunction with Red Bank Veterinary Hospital — students take courses in surgical assisting, laboratory procedures, ultrasound, small animal nursing and office procedures.
Prospective equine veterinary assistants who complete the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians (AAEVT) training program qualify for certification through the AAEVT. Veterinary assistants working with small animals can seek certification through the NAVTA. The designation of Approved Veterinary Assistant will be awarded to veterinary assistants who graduate from an accredited program and pass the association's national examination, which will be offered starting in April 2011.
Graduation from a veterinary assistant program qualifies a student for employment in veterinary offices and hospitals. In order to advance, further education will be needed. Credits earned in a veterinary assistant program can be transferred to a veterinary technician training program. Veterinary technicians earn a minimum of an associate's degree, while veterinary assistant training can be completed in about one year.