Dear Christopher Cat
I’d like to know how I can become a veterinary assistant. Can I get hands-on training on the job, or must I enter a school program?
The veterinary assistant is an important member of the team, helping the veterinary technician and veterinarian care for animal patients.
Some veterinarians hire veterinary assistants with no formal training, but the practice is becoming less common as training programs sprout up around the country.
In my area of Pennsylvania, veterinary assistant training is available through some public schools (which have classes for both high school and adult students), community colleges and even online.
The community college and online options are good for people who need to continue working full time while they train as veterinary assistants.
For more information, check the Web site of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America, www.navta.net. You'll find information on what's included in veterinary assistant training and a link to an online course. In addition, the site provides a wealth of information on veterinary technician programs.
If you prefer to learn veterinary assisting on the job, contact animal hospitals with reputations for offering the highest quality veterinary care. That last part's important if you want to learn the best ways to do things.
Job prerequisites are a love of animals, experience handling at least cats and dogs, and a sincere desire to help animals feel better. Physical strength and dexterity are useful, and it helps if you don't mind getting dirty on occasion.
Good luck. Please let us know how it works out.