How To Become A Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker

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How Long Does It Take, What Degree Do You Need, and More

Vet Assistants

Vet Assistants feed, water, and examine pets and other nonfarm animals for signs of illness, disease, or injury in laboratories and animal hospitals and clinics. Clean and disinfect cages and work areas, and sterilize laboratory and surgical equipment. May provide routine postoperative care, administer medication orally or topically, or prepare samples for laboratory examination under the supervision of veterinary or laboratory animal technologists or technicians, veterinarians, or scientists.

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Table of contents
  1. Summary
  2. Steps to become one
  3. Popular degree levels
  4. How long does it take


Degree Certificate or Associate's degree
Degree field Veterinary Assistant certificate program
License or certification Not required
Duration to become one One to four years
Difficulty to become one Easy

Vet Assistants typically need a high school diploma but earning an undergraduate degree or completing a certification program provides more career opportunities. Aspiring Vet Assistants should consider completing a Veterinary Assistant or Veterinary Technician program leading to an Associate’s degree, Bachelor’s degree, or certificate.

No certifications are required but many Vet Assistants earn the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).

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Vet Assistants Requirements

Step 1: Volunteer at Animal Shelters or Vet Clinics

High school students can begin exploring a Veterinary career by volunteering at animal shelters or veterinary clinics. Many employers prefer to hire Vet Assistants that have experience working with animals. Volunteering provides a way to gain this experience and potentially find a future employer.

Step 2: Look for Work as a Veterinary Assistant

A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for Vet Assistants. After finishing high school, you can start looking for work at vet clinics.

Many clinics provide on-the-job training to inexperienced Vet Assistants. While a high school diploma is a minimal requirement, you can increase your chances of finding a job by continuing your education.

Step 3: Complete a Veterinary Assistant Certificate Program

There are several educational paths for Vet Assistants that want to improve their resume. The shortest path is the completion of a Veterinary Assistant certificate program. These programs typically take one year to complete and are often found at vocational schools or community colleges.

Aspiring Vet Assistants should look for programs that are approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). Completing an approved program is necessary for earning the AVA designation.

Step 4: Pass the AVA Designation Exam

After completing a NAVTA-approved program, you can take the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) Designation Exam. When you pass the exam, you receive a certificate and the right to use the AVA designation, which should make it easier to find a job as a Vet Assistant.

Step 5: Earn an Associate’s Degree in Veterinary Technology

An alternative educational path is the completion of an Associate’s degree program. Veterinary Technician programs typically take two years to complete.

Completing the Associate’s degree program leads to an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Veterinary Technology. It also provides a path for career advancement, allowing you to eventually seek Veterinary Technician jobs.

If you plan on becoming a Vet Assistant as a path to becoming a Veterinary or Veterinary Technician, look for undergraduate programs approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Completing an AVMA-approved program is necessary for Veterinary Technicians and acceptance to a Veterinary Medical School.

Step 6: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Technology

The third educational path for Vet Assistants is a Bachelor’s degree. Earning a Bachelor’s degree typically takes four years. It also provides more opportunities for higher pay or promotions.

Those that earn Bachelor’s degrees in Veterinary Technology may become Veterinary Technologists. Technologists have more responsibilities compared to Vet Assistants and Technicians.

Step 7: Pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination

If you plan on furthering your career, you may need to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE). Most states require Veterinary Technicians and Veterinary Technologists to pass the VTNE.

The VTNE is offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). To be eligible for the exam, you must complete an AVMA-approved Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree program.

What degree do most Vet Assistants have

High School Diploma

We did a survey to ask other Vet Assistants what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

High School Diploma

Associate’s degree


How long does it take

One to four years

Most Vet Assistants enter the field after completing a training program or earning an undergraduate degree. Certificate programs take one year to complete, Associate’s degrees take four years, and a Bachelor’s degree requires four years of study.

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