Veterinary assistants, also called vet assistants, help with basic animal care and perform clerical and administrative tasks in veterinary practices. A path to a job as a veterinary assistant usually is through on-the-job training, completion of a vet assistant program or a combination of the two. Vet assistant programs are offered at community colleges, technical schools and veterinary assistant vocational schools. To choose the best vet assistant program, consider your long-term goals, the attributes of the program, your schedule and other factors.
If your long-term goal includes advancement in the veterinary field, consider a vet assistant program with coursework that is transferable. For example, some vet assistant programs teach essentially the same coursework that licensed veterinary technicians learn in their first year of classes. If you complete such a veterinary assistant program, you can gain work experience and, if you've decided to advance in the field, complete the additional advanced nursing coursework to become a professional veterinary technician. Alternatively, some vet assistant program coursework can be transferred toward two- or four-year veterinary science degrees.
The coursework in the best vet assistant programs provides a balance between theory and practical application, and they are taught by veterinary professionals. Some programs are taught online and allow students to progress at their own pace, which can be advantageous for working students. Other programs combine online and face-to-face courses, and coursework for some programs is conducted completely in the classroom. Whether courses are taught online, in a classroom setting or both, a good program includes hands-on time spent working in a veterinary practice or other veterinary setting.
Some programs allow students to complete all their coursework and then perform on-the-job training with a veterinarian to complete the program. Others provide internship or externship opportunities. Whatever the case, it is very important to choose a program that provides actual hands-on experience working with animals.
Other things to consider when choosing a veterinary assistant program include whether the school provides job placement support following program completion and the school's job placement record. Find out what body accredits the school, and do some research to ensure that the organization is reputable. If you need financial assistance, be sure to ask whether the program is eligible for scholarships and financial aid. Consider the cost of the school or schools you are considering versus the benefits that you will receive from the program. Also, think about basics, such as how close you live to the school if you will take classes on the campus and whether public transportation is available, if you need that option.