Why Becoming a Massachusetts Veterinary Assistant is a Wise Choice
The American people have had a long relationship with their treasured companion animals, in many cases considering a pet to be a member of the family.
For that reason, the veterinary care sector is seen as a vital part of America, second only to the health care sector for the human members of the family.
Massachusetts is an excellent example of this, with a wide range of veterinary services available to concerned families. Veterinary assistants (VAs) play a vital role in these veterinary care establishments, ranging from riding and exercising horses to ensuring that animals under the care of the clinic are properly fed and watered.
Job Opportunities for VAs
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) currently estimates that there were over 74,600 VAs who were employed. In some cases, these VAs worked in labs and were identified as laboratory caretakers, although these individuals carried out the same role as most VAs.
By 2022, the BLS believes that there will be at least 81,700 VA jobs available in America. When factoring in job openings due to retirements and other factors, this indicates that the new VAs will enjoy very promising job prospects in Massachusetts, which had over 2200 VA jobs in 2013.
In addition, when compared to many other states, Massachusetts has very promising wage levels. While the current national median wage for VAs stands at over $23,000, Massachusetts’ annual mean wage stands at over $31,000. When combined with many of the benefits enjoyed by veterinary assistants working in Massachusetts, this makes working in this state a very attractive option for VAs of all experience levels.
What Does a VA Do?
VAs work as non-licensed assistants to veterinarians, veterinary technicians and other professional animal-care specialists.
Because they are non-licensed, they have very strict limits on what type of care they can provide.
In general, VAs must be employed by and work under the supervision of a licensed veterinary care worker and may not diagnose an animal’s condition, prescribe medication or conduct surgical procedures on that animal.
The most common duties performed by a VA include the following:
- Veterinary assistants ensure that the animals under their care receive a balanced diet assigned by the veterinarian or veterinary technician. Depending on the animals, the assistant may be required the monitor the diet on a daily basis in order to ensure that the animal is consuming enough food to maintain its health.
- All animals require some form of exercise. Whether it is as simple as releasing a dog into a play area or as complex as riding or leading a horse in exercises, the veterinary assistant is responsible for ensuring that the animal receives adequate exercise while also ensuring that it does not over exert or otherwise injure itself.
- Safely restraining the animal during examinations and other procedures is a vital part of any assistant’s duties. Many animals can injure themselves or others if not properly restrained and veterinary assistants are trained to do so without injuring or further frightening the animal.
- Veterinary assistants sterilize and store the veterinary practice’s equipment. Because infections transmitted via improperly sterilized equipment can prove dangerous to both the animals and their caregivers, this is a vital part of the assistant’s duties.
- Finally, many VAs also work as receptionists in the front office, greeting new customers in addition to properly filing reports and other records.
How to Become a VA in MA
There are two methods to become a VA. The first method is to be hired by an employer who is willing to provide on the job training to the new employee. The second is to seek out formal training as a VA before seeking employment.
On the Job Training
While on the job training was once the dominant form of training for VAs, a growing number of employers are currently seeking employees who have some degree of formal training. However many veterinary practices are still willing to train new employees. In this case, the employee will receive on the job training from experienced VAs or other supervisory staff.
Formal Training Programs
Formal training programs are generally offered by community colleges and vocational schools. In most cases, a VA training program will take anywhere from several months to a year, depending on the program itself and the student’s schedule.
In addition, many online and distance learning programs exist, which can allow the student to complete the program without being forced to attend school on a full-time schedule. This can be especially important for those students who are currently employed.
Formal training programs also open the possibility of being certified as an approved veterinary assistant through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians (NAVTA). The NAVTA provides this certification program to allow VAs to demonstrate that they are capable of providing high quality service to their employers and clients.
Ultimately, becoming a VA in Massachusetts can be an excellent choice for those individuals who are interested in a long-term career that is both personally and professionally rewarding.