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How do I become a vet assistant?

Have you always dreamed of helping animals in need? Whilst taking a full vet course and enrolling in medical school might seem like a daunting and expensive route to take for many of us, did you know there’s another option open to you?

What is a veterinary assistant?

This career path plays an important role in any practice, bringing comfort to its furry patients and ensuring the smooth running of the hospital or clinic. A rewarding and hands on career, you’ll be trusted to care for animals and support veterinarians in the important work they do. 

So, how do you become a vet assistant? Let’s find out a little more about the role, and the online animal care courses that can help you achieve your new dream career!

A day in the life of a vet assistant

Is always varied, busy and rewarding. It could include any of the following duties:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Liaising with customers and owners
  • Performing administration tasks
  • Feeding, bathing and caring for animal patients
  • Assisting veterinarians during examinations and operations
  • Ensure the cleanliness of equipment and cages
  • Soothe upset or frightened animals
  • Administer medication prescribed by veterinarians
  • Keep accurate records and logs

How much can a vet assistant earn?

 Well, the average veterinary assistant gross salary in New Zealand is around $40,000. But this could rise with experience and additional training. Not bad for spending all day with your favourite furry, scaly or feathered friends! 

From there, some assistants plan to continue their career by training as a veterinary nurse, which requires further qualifications and a longer study period. However, once qualified you could earn around $45,000-47,000 as an experienced vet nurse in New Zealand. 

You could also progress in your studies to become a veterinary technician. In this role, you would still observe the behaviour and condition of animals, provide nursing care and emergency first aid to recovering or injured animals, but crucially you would also administer anaesthesia to animals and monitor their responses. You would also be tasked with complicated procedures such as x-rays & laboratory tests. A vet tech typically earns around $70,000 a year.

Starting as a vet assistant is a fantastic job on its own, but also provides an accessible & affordable stepping stone to understand how a vet clinic works, and whether these further progressions would be worth the time and financial investment for you.

So how do you get your foot in the door?

Though there are no formal qualifications required, being a vet assistant certainly requires both personal skills and a deep understanding of animals and their medical needs.


Personal skills

  • Empathy – A soothing manner & the skills to communicate with owners effectively are key. You’ll need a patient and caring personality to deal with animals and owners who may be in distress. 
  • Attention to Detail – Monitoring animals closely, and keeping a rigorous schedule to keep the clinic running smoothly. 
  • Focus – You’ll need to be able to see beyond the exterior and dive deep into your knowledge of animal behaviour, as well as the ability to stay calm under pressure.
  • Active Listening – The ability to follow instructions carefully and precisely is key in animal healthcare.
  • Love Of Animals – Of course, you’ll need a deep love of all animals to really excel!
  • Emotional Resilience – Sometimes, working in animal medicine means witnessing distressing scenes or helping owners with the loss of their pet. You’ll need to be able to process and deal with these tough times, as well as helping owners. 


Professional skills

  • Administration – You’ll need to be confident with booking, appointment and note-taking software. 
  • Knowledge – You’ll need a thorough knowledge of animal care & behaviour, as well as medical terminology. 
  • Experience  – Any previous experience with animals, especially in a medical setting, will be extremely useful also.

To gain experience

you could start by volunteering at an animal shelter or zoo, or even offer to sit or walk neighbourhood pets, for example. A good first start is to also approach your local veterinary practice with a view to undertaking some work experience, which can provide you with a detailed overview of the job role and the required knowledge. 

However, to secure a paid entry-level role in veterinary care facilities, and to stand above the competition, an animal care course certificate will be highly valuable. Demonstrating your ability to understand terminology, attend to issues quickly and have a deep theoretical understanding of animal behaviour. 

That’s why we work with industry experts to build our Vet Assistant Course. One of the most comprehensive vet courses online, specifically tailored to gaining the right experience to benefit assistant work, our course is the ideal starting point for anyone who is looking to work with animals on a professional level.

Plus, the benefits of our online animal care courses are boundless! You can learn at your own pace, at a time that suits you. Meaning you can fit your studies around your day job or family commitments easily. Our affordable payment plans are built with access in mind, so there’s nothing holding you back. Led by experts, with 24/7 access and full tutor support, you’ll be laying the foundations for animal care success. 

Plus, you can even specialise in your love for life on the wild side, with our Wildlife Veterinary Assistant course. Perfect for those who have their heart set on working with the beautiful array of animals we are lucky to have here in New Zealand.

Enrol today, and start your animal care career in a way that works for you!


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