While there are some truly exceptional individuals who can walk into a certain career “cold” and begin using their natural talents and instincts – think “born salesman” – there are few who would see a physician with no medical training or even let someone work on their car who had never before taken a course in auto-repair.
It’s the same for those who enter into the animal care arena. A love of animals is certainly a great start, however, there’s a lot more to caring for animals than knowing if a dog is ready to bite or just scared.
For students entering high school who already know they want to enter into animal care, emphasizing science and biology is a great start. So is volunteering at a local animal shelter to get some hands-on experience caring for animals, primarily dogs and cats, in all conditions and at all stages of their lives.
For many others, however, they are years out of school and the plan of beginning their high school education with science classes is not an option. While volunteering at shelters and other animal facilities is one possibility, most people are looking for work that pays.
Working as a veterinary assistant is one job opening for someone who does not have a degree, but did successfully earn their high school diploma or GED. This is work that seems tailor-made for the job description “hands on”. It is truly a learning experience and someone with general knowledge could begin working with minimal animal medicine knowledge.
It must be noted, though, that nearly all veterinary offices will have computer systems for front office work and protocols that must be learned and followed to maintain an aseptic environment for the health and safety of the animals in their care and the people who work in the setting. Knowledge of these programs and computers in general is almost guaranteed to be a part of this employment.
To this end, there are opportunities to earn a veterinary assistant certification that will do more to prepare the new assistant for his or her job responsibilities. These formalized programs provide a range of information and medical office knowledge that should give any veterinary assistant candidate a definite edge when it comes time for employment.
Earning a veterinary assistant certificate and working in a veterinary practice will certainly come in handy when advancing into a veterinary technician position, however, it’s not an absolute requirement. What the veterinary technician requires is an Associate of Science degree earned through two years of schooling where the sciences are emphasized, along with any required pre-requisite courses.
Through this two year schooling and often involving a third year, the veterinary technician gains knowledge in the life processes of animals (both normal and abnormal), nursing (medical and surgical), and testing (such as clinical laboratory procedures and diagnostic imaging), as well as how to care for and handle different types of animals.
Students wishing to advance further would continue school for four years, eventually receiving a bachelor degree from an American Veterinary Medical Association accredited school. This bachelor degree would result in a veterinary technologist. The technologist performs many of the same tasks as a technician, however, there is more education and depth to the knowledge the technologist brings into play.
For those who will move onto veterinary medical school to become a veterinarian, this is the first four of eight years of schooling required. Both technicians and technologists can expect to take and pass state credentialing before working in their fields.
After receiving a bachelor’s, the student will move onto an accredited veterinary medical school. Accreditation is through the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Study during the first three of four years is on the animals themselves – their anatomy, physiology, and immunology, along with medical procedures – pharmacological and surgical. The last year of school involves clinical rotations. Core requirements are completed and electives are chosen, letting each student specialize in an area of choice. All this education results in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.
There is a natural progression in veterinary medicine – from assistant to technician to technologist to veterinarian – that allows a student to pursue their love of animals and their welfare at whatever level they wish to attain. While knowing before high school starts that becoming a veterinarian is the end goal is optimum, veterinary medicine does not limit someone to just that starting point.
Volunteering can move someone into an veterinary assistant position and that person can take two years and pair their on the job skills with formal training to become a technician. Two more years and the technologist has earned a Bachelor’s and brings additional depth to their knowledge and contribution to a veterinary practice, laboratory, or research setting. Finally, four more years at a veterinary medical college brings a new Doctor of Veterinary Medicine into the growing animal care field.
No matter the level, animals benefit from the care and compassion offered by these professionals.
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