How to Become a Vet Tech in California
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Veterinary Assistant Schools and Programs in California
The primary duties of a veterinary assistant entail looking after animals in clinics as well as assisting with certain procedures. They are generally under the direct supervision of scientists, veterinarians, or veterinary technicians or technologists.
Their tasks may include general grooming and caring for animals by feeding, bathing, and exercising them. They may also clean and disinfect exam and operating rooms as well as hold animals still so the veterinarian can perform certain tests or examinations. California typically has a strong pet culture, and has a number of large metro areas where vet workers may find opportunities.
California Veterinary Assistant Schools
There may be a number of paths to becoming a vet assistant, but at minimum it’s typically required to have at least a high school diploma, as well as some formal training. Many vet assistants choose to go through a program at a vet assistant school or community college. Here are a few examples of schools in California:
- Allan Hancock College: Ranked one of the top 120 community in the nation and one of the five best in California, the Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria is known for its English as a second language (ESL) program, its professional theatre program and for its student support services.
- Carrington College (Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Pomona, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leando, Stockton): With campuses in eight western states, Carrington offers a breadth of opportunities for health care career-minded students and focuses on a “hands on” approach.
- Foothill College: Particularly focusing on underserved and underrepresented populations, Foothill College offers a wealth of programs for students and was in fact the first community college in California to offer online courses.
- Los Angeles Pierce College: A two-year comprehensive public institution with more than 60 disciplines, Los Angeles Pierce College has one of the highest transfer performances in all of Southern California.
- Modesto Junior College: Founded in 1921, Modesto Junior College is one of the oldest community colleges in the state and has over 80 associate degree programs.
- Platt College (Los Angeles, Ontario, and Riverside): At three different campuses across California, Platt College specializes in Medical Sciences, Legal Studies, and Graphic Design.
- Santa Rosa Junior College: Nearly 100 years old, Santa Rosa Junior College sis known for academic excellence and boasts over 40 clubs, conference-winning athletic teams and nationally ranked speech and debate teams.
- Westech College: Westech College focuses on providing an educational link between a constantly evolving workplace and a brand new workforce.
What to Expect from California Veterinary Assistant Programs
Typical veterinary assistant programs involve a combination of general skillset building, technical knowledge coursework, and some require a set amount of in-field education. While coursework varies from program to program, a few general skillsets touched upon may include:
- Active Listening
- Active Learning
- Critical Thinking
- Reading Comprehension
These skills may play a crucial role in your success as a veterinary assistant.
As far as technical knowledge coursework goes, you may cover such topics as learning to clean medical equipment, performing clerical work in medical settings, collecting biological specimens, disposing of biomedical waste in accordance with standards, preparing medical instruments and equipment for use, recording vital statistics, preparing medical reports or documents, etc.
California Veterinary Assistant License
Certification for a veterinary assistant is not mandatory in the state of California. Employers however may be more likely to hire candidates possessing any additional certification as it can show an advanced understanding of the various job responsibilities involved in this career.
On the national level, if you are a veterinary assistant seeking certification the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America offers the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation for the role. Program guidelines include graduating from a NAVTA-approved course as well as passing a proctored exam written by NAVTA’s AVA committee.
In California specifically, the California Veterinary Medical Association offers the Certified Veterinary Assistant (CVA) program. The program requires viewing over 100 videos and documents, as well as mentoring from a veterinarian or registered veterinary technician and finally completing an exam.
In order to learn more about careers in veterinary assisting in California, we reached out to Elizabeth White, Program Director of the Registered Veterinary Technology program at Pierce College in California.
What are some of the unique issues that vet assistants, technologists and technicians face in the state of California?
One issue that has recently arisen is that the CA Veterinary Medical Board switched from a comprehensive state board exam to utilizing the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). This in itself is not a problem, except that California also requires a candidate to take a 50 question exam specific to veterinary related laws in CA. The problem is that candidates have to pay $300 to take the VTNE and another $300 to take the CA state board exam. The state reduced the size and scope of their exam, but not the fee. It still costs candidates $300 to take the state board exam and then an additional $300 to take the VTNE. So now a candidate that desires to get licensed as an RVT in California is paying twice as much as before. New graduates (who have typically incurred student debt) will often have to delay taking their exams which prevents them from getting licensed in a timely manner.
What is the greatest benefit of practicing this field within the state of California?
California has always been on the cutting edge of technology and forward thinking. As RVTs, we benefit from being able to participate in advanced medical procedures, but are also able to utilize state of the art equipment and work with brilliant, compassionate colleagues. We also have a wide range of animals in our state, from companion animals to livestock and horses, lab animals, wildlife, exotics and non-traditional pets. Whatever type of animal you love, and whichever branch of medicine intrigues you, an RVT can find a satisfying career in California. Lastly, humane treatment of animals is mandated by law and supported by the public. Our ethical obligation to alleviate suffering by providing excellent care and services to animals can be fully met in California.
How will the job of a veterinarian technologist or technician change in the next 10 to 20 years?
I think the next major change for Veterinary Technology will be the genesis of a Veterinary Professional Associate (VPA). This position parallels the Physician Assistant in human medicine. VPAs would be able to implement wellness programs and diagnose and treat minor problems such as skin and ear infections, GI disturbances, etc. More serious conditions would be triaged and referred to a DVM. VPAs would also educate clients about animal care, nutrition, neutering, parasites, etc. Colorado State University vet school has recently proposed a Master’s degree program for the VPA. The public has embraced this mid-tier position in human medicine, so it is likely that something similar in veterinary medicine will be readily accepted.
How is your school preparing students for a future in this career?
RVTs must possess basic skills and knowledge upon graduation. They need to be able to pass their board exams and effectively perform their duties in a clinical setting. Providing this type of education to students is the core of any AVMA accredited veterinary program. But additionally, students need to develop non-technical skills, such as critical thinking, communication, team building and diplomacy. Our school strives to incorporate these important aspects of veterinary technology across the curriculum by utilizing lab groups, shared animal care responsibilities, case study presentations, and group discussions, both in class and online. We also provide hands-on experience with animals and their owners with an on-site veterinary clinic and extensive externship programs at animal hospitals. Lastly, many of our faculty continues to work in a veterinary clinic, which inspires the students and lends a realistic perspective to their education.
Resources for Veterinary Assistants in California
- National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America
- California Veterinary Medical Association
Selected Schools in California
Click the Request Info buttons to request more information from a representative at the school.
More California Schools
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Mt San Antonio College
San Diego Mesa College
Santa Rosa Junior College
Los Angeles Pierce College
Modesto Junior College
Los Altos Hills
Cosumnes River College
Allan Hancock College
College of the Sequoias
San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia
Pima Medical Institute-Chula Vista
Carrington College-San Jose
Platt College-Los Angeles
Carrington College-Citrus Heights
Carrington College-Pleasant Hill
Carrington College-San Leandro
Central Coast College
California Healing Arts College
Butte County Regional Occupational Program
Job Popularity in Metro Areas for Veterinary Assistants
The map below shows job statistics for the career type by metro area, for California. A table below the map shows job popularity and salaries across the state.
Metro Areas Rated for Popularity for:
Listed below are metro areas ranked by the popularity of jobs for Veterinary Assistants relative to the population of the city. Salary data was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 23.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org
Annual Median Salary
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim||3560||$29,960|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara||620||$38,670|
|San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande||240||$29,600|
|Santa Maria-Santa Barbara||160||$30,830|
- Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm#tab-1
- Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm#tab-1
- Interview with Elizabeth White, Program Director of the Registered Veterinary Technology program at Pierce College in California
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Becoming an Veterinary Assistant in California
Veterinary assistants work with veterinarians and veterinary technicians to care for animals. They feed, bathe and exercise animals. They help restrain the animals while they’re being treated and help with their aftercare. Veterinary assistants also sanitize and sterilize surgical equipment and exam rooms, clean cages, and collect lab samples. Additionally, some clerical duties may be required, such as taking calls, managing appointments and records, and discharging clients.
While most employers may prefer to hire veterinary assistants who have at least a high school diploma or GED, there are no specific educational requirements for becoming a veterinary assistant in the state of California. However, completing a veterinary assisting program may work to your advantage, as employers are more likely to hire someone with at least some veterinary awareness and experience. Experience may also be preferred.
Veterinary Assistant Programs in California
There are several California colleges that offer veterinary assistant programs, both online and on campus. The Chula Vista campus of PIMA Medical Institute in San Diego has a veterinary assistant program that can be completed in nine months. In this program students will learn how to provide animals with preventative healthcare, collect lab samples, administer medication, assist with surgeries, record medical information and much more. The program consists of 30 credit hours including a clinical externship.
Yuba College has a veterinary assistant certificate program that can be taken completely online. Through online discussions, video presentations and textbooks, students will learn veterinary terminology, animal behavior, restraint and grooming, bookkeeping skills and medical assisting. The Yuba veterinary assistant program can be completed in one year. Tuition is free for residents of California. Other fees may apply, including the cost of textbooks. Textbooks can be purchased used or even rented.
OC Veterinary Assistant School (OCVAS) in Orange County is committed to educating aspiring and current veterinary professionals. This school is owned and operated by veterinarians and registered vet techs. There are three levels of classes at OCVAS: veterinary attendant, veterinary assistant and the alternate route.
The veterinary attendant program is for entry-level students who have little to no experience working with animals. They will be taught the basic skills of working with animals and complete an internship at a local veterinary hospital while taking classes. Graduates of this program are also given job placement assistance.
The veterinary assistant classes are for students who are currently working in a veterinary office but have not completed any other certificate programs. There are six classes in this program.
The last program, referred to as the alternate route, is for students who are planning on becoming a veterinary technician. Students must take this program before applying to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) . More advanced veterinary medicine classes are taught in this program.
To find out more about these programs, including cost and duration, prospective students can fill out a contact form on the school’s website or schedule an admissions appointment.
National Certification for Veterinary Assistants
Just like it is not required for veterinary assistants in California to complete any specific educational training or certificate programs, national certification is not a requirement to find work, either. However, becoming nationally certified as an approved veterinary assistant (AVA) may increase one’s chances of becoming employed.
To become certified as an AVA in the state of California, one must first complete a veterinary assistant program that is approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), complete an internship or externship at a veterinary practice, or be employed at least 20 hours a week by a licensed veterinarian. Once a student has done any of these, they will then pay a $100 fee to take the certification test. If they pass the test, they will receive national certification as an AVA.
There are no campuses that offer NAVTA approved veterinary assistant programs in California. However, Penn Foster Career School has an outstanding online program that is NAVTA approved. Coursework includes animal behavior, handling and restraint, body systems and terminology, and veterinary practice administration and procedures. The Penn Foster program can be completed in seven months and ends with an eight-week externship at a local veterinary practice. This program costs approximately $900. Tuition can be made in monthly payments, but if it is paid in full at the time of enrollment a discount will be applied.
Once someone becomes an AVA, they need to renew their certification every two years by paying a $10 renewal fee and taking at least 10 continuing education credits.
Veterinary Assistant Certification California
Veterinary assistants In California may be able to find work in many environments, such as private veterinary clinics, animal hospitals, animal shelters and zoos. The Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) and Banfield Pet Hospitals are nationally known veterinary establishments with hundreds of hospitals and clinics throughout the United States. There are over 100 VCA clinics in California, and Banfield Pet Hospitals are located in the cities of Bakersfield , Clovis and Fresno . Most PETCO stores have animal wellness and vaccination clinics inside of them called VETCO clinics. There are VETCOs in over 150 California cities, including Bakersfield , Claremont , Fresno, Hollywood, Modesto and Sacramento .
The mean hourly wage for veterinary assistants in California is $13.59, and the mean annual salary is $28,260. However, more than 80 California cities have veterinary assistants that reported average annual salaries of more than $29,000. The cities of Fresno, Visalia, Chico and Lompoc, you’ll find average salaries of $29,000 – $30,000 yearly. Veterinary assistants in Fremont, Santa Clara and San Francisco report average annual salaries between $35,000 and $36,000.
Veterinary Assistant Salaries in California by Region
|Area||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||3,900||$13.91||$28,940|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||210||$16.35||$34,000|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||970||$13.77||$28,640|
|San Diego-Carlsbad, CA||1,460||$14.60||$30,370|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||1,700||$16.73||$34,790|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||550||$14.98||$31,160|
|San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA||230||$14.27||$29,680|
|Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA||80||$14.97||$31,140|
|Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA||190||$14.21||$29,560|
|Santa Rosa, CA||200||$14.39||$29,930|
|Yuba City, CA||40||$13.05||$27,130|
There are currently more than 11,000 veterinary assistants employed in the state of California. That number is expected to increase by 19 percent over the next six years.
A veterinary assistant is a rewarding job for someone who enjoys working with animals. Little training or experience is required, but certified veterinary assistants with at least some experience working with animals may find more options available to them when looking for employment.
College and University Listings
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division
- Salinas, CA
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division Area
California Healing Arts College
500 East Carson Plaza Drive, Suite 103, Carson, California 90746-7323 Veterinary Assistant – Certificate Program
California Healing Arts College’s Certificate-level Veterinary Assistant program is offered at their campus in the city of Carson, CA. Most of the school’s 44 students are on diploma programs of under two years. Tuition fees for the Vet Tech program are around $16,910 for each academic year. Typically, the program is completed in 8 months.
Salinas, CA Area
Central Coast College
480 S Main Street, Salinas, California 93901-3301 Veterinary Assistant – Certificate Program
Central Coast College’s Certificate program is taught at their campus in the city of Salinas. The college has round 276 students in total, with the majority of students on programs that last under 2 years. Tuition fees for the Vet Tech program are around $12,800 for each academic year. The typical program completion time is 9 months.
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Area
12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos Hills, California 94022 Veterinary Assisting – Associate Program
The Veterinary Assisting Associate’s degree program at Foothill College can be taken at their campus in Los Altos Hills in Santa Clara County, CA. The majority of of the school’s 15,030 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The cost of tuition for in-state students is usually in the order of $1,551 and for students from outside the state in the order of $8,391 per year. Learning materials may cost in the order of $1,764, although this will vary with the program.
* Tuition fees and accredition status are correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/). Confirm with college before applying.
See also the neighbor states of Arizona , Nevada and Oregon . You can find vet technician programs in California here .
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