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Veterinary Assistant

Welcome to the Veterinary Assistant Program

The Veterinary Assistant program is a collaborative educational program being offered through a partnership between Skagit Valley College and the Northwest Career and Technical Academy (NCTA).  The Academy occupies a new building on the SVC campus and opened its doors to students September 2010.  The Academy specializes in hands-on professional-technical training taught by industry professionals in a variety of program areas.  The Veterinary Assistant program is a three-quarter (two semester) certificate designed to provide entry-level skills and education to students interested in pursuing a career in the field of animal science.  NCTA provides the classroom and clinical site for this program.  This is a full-year program (Sept.-June) with courses scheduled sequentially.  Students attend classes for 2.5 hours per day Monday - Friday.  Students may enter this program Fall Quarter only.

Class Hours - students can choose either an a.m. or p.m. section:

  • VET01 - AM class - 8:00a.m. - 10:30a.m., daily
  • VET02 - PM class - 3:00p.m. - 6:15p.m., daily

The Veterinary Assistant program prepares students to be a valuable member of the veterinary support team while assisting the Licensed Veterinary Technician and/or the Veterinarian in all aspects of patient care.  Veterinary Assistants work in a variety of settings including private veterinary clinics, animal shelters, humane societies, laboratories, large animal facilities, wildlife rehabilitation centers, grooming shops, stables, boarding kennels, farms, aquariums, zoos, and animal parks.  Please be advised that this program is designed to train Veterinary Assistants not licensed veterinary technicians.

Veterinary Assistants provide surgical and nursing care to animals in clinics as well as field settings. The duties may include basic patient care and supportive nursing, client education and customer service, laboratory procedures, kennel and clinic maintenance.  In some work environments assistants may bathe, groom, exercise or otherwise care for pets and other animals such as dogs, cats, ornamental fish or birds, livestock, zoo animals, or mice in research facilities. Assistants may clean and disinfect cages and work areas, and sterilize laboratory and surgical equipment. They may provide routine post-operative care, administer medication orally or topically, or prepare samples for laboratory examination under the supervision of veterinary or laboratory animal technologists or technicians, veterinarians, or scientists. They may keep records of feedings, treatments, and animals received or discharged.

Typical Work Tasks

  • Monitor animals recovering from surgery and notify veterinarians of any unusual changes or symptoms.
  • Clean, maintain, and sterilize instruments and equipment.
  • Provide emergency first aid to sick or injured animals.
  • Clean, organize, disinfect and maintain kennels, animal holding areas, examination and operating rooms, and animal loading/unloading facilities to control the spread of disease.
  • Hold or restrain animals during veterinary procedures.
  • Fill medication prescriptions.

The Veterinary Assistant Certificate program includes classroom theory, laboratory, and clinical experiences in local animal care clinics and other animal healthcare related environments. In the classroom lab, students will receive hands-on experience with animals.  Program content requires the application of basic math, technical reading, and communications skills.  Students must also submit evidence of required and recommended immunizations. Students need to be aware that some clinical sites may require a drug screening test prior to placement. Criminal convictions may restrict or prevent student participation with internships and employment in this industry.

Veterinary Assistant positions are listed as an "in-demand" occupation for the Northwest Workforce Development Area (Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties).  According to the "National Industry-Occupation Employment Matrix," (a publication of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) demand for professional Veterinary Assistants will rise 16% by 2016. Pet owners are increasingly taking advantage of veterinary services, spurring employment growth for Veterinary Assistants.  Job opportunities for animal care and service workers may vary from year to year, because the strength of the economy affects demand for these workers.  Pet owners tend to spend more on animal services when the economy is strong.  In addition to replacement needs, employment of animal care and service workers is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2014. The companion pet population, which drives employment of animal caretakers in kennels, grooming shops, animal shelters, and veterinary clinics and hospitals is expected to increase.  Pet owners are expected to increasingly take advantage of grooming services, daily and overnight boarding services, training services, and veterinary services, resulting in more jobs for animal care and service workers.  As many pet owners increasingly consider their pet as part of the family, their demand for luxury animal services and willingness to spend greater amounts of money on their pet will continue to grow.   Source:  Occupational Outlook Handbook

Program Options

The estimated program length is based on full-time enrollment.  It is the student's responsibility to discuss sequencing and work out their individual schedule with a counselor or program advisor.  Any developmental coursework a student may be required to complete may increase the program length.  The certificate program is not intended for university transfer.

Degrees/Certificates Credits Estimated Program Length Admission Dates
Veterinary Assistant Certificate 32 3 Quarters Fall Quarter only

Program Learning Outcomes:

Graduates of the Veterinary Assistant program will

Provide basic and nursing animal care, perform laboratory procedures used in a veterinary clinic, and assist the veterinarian in all aspects of animal care, including surgical procedures in clinics, as well as field settings.  Specifically, graduates of this program will be able to:

  • Maintain a safe work environment and interact with animals in a safe manner.
  • Understand and demonstrate application of basic medical terminology and lab science, including anatomy and physiology, and animal parasitology.
  • Understand basic lab procedures related to hematology, bacteriology, virology, and immunology.
  • Understand how vaccines work and which vaccines are appropriate for selected species.
  • Understand the causes of disease & the process of diagnosis, treatment & prevention of disease in animals.
  • Demonstrate ability using current veterinary techniques to restrain, prep and assist in the performance of medical, dental or surgical procedures in order to care for live animals.
  • Demonstrate positive work ethics, professionalism and function as an integral member of an effective veterinary health care team.
  • Understand and practice the professional laws, regulations and policies established by the licensing state and regulatory agencies.
  • Practice and promote humane animal care and management.
  • Demonstrate appropriate workplace behaviors, regular attendance, punctuality, ability to communicate well with others, contribute to the team process, and use appropriate problem-solving & leadership skills.
  • Be prepared for entry-level work and/or entry to advanced education at the college level.

You May Study:

  • Breed & Species Identification
  • Veterinary Nursing Skills
  • Animal Anatomy and Physiology
  • Care of Hospitalized/Kenneled Animals
  • Immunology
  • Client Education/Office Procedures
  • Veterinary Medical Terminology
  • Medical Math
  • Animal Parasitology
  • Safe Handling and Restraint of Animals
  • WA Laws Regulating Veterinary Professions
  • Disease, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention
  • Veterinary Clinical Laboratory Procedures

Program Entry Requirements

Students must apply to the Admissions Office for an application to Skagit Valley College.  Students must enter this program Fall Quarter only.  Contact Valerie Thompson at (360) 416-7662 or valerie.thompson@skagit.edu to obtain a program information packet. If scheduled, attend a program Orientation Session for answering questions and registering for classes.  The following are requirements of the program:

  • Students must provide their own transportation to and from clinical sites for job shadows, workplace experiences and internships.
  • Students should possess good physical stamina, endurance, and body condition with ability to walk, stand, lift, carry, and balance at times, in excess of 50 pounds.

For more information about required immunizations, criminal background check, uniform, materials and supplies, please read the Veterinary Assistant Information Packet. {C}{C}{C}{C}Contact Valerie Thompson, Office Assistant to receive a copy of the information packet (contact information above).{C}{C}{C}{C}

Drug Screen and Criminal Background Check:  All students entering the Veterinary Assistant program will be required to pass both an Illegal Substance-Illegal Drug Screen and Criminal Background check.  This is based on medical industry standards and Washington State laws protecting vulnerable populations (RCW 43.43.880 and 43.43.842). This practice is common among colleges and universities in Washington State and is required by clinical agencies where students complete their clinical practicum.  This screening occurs at the start of the first quarter for the Veterinary Assistant program. The fee for the screening is $82. Students who are unable to pass the above mentioned screens will be prevented from continuing the program. Students must complete this process before registering for winter quarter classes.

Immunizations:  Prior to, or during the first week of the semester, students must provide the instructor with documentation/evidence of current immunization status.  The following immunizations must be current:

  • Tetanus booster (within the last five years)
  •  Hepatitis B vaccine series (series of 3 immunizations; complete the first two shots, and the third within 6 months)
  • Rabies vaccine (recommended but not required; primarily for students interested in working with wildlife)

Practicum Experiences

The Veterinary Assistant program includes a required internship/practicum experience.  Practicums are located at a variety of veterinary clinics, animal shelters, humane societies, wildlife rehabilitation centers, grooming shops, boarding kennels, etc.  All students accepted into the practicum experience must have reliable transportation. All practicums will be under the supervision of personnel at the internship site. Students will not be allowed to choose their practicum site. The program instructor and department chair selects the facilities used for practicum sites and places qualified students.

Insurance Coverage

Veterinary Assistant students must present evidence of having current private health insurance coverage before they can be placed in an internship experience.  Insurance coverage fees are the responsibility of the student.

Career Opportunities and Job Search Information

The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is the nation's primary source of occupational information.  The O*Net Online database is an interactive research tool for exploring and searching occupations.  The database, developed by the US Department of Labor, contains information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors, and provides a variety of FREE Career Exploration Tools.

O-Net Online: www.onetonline.org 
Soc 31-9096.00 - Veterinary Assistant
Soc 29-2056.00 - Veterinary Technologist and Technicians
Soc 29-1131.00 - Veterinarians

Job opportunities in this profession are expected to be excellent.  In the Northwest Workforce Development Area, which includes Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties, Veterinary Assistant and Animal Caretakers are listed as "in demand" occupations.

Placement Rate

Placement and Completion Data

Contact Us

If you are a high-school student interested in this program, please contact Lynette Brower for more information.

If you are a college student interested in this program, please contact Valerie Thompson for more information.


Lynette Brower, Dean of Students
Northwest Career & Technical Academy
360.848.0706   ext. 4005    or   lbrower@nwtech.k12.wa.us
NCTA website:  www.nwtech.k12.wa.us

NCTA Office Closed Summer Qtr - Please Contact:
Valerie Thompson, Program Assistant
Skagit Valley College
Nelson Hall Room N-210
360.416.7662    or   valerie.thompson@skagit.edu

Information Sessions

Information sessions are scheduled by the Veterinary program faculty (located on NCTA campus).  Please call or visit the campus for more information. Contact information listed above.