A love of animals can mean more than just having a household full of pets. Many people take their passion for animals and turn it into a career as a veterinarian, vet tech or vet assistant. The field of veterinary medicine is evenly matched between men and women, with female vets making up nearly 55 percent of all practicing vets as of 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Animal lovers wanting to work in the veterinary field can opt to earn a veterinarian certificate to serve as a vet assistant, who performs basic veterinarian tasks, or an associate degree as a veterinarian technician, who can do more advanced duties in a vet office.
While earning a veterinarian certificate is not enough to practice as a vet, it is a good option for those who want to work with animals without earning a vet degree. Numerous schools, including community colleges, vocational schools and even some high schools, offer veterinarian assistant certificates that provide the skills needed. Vet assistants prepare animals for examinations, communicate with pet owners and perform clerical and administrative duties in a vet office.
Vet techs assist in veterinarian practices. A veterinarian associate degree prepares the vet tech to complete duties similar to those of an assistant. A vet tech can do all same duties an assistant can, as well as handle more advanced duties. Vet techs can dispense drugs, take vital signs, perform simple procedures, handle lab specimens and care for animals staying the night. Numerous schools offer veterinarian tech associate degrees, including community colleges, technical schools, vocational schools and traditional four-year institutions.
Vet certificates typically take less than a year to complete and generally only include one to three courses. A veterinarian associate degree takes two years to complete and covers more in-depth topics. Because the length of time is shorter, a certificate program usually costs less than an associate program. While some schools offer associate degrees through online courses, the online format is more common for certificate programs. Gaining entrance into a certificate program requires less stringent qualifications than an associate degree. Most certificate programs require only a high school diploma, while many associate degrees ask for a high school diploma, as well as a minimum grade point average from high school, usually a 2.5 or higher.
The vet-assistant certificate is a good start to get a job at a vet office. It provides the basics needed for an entry-level position. A person who wants to work as a vet tech, on the other hand, probably will need to earn an associate degree to learn how to complete advanced duties such as taking x-rays, giving anesthesia, assisting with surgery and giving vaccines. Both types of programs offer opportunities for hands-on learning through clinical work and internships with local veterinarian offices.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2012 Household Data Annual Averages
- California State University East Bay: Veterinary Assistant Certificate
- Middlesex Community College: Veterinary Assistant Certificate Program
- New England Institute of Technology: Veterinary Technology
- Globe University: The Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.