Veterinary assistants perform many important duties in an animal clinic and other veterinary establishments. They are responsible for ensuring that the animals and their owners are properly attended to while keeping the clinic environment in order.
They also ensure that all the important tools are well-organized and easily accessible.
While veterinary assistants can technically secure employment without going through a formal program, it is advisable to do so to increase job prospects and potential salary.
Below we discuss the best approach to becoming a veterinary assistant in Iowa, the top programs in the state, potential salary, and the certification and licensing requirements.
Steps To Become a Veterinary Assistant in Iowa
Iowa has no educational requirements for veterinary assistants. This means that the prerogative of setting an educational standard fall upon the employers.
Typically, employers will hire vet assistants to train them while they work or go with those who have already acquired training from an official vet assistant program.
Veterinary assistants may be lucky enough to secure employment without prior training. This is because everything they need to know can be taught while they work – that is, if they can find an employer willing to provide such education.
As expected, the pay in this arrangement may be less favorable while starting.
And even though employers are willing to hire vet assistants without prior experience, they still require proof of basic education that includes a high-school diploma or a GED equivalent.
Formal Training Program
Most veterinary assistants will enroll in a training program to make themselves more employable and qualify for a higher salary. This is usually the more advisable route as it eliminates the need to start from scratch.
This way, vet assistants will have become familiar with fundamental duties before they start. Most vet assistant programs mandate an externship arrangement to allow students to experience what it feels like to work in a clinical setting.
Moreover, these programs can be completed in only a few months.
Vet Assistant Training Program Accreditation
The body accrediting veterinary assistant training programs nationwide is the National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America (NAVTA). NAVTA accreditation of vet assistant programs only began in 2010, and as such, many quality programs are yet to be accredited.
Additionally, there are no laws in Iowa or elsewhere that forbid vet assistants from practicing without attending an accredited program.
There are, however, a handful of benefits that come from attending a NAVTA-approved program, including a straightforward path to certification.
Iowa State Licensure and Certification Requirements
Students who graduate from a NAVTA-approved vet assistant program automatically qualify to sit for the Approved Veterinary Assistant certification examination. This examination is available online and consists of 100 questions that must be completed in no more than 150 minutes.
To pass, candidates must score at least 75%.
Successful candidates officially become Approved Veterinary Assistants but only for two years, after which the credential is to be renewed by completing 10 credits of continuing education. Obtaining continuing education credits includes attending extra classes, online courses, seminars, and conferences.
Top Veterinary Assistant Schools in Iowa
Below are a few notable vet assistant programs for Iowa residents, including a few NAVTA-approved options.
1. Western Iowa Tech
Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City offers one of the best veterinary assistant training programs in Iowa. Boasting highly detailed coursework and wonderful instructors, program graduates are equipped with everything they’ll need to thrive on the job.
Along with a sound theoretical foundation through classroom sessions, students are encouraged to receive hands-on training through externship programs at veterinary establishments.
2. Hawkeye Community College
Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo is another veritable destination for aspiring veterinary assistants in Iowa. Vet assistants and vet technicians teach classes here with enough experience on the job.
The school also tries as much as possible to incorporate a great deal of hands-on training into its direct instruction classes.
3. Penn Foster College
Aspiring veterinary assistants in Iowa who desire a NAVTA-approved program may consider the online program at Penn Foster College. The program takes seven months to complete and incorporates eight weeks of externship to ensure that students get the real-world experience required to thrive once they secure employment after graduation.
Being NAVTA-approved, graduates of Penn Foster’s vet assistant program may directly proceed to take the AVA certification exam upon graduation.
Iowa Veterinary Assistant Salary and Job Outlook
Veterinary assistants in Iowa earn an annual average salary of $32,808. Those at the lower end of the salary spectrum still earn as much as $26,307, while those in the top ten percent take home an annual average salary of $40,915.
Vet assistants in Des Moines earn the highest state average with a yearly mean salary of $38,407, while those in Waukee and Clive follow with an annual average salary of $34,438 and $34,421, respectively.