Steps to Become a Veterinary Assistant in Virginia

The road that leads to a rewarding future as a veterinary assistant in Virginia includes the following five steps.

1. Meet Virginia Education Requirements
2. Find a Veterinary Assistant Training Program
3. How to Become an Approved Veterinary Assistant in Virginia
4. What’s After Schooling or Becoming an AVA?
5. Advancement Opportunities and Continuing Education for Virginia Veterinary Assistants


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Veterinary Assistant Careers in Virginia

The latest estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has calculated the average salary of a Virginia veterinary assistant at $26,420 per year. Pay rates are not the same throughout the state as some areas feature higher annual salaries for vet assistants. For example, full-time vet assistants in the city of Alexandria earn a higher average salary than other areas of Virginia, with that annual amount exceeding $32,000. Meanwhile, vet assistant salaries in Petersburg, Virginia Beach, and Arlington all hover around the $30,000 mark. There are also lots of job opportunities in Virginia for veterinary assistants as the total number eclipses 3,000, which the fifth most of any state in the U.S. Despite that high number, there continues to be more openings for veterinary assistants in Virginia. By the year 2024, there is expected to be close to a 30% increase in the number of vet assistants employed within the state of Virginia. Spending on pet care is at an all-time high and that bodes well for current and future vet assistants in Virginia.

What job duties the position of a veterinary assistant may include:

Providing animal healthcare is not an individual effort and requires the services of a group of individuals. Vet assistants are an important part of that group because they are capable of performing so many different job duties. That kind of versatility has enabled veterinarians to count on vet assistants for help in so many different capacities.

A quick glimpse into a host of veterinary assistant responsibilities:

  • Client interaction
  • Coordination of client appointments and follow-ups
  • Contacting vet facilities for records requests
  • In-house inventory control
  • Sanitizing and exam rooms
  • Prepping Surgery room
  • Assisting in filling of prescriptions
  • Updating client medical records
  • Attending to special dietary needs of pets
  • Pet walking and exercise duties
  • Animal feeding and grooming
  • Animal restraint
  • Administrative and clerical duties

That list shows just some of the job responsibilities of a Virginia veterinary assistant as it is a profession that requires a versatile set of skills.  

1. Meet Virginia Education Requirements

To become a veterinary assistant in Virginia, there are no educational requirements that are state mandated. However, the majority of vet assistants have earned at least a high school diploma or GED equivalency. The educational programs that train vet assistants in Virginia are located in high schools, learning centers, technical institutes and community colleges. Distance learning programs are also available as that type of training can be completed from inside the home. Virginia also has no requirement that states vet assistants need to hold an AVA (Approved Veterinary Assistant) distinction. Nonetheless, earning a certificate holds a lot of benefits for veterinary assistants in Virginia.

2. Find a Veterinary Assistant Training Program

A veterinary assistant training program is necessary to attain a firm grasp of all the job duties that are entailed. Preparation of this nature will enable Virginia veterinary assistants to be primary contributors to an animal healthcare team as soon as they are hired. Training programs concentrate on the variety of assignments carried out by vet assistants over the course of a workday. Formal instruction combined with a practical approach teaches the finer points of breed identification, restraint techniques, post-operative care, administering medications and much more. 

A few veterinary assistant campus and online programs in Virginia:

Tidewater Community College
121 College Place
Norfolk, VA 23510
Massanutten Technical Center
325 Pleasant Valley Road
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
(540) 434-5962
Northern Virginia Community College
6699 Springfield Center Drive
Springfield, VA 22150
Phone: (703) 323-3000

Finding a NAVTA approved program:

The task of putting together a comprehensive veterinary assistant approval program fell on the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) who introduced a program in 2010. NAVTA defined the specifics of a veterinary assistant training program. Those who have an interest in learning more about attending an NAVTA Approved Veterinary Assistant Program can find a list here. There are currently 35 approved programs throughout the U.S. and Canada, and 3 approved programs of the online variety. Virginia currently has 4 NAVTA accredited campus programs. Meanwhile, the 3 online accredited programs can be found here.

3. How to Become an Approved Veterinary Assistant in Virginia

In order to become a veterinary assistant in Virginia, there is no universal credential that needs to be attained. Becoming an approved veterinary assistant (AVA) is not mandatory, although it will be useful throughout the career of a vet assistant. The VetMed Team has introduced a host of options through which veterinary assistants can become an AVA. Different options exist for those with different levels of experience. The next section runs down the various options that lead to becoming an approved Virginia veterinary assistant.

What is a Virginia approved veterinary assistant (AVA)?

  • The Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) distinction is a national certificate awarded to veterinary assistants.

What are the approved available options by the NAVTA in Virginia?

  • Externship Option: To be eligible for this option, one must not be employed in a veterinary practice, but actively seeking employment. The on-site training provided through this option offers real-world experience, which is now being prioritized by many vet practices.
  • Experiential Learner: To be eligible for this option, one must be working as a veterinary assistant in Virginia. There is a 20-hour weekly employment requirement in a full-service veterinary practice.
  • Veterinary Assistant Program: To be eligible for this option, one must be currently working as a Virginia veterinary assistant. There is also a weekly requirement of 20 hours in a veterinary practice.

Once you complete an approved option.

  • By passing everything within an approved option, you become eligible to take the AVA examination that goes along with that option. A code is issued and then you can set the terms and conditions for your exam.

After passing the approved veterinary assistant examination in Virginia.

  • Attaining a passing score will enable you to be processed and receive a certificate. Congratulations are in order as you have now become an approved Virginia veterinary assistant.

Staying current as a Virginia AVA.

  • Your Virginia AVA certification needs to be renewed every 2 years. Proof of ongoing education must also be provided over the next 2 years. 

4. What’s After Schooling or Becoming an AVA?

After sufficing all the requirements that lead to becoming an approved veterinary assistant in Virginia, you can look forward to a wealth of new opportunities. Earning this distinction immediately raises the value of a veterinary assistant, making them more appealing to potential employers. Many veterinary facilities favor the hiring of veterinary assistants who can substantiate their formal training with a recognized credential. This adds to the efficiency of animal healthcare teams. Here is a glimpse at the potential employers that are located within the state of Virginia.

Potential Veterinary Assistant Employers in Virginia:

Virginia Veterinary Medical Association

This association’s website enables veterinary assistants to send resumes to potential employers who post listings. This is also a great resource for all those working or interested in the Virginia veterinary field.

3801 Westerre Parkway, Suite D
Henrico, Virginia 23233
Phone: (804) 346-2611
Fax: (804) 346-2655

VCA (Veterinary Centers of America)

VCA is known throughout the country for its high-quality care and top-notch hospitals. There is an ongoing commitment to advanced veterinary care that exists in VCA’s collection of more than 750 hospitals across the United States.

VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital
2660 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA, 22314
VCA Chancellor Animal Hospital
11101 Gordon Road
Fredericksburg, VA, 22407
VCA Pets First Animal Hospital
9201 Staples Mill Road
Richmond, VA, 23228
VCA Valley Animal Hospital
5146 Hildebrand Road
Roanoke, VA, 24012

Vetco Wellness Centers and Vaccination Clinics inside PETCO

VETCO is made up of animal health professionals that are committed to providing preventative health care for pets. VETCO has always been an affordable way to bring quality animal healthcare professionals together with pet owners. VETCO also furthers the careers of veterinary professionals by maintaining relationships with veterinary practices and teaching institutions.

Located in Hampton Petco
26 Coliseum Crossing
Hampton, VA 23666
Located in Norfolk Petco
5900 East Virginia Beach Boulevard
Norfolk, VA 23502
Located in Virginia Beach Petco
2133 Upton Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23454
Located in Chester Petco
12611 Jefferson Davis Hwy
Chester, VA 23831

If you lack experience working with animals, then it may be time to look for an internship or consider doing some volunteer work. Both of those avenues could help immensely in your search for employment.

5. Advancement Opportunities and Continuing Education for Virginia Veterinary Assistants

If you are currently working as a veterinary assistant but are not an approved veterinary assistant (AVA), then it may be time to start advancing your career. That can be done by becoming an approved veterinary assistant, which will increase your profile in the veterinary field.

This option also offers a chance to start moving upward. The next step would be to become a veterinary technician and then perhaps even start on a path that leads to a future as a veterinarian.

Resources in Virginia


American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Virginia Veterinary Medical Association

SPCA of Northern Virginia

Lynchburg Humane Society