Veterinary Assistant

Veterinary Assistant

Start a Veterinary Career in One Year 

As a Veterinary Assistant student, you’ll prepare for a career working with animals in a variety of settings such as veterinary clinics, boarding kennels, and grooming salons.

You’ll study animal diseases and disease prevention, small animal pharmacology, pet grooming, kennel management, animal behavior, nutrition, legal principles, human relations, and communication.

Program Details

Program Notice

The Veterinary Assistant program is no longer admitting students. The program will be closed as of Fall 2022.

Please contact the Agricultural Sciences department for more information.

Paying for your degree may be easier than you think with our financial aid and scholarships. Kirkwood offers more than $3 million in scholarships for students each year!

Graduates of the Veterinary Assistant program will be able to:

  • Explain and demonstrate front office and practice management procedures.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of veterinary ethics and state and federal regulations related to veterinary practice and animal welfare.
  • Recognize the principles and demonstrate the methods of disease control.
  • Demonstrate kennel and animal management, including safe cleaning, disinfection, animal handling, and nutrition.
  • Perform therapeutic bathing and basic grooming of dogs and cats.
  • Provide excellent customer service and client education.
  • Provide appropriate assistance in the examination and treatment of small animals.
  • Prepare surgical equipment and patients, and perform surgical assistance and patient recovery.
  • Perform selected animal nursing, laboratory procedures, and diagnostic imaging.
  • Adhere to industry standards and OSHA for safe handling, storage, dispensing, and administration of veterinary drugs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Graduates with Veterinary Assistant degrees can obtain jobs in a variety of different careers.

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No. You’ll want to take the Pre-Veterinary Medicine course through our Arts and Sciences division, then transfer to a 4-year college or university to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, Animal Science, Physics, or Biology. After that, you’ll attend veterinary school and work toward your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

Self-motivation, a goal-oriented attitude, maturity, and an outgoing, friendly personality are needed to be successful in this career. Working with a veterinarian on a paid or volunteer basis is also a good idea and will expose you to all aspects of the career  — including sights, smells, sounds, and issues that may be hard to deal with, including euthanasia.

The state of Iowa does not currently license, register, or certify veterinary assistants. Prospective students should familiarize themselves with state regulations in the jurisdiction where they intend to become employed.

Program Requirements

  1. You’ll take the HESI at the Test Center in 2055 Cedar Hall. You’ll need to schedule a time in advance to take the exam. Admission requirements must be met by July 1 of each year. This includes both attempts at the HESI exam.
  2. On the day you’re scheduled to take the exam, you’ll need to bring a valid photo ID (driver’s license or passport), proof of payment (Bookstore receipt), and Elsevier username and password (set that up here).
  3. You can take up to four hours to complete the exam. Students must pass with minimum cut scores prior to being fully accepted into the program. Students are able to make two attempts at the exam. The needed exam scores for both the Veterinary Assistant and Veterinary Technician program are listed below.
  4. Once you complete the exam, whether the required scores were met or not, you should contact Ashley Moeller, associate dean, Ag Sciences, or Holly Feldmann, department coordinator, Ag Sciences, to set up a time to meet via Zoom.
  5. It is suggested that you prepare for this exam in advance. The Kirkwood main campus library has copies of the HESI Admission Assessment Exam Review workbook. The review workbook is also available to order on Amazon (ISBN: 978-0-323-35378-6). Find more HESI study materials.

See the needed exam scores listed below.

Exam Veterinary Technician Veterinary Assistant
English 77 Composite 60 Composite
Grammar 75 40
Reading 75 70
Vocabulary 75 70
Math 80 69
Biology 75 55
Chemistry 73 N/A

Mission Statement

The Veterinary Assistant program provides students with a broad background and excellent entry-level technical skills essential to professional assistants to the animal care industry.


Agricultural Sciences
1000 Washington Hall