COPPERAS COVE, Texas (FOX 44) – Copperas Cove High School 2022 graduate Kyshanda Rios Martinez is well on her way to achieving her career goal of becoming a veterinarian. Martinez earned her veterinary assistant certification, the first step in becoming a veterinarian, thanks to the courses she received in high school.

“I chose to pursue this certification because it was my childhood dream to be a veterinarian,” Martinez said. “I also wanted a challenge for myself.”

Cove students working toward a veterinary assistant certification take courses involving anatomy and physiology, parasitology, hematology, radiology, anesthesiology, laboratory procedures – and more. Students are also required to complete hundreds of hours of hands-on training with both large and small animals over the two-year span, through which prospective veterinary assistants become acquainted with a variety of sciences.

As part of her required clinical training, Copperas Cove High School 2022 graduate and certified veterinary assistant Kyshanda Rios Martinez towel dries a dog following a bath as she prepares the dog for surgery. (Courtesy: Copperas Cove ISD)

“The most rewarding experience was working hands-on with the animals. The reason is because I love animals,” Martinez said. “The most difficult thing I encountered was doing the hours at the clinic. The reason is because it took a while to adjust to the work environment.”

Martinez’s ability to get her veterinary assistant certification while still in high school prepared her to get a fast start in the field of veterinary medicine and earn a salary to support herself. According to Salary.com, the average veterinary assistant salary in Texas is $31,444 – as of June 28 – but the range typically falls between $25,336 and $37,928.

Salary ranges vary depending on the city and other factors – including education and certifications. The demand for veterinary assistants is growing across the country, while their pay rates also continue to increase. An estimated 18,300 new veterinary assistant jobs are expected to become available through 2029.

Copperas Cove ISD Agriculture teacher Katie Grigsby says the students who earned their veterinary assistant certifications demonstrated their proof of knowledge, skills, and experience, enabling them to be valuable assets to veterinarians and veterinary technicians.

“There are a variety of responsibilities veterinary assistants must attend to, making them valuable members of animal healthcare teams,” Grigsby said. “These students have each worked over 500 hours in clinical settings and have learned countless traits and skills to make them successful in veterinary clinics.”