As the scope of veterinary practices grew and developed, veterinarians began to need assistants. At first the role was informal, with veterinary assistants being trained by the doctors they worked for. However, in the latter half of the 20th century, the education, and thus the profession, of veterinary assistants became formalized. Professional associations that offer standards for professional practice as well as education and advocacy for veterinary technicians have since grown. For example, the North American Veterinary Technician Association (now known as the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America) was established in the 1980s, with the goal of giving veterinary technicians a voice in national issues concerning the veterinary profession. Today, veterinary technicians are an indispensable part of a veterinary practice.