Veterinary assistants provide care for animals while supervised by a veterinarian or vet technician.
Their duties include feeding, bathing, and exercising animals.
They also have to restrain them during procedures, examinations, and treatment.
Vet assistants sometimes are tasked with lab work, such as collecting samples and drawing blood.
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As of 2016, about 83,800 vet assistants worked in the US.
Approximately 85% of them worked for vet services.
Article Table of Contents
Veterinary Assistant Duties & Responsibilities
Vet assistants deal with all aspects of routine pet care:
- Provide first aid to pets in an emergency, stabilizing them until a doctor can take over.
- Bathe pets when necessary.
- Assist veterinarians and vet technicians with lab work.
- Comfort and restrain pets during examinations and care.
- Feed animals and monitor whether they’re eating.
- Administer medications to pets.
- Clean, sterilize, and maintain kennels, operating rooms, examining rooms, cages, and surgical equipment.
- Exercise animals.
- Perform some clerical duties.
Commonly, vet assistants work in clinics and hospitals, but some can also be employed by universities, colleges, and research programs.
Veterinary Assistant Salary
The highest salary is offered at professional schools and colleges.
- Median Annual Salary: $27,540 ($13.24/hour).
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $19,950 ($9.59/hour).
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $38,890 ($18.70/hour).
Education, Training & Certification
This profession doesn’t require advanced education, but some training is needed.
To get a job, you need a high school diploma or GED.
Contrary to vet technicians who need to finish a two-year post-secondary program in veterinary technology.
Typically, employers provide on-the-job training, but some of them hire only those who have some experience working with animals.
Veterinary Assistant Skills & Competencies
To succeed in the field as a vet assistant, you need to have the following soft skills:
- Active listening – Excellent listening skills are required to understand and follow the instructions of vets and vet technicians.
- Monitoring – You need to be able to notice changes in the conditions of animals to take appropriate actions.
- Service orientation – Vet assistants should have a strong desire to help others.
- Problem-solving – You should be able to determine and solve problems.
- Critical thinking – With this skill, you can determine your options when solving problems or making decisions, evaluating them, and choosing the one with the most positive outcome.
- Focus – You have to remain focused and calm in a busy and chaotic environment with multiple distractions.
- Physical fitness – You have to be in good enough shape to lift animals and heavy objects.
The job outlook is great for this occupation.
According to the BLS, the employment rates will grow by 19% by 2026, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations in the US.
The growth is based on increased consumer spending on pets and their care.
Despite your workplace, you will spend much of your time in kennels, labs, outdoor enclosures, and operating rooms.
Some pets in your care can be frightened or aggressive.
There’s a risk of being scratched or bitten, however, wearing protective gear and clothing helps prevent this.
This work can sometimes be unpleasant or sad.
You may have to assist vets when they euthanize animals and dispose of remains.
So, you may also have to console grief-stricken owners.
Some patients may be very ill or victims of abuse.
This job is usually part-time.
About 40% of vet assistants work less than 40 hours per week.
Shifts can take place on weekends, nights, and holidays to care for pets who can’t go home while in recovery or convalescence.
How to Get the Job
Get In On The Ground Floor
If you don’t have any experience with animals and can’t find the practice willing to train you on the job, you can apply for a clerical or cleaning job first.
This way, you will gain at least some experience in an animal-related environment.
Vet assistants can obtain the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).
This is a voluntary certification that requires you to graduate from a NAVTA-approved training program and pass the exam.
With this certification, you can become a more competitive candidate.
Comparing Similar Jobs
You can further advance or apply to similar jobs:
- Nursing assistant – median salary – $28,530.
- Veterinary technician – median salary – $34,420.
- Veterinarian – median salary – $93,830.