Vet Assistant Job Description: What Is a Veterinary Assistant?

Learn about vet assistant job descriptions and understand the job's role and responsibilities.
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Vet Assistant Career Facts

What Does A Veterinary Assistant Do

Like Vet Techs, Veterinary Assistants fill a vital role in a vet’s office. That said, it is a different role.

While technicians administer medication and prepare animals for their surgical procedures, veterinary assistants support animal doctors and technicians with the following:

  • Setting up, maintaining, and cleaning equipment
  • Feeding patients
  • Exercising patients
  • Grooming patients
  • Preparing and cleaning surgical equipment
  • Restraining, handling, and transporting patients
  • Clerical and administrative duties

Veterinary assistants are also sometimes called veterinary aides.

Vet Assistant vs. Vet Technician

Both vet technicians and vet assistants work together supporting veterinarians. However, their roles and responsibilities are not the same and neither are their education or certification requirements.

Simply put, vet technicians require formal education and training for certification and are typically authorized to perform clinical tasks that a vet assistant is not authorized to do.

Meanwhile, vet assistants may begin working with no formal education and receive only on the job training. Some education and certification are offered but not always required in every state for every vet assisting position.

So, you can become a vet assistant more quickly with less entry requirements but vet technicians will have more authorization, responsibility, and career opportunities.

Becoming a Veterinary Assistant

Working as a veterinary assistant, or veterinary aide, is a highly rewarding career that is in growing demand.

Becoming a veterinary assistant is the quickest way to enter the field of veterinary medicine, requiring less education than a vet technician or a vet technologist.

To become a veterinary assistant you will likely want to obtain an associate’s degree, or a certificate in veterinary assisting, but some positions may not require this.

With a certificate you will be eligible to begin working as a vet assistant. Most often vet assistants work in animal hospitals, research labs, colleges/universities, and other animal care clinics.

Some job opportunities may not require certification and would allow you to receive on the job training. However, having an education and or certification will make you more competitive in the job market.

Veterinary Assistant Salaries and Job Growth

The median annual salary for vet assistants is $27,540 according to the latest BLS data while job growth is projected at 19% through 2028.

Quick Facts: Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers
2018 Median Pay$27,540 per year
$13.24 per hour
Typical Entry-Level EducationHigh school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related OccupationNone
On-the-job TrainingShort-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 201892,200
Job Outlook, 2018-2819% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-2817,600

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work Environment for Vet Assistants

Veterinary assistants work in hospitals and clinics, for the most part. They assist technicians in treating animals that have suffered injuries and illnesses.

A veterinary assistant can work in large hospitals or private practices. Your job will be to provide an environment that is safe, comfortable and sanitary.

Laboratory animal care taking is a similar entry level job in the veterinary field, and these care takers work under the supervision of a scientist, veterinarian or a veterinary tech. They carryout an array of tasks. These tasks includes monitoring the well-being of animals, feeding them and ensuring the kennels are cleaned.

The types of animals you’ll come in contact with depends on what location you work in. It also depends on the region you work in and the environment.

Regardless of where you work and the types of animals you work with, the main duty is taking care of animals.

If you enjoy being around animals then you will probably like the work environment for a veterinary assistant.

Advancing Your Career

Working as a veterinary assistant is a great way to get into veterinary medicine and begin your career.

While vet assisting is highly rewarding it should be mentioned that it can also be both emotionally and physically demanding, especially in situations that call for an animal to be put to sleep. However, assistants enjoy stable job security and a rewarding career helping animals and their owners.

If you are satisfied as a veterinary assistant, then taking the next step in your career and becoming a veterinary technician is worth considering, or you can become a vet technologist.

Both options require extensive education, but your job prospects will be increased. If you want to work as a technician, then you’ll need to earn an associate’s degree. A technologist position will require you to have a bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology.

Veterinary medicine, science, and support are all fast growing fields ripe with opportunities for animal lovers.

If you love animals and would enjoy helping provide comfort to the owners of pets while providing the best possible care for animals then you should consider entering the veterinary medicine field as a veterinary assistant.

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