What is a Veterinary Assistant?
Veterinary assistants help veterinarians and veterinary techs with numerous tasks including feeding, weighing, cleaning, and caring for animal patients in a veterinary practice.
They may prepare equipment and pass surgical instruments and materials to veterinarians during surgery, as well as move animals and restrain them during testing and other procedures, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How to Become a Veterinary Assistant
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement to become a veterinary assistant. Additionally, most of the training, if not all, is typically provided on the job,
Certifications and Licenses
Most jobs do not require certification, but the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) does offer an AVA certification (Approved Veterinary Assistant).
Additionally, according to the BLS, there are three additional levels of certification. For laboratory animal caretakers seeking work in a research facility, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) offers all three levels of certification: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG).
Required Skills for Veterinary Assistants
The basic skill requirements for veterinary assistants include compassion, detail-oriented, dexterity, and physical strength, to be
better able to handle the animals.
Work Environment for Veterinary Assistants
Veterinary assistants work in a variety of settings including private office-based veterinary practices, animal hospitals, shelters, zoos, laboratories, colleges and university facilities.
Like any veterinary career, veterinary assistants must be prepared for potential physical illness or injury caused on the job, such as an aggressive animal kicking, biting, or scratching.
Additionally, veterinary facilities are often open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide consistent care for the patients. Therefore, veterinary assistants must work weekends, nights, and extended hours.
Job Outlook for Veterinary Assistants
The job outlook for veterinary assistants is projected to be average, with about ten percent growth through 2022. This growth rate is much slower than that projected for other veterinary careers. The reason, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is that, “although veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers will be needed to assist veterinarians and other veterinary care staff, many veterinary practices are expected to increasingly replace veterinary assistants with higher-skilled veterinary technicians and technologists, thus requiring fewer veterinary assistants.”
This projected job growth equates to about 7,100 jobs added upon the 74,600 current veterinary assistants working in the United States.
Average Income for Veterinary Assistants
Because the role of veterinary assistant is obtainable with a high school diploma, and does not require any college education, the compensation is relatively low. As of May 2012, the most recent data available, the median annual income, or midpoint, is about $23,130.
Additionally, the lowest ten percent earned about $17,000, while the top ten percent earned more than $35,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Moreover, veterinary assistants working in research positions earn slightly more than those in clinics and hospitals.
If you are interested in becoming a veterinary assistant, you may want to also consider other careers in veterinary medicine, such as vet techs or veterinarian.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm