Surgical Veterinary Aide Career Info

Surgical veterinary aides, also known as surgical veterinary technicians, work under the supervision of veterinarians to perform clinical tests and assist during surgical procedures on livestock and pets. Read on for more details about degree requirements, skill sets, job growth and salaries for surgical veterinary aides.

Career Definition for a Surgical Veterinary Aide

Surgical veterinary aides perform exams on domestic pets, farm animals and wildlife; prepare and sterilize surgical sites; and administer post-operative prescriptions and care. They may also provide equipment to veterinarians during procedures and clean and sterilize operating rooms and equipment after surgery. Surgical veterinary aides working in research settings are responsible for implementing clinical trials and recording their results.

Education Associate degree usually required; all states require a credentialing exam
Job Skills Familiarity with common surgical procedures, compassion, communication skills, detail-oriented nature, problem-solving skills
Median Salary (2017)* $33,400 for all veterinary technologists and technicians
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 20% increase for all veterinary technologists and technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Surgical veterinary aides usually hold an associate degree from a program that has been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association; some earn bachelor's degrees in veterinary technology. During these programs, aspiring veterinary surgical aides study vaccine and medication administration, examination and surgical techniques, anesthesiology and research methods, according to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. All states require surgical veterinary aides to pass a credentialing test.

Skills Required

Surgical veterinary aides must be familiar with commonplace surgical procedures and be able to anticipate the needs of veterinarians during exams and operations. They must also have the compassion and communication skills necessary to interact with owners of pets and livestock. Surgical veterinary aides are also detail-oriented and careful in their work and have the ability to solve job-related challenges and problems.

Career and Salary Outlook

The field of veterinarian technology, which includes surgical veterinary assisting, is expected to grow by 20%, which is much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Veterinary technology programs are limited in number, and graduates are usually in high demand. Veterinary technologists and technicians, including surgical veterinary aides, earned a median annual wage of $33,400 in May 2017, according to the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Look into these other options for careers in working with animals:

Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers clean, exercise and feed farm animals and domestic pets, with responsibilities varying according to employer and job description. Although a high school diploma may be enough to qualify an experienced animal worker for a position, aspiring mammal trainers and zookeepers will most likely need a bachelor's degree in animal science, general biology or marine biology.

The BLS reports that employment opportunities for animal care and service workers is expected to increase by 22% nationwide, or much faster than average, from 2016-2026. As of May 2017, caretakers of nonfarm animals were paid a median annual salary of $22,950, while animal trainers earned $28,880.

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and caretakers who work in clinics, hospitals and labs provide routine care for animals, which can include exercising, feeding and washing them. Entry-level assistants and caregivers usually have a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training; individual employers may show a preference for candidates who have prior experience in the field. From 2016-2026, veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers were expected to see a 19%, or much-faster-than-average, increase in jobs, as reported by the BLS. Individuals who were employed in these positions in May 2017 earned a median annual wage of $26,140.


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