Career Definition for a Veterinarian's Assistant or Aide
Veterinarians' assistants and aides, or veterinary assistants, perform a variety of routine tasks, such as monitoring animals, maintaining instruments, cleaning equipment and areas, giving medication and performing laboratory tests, such as x-rays. Additionally, veterinary assistants may work directly under the supervision of a veterinarian, such as during emergency first aid. Most veterinary assistants and aides work in animal hospitals and private veterinarians' offices, with the remainder working in research laboratories. Some outdoor work may be required.
|Required Education||High school diploma or certification|
|Necessary Skills||Compassion, communication, customer service, detail-oriented, dexterity, strength|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$26,140 (for all veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)*||19% (for all veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
There is no formal educational program for veterinary assistants. Most have a high school diploma and receive training on the job. For those who wish to work in research, certifications are available through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (www.aalas.org), including Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT) and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG) certifications. Additional experience or education may be necessary for certification.
Working with pet owners requires compassion, excellent communication skills and a focus on customer service. Veterinarians' assistants and aides must be excellent at following directions in a detail-oriented manner. Testing and diagnosis of problems require analytical skills. Also, since veterinary assistants and aides deal with animals and medical instruments, dexterity and physical strength are also vital.
Career and Economic Outlook
The veterinary assistant and aide field is expected to grow faster than average at 19% between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). While the veterinary field is expected to grow quickly during this time, opportunities for veterinary assistants and aides will be limited because many practices are choosing to hire veterinary technicians and technologists rather than assistants.
In 2017, the median annual salary for a veterinary assistant or aide was $26,140, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest paid ten percent earned less than $19,110, while the highest paid ten percent earned more than $38,300 per year.
Alternate Career Options
Some skills necessary to become a veterinarian assistant or aide will help prepare you for careers in other areas.
Veterinary Technologist and Technician
Programs for veterinary technologists normally span 4 years, while those for technicians typically last 2 years. Some sort of qualifying exam is often required, depending on the state. These techs work under the supervision of veterinarians while they diagnose and treat animals. Many job opportunities were expected for vet techs from 2016-2026, with 20% employment growth expected. The BLS reported an annual median wage of $33,400 for this profession in 2017.
Those wishing for the responsibility and rewards of diagnosing, treating and researching animals' medical conditions, in addition to supervising assistants and techs, may want to pursue the approximately 7-year competitive education and licensure required to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Much faster-than-average job growth of 19% was projected by the BLS for 2016-2026, and these doctors earned an annual median salary in 2017 of $90,420.