There are a number of occupations that follow under the field of veterinary paramedics. Three such occupations are a veterinarian, a veterinary assistant and a veterinary technician or technologist. The required education for these positions ranges from a high school diploma to a doctorate in veterinary medicine.
''Veterinary paramedic'' is a general term that applies to a variety of professionals who work with animals. These professionals might include veterinarians, veterinary assistants, and veterinary technicians or technologists, all of whom specialize in various aspects of emergency and critical care. Training and job duties vary substantially among the different positions. Salaries are commensurate with the level of education and training required.
|Veterinarian||Veterinary Assistant||Veterinary Technician and Technologist|
|Required Education||Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree||Minimum high school diploma or GED||Postsecondary education in veterinary technology (2 years for technicians, 4 years for technologists)|
|Other Requirements||State licensure||Occasionally, specialized certification||Usually, credentialing exam; sometimes, additional certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||18%*||19% for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers*||19%*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$93,830*||$27,540 for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers*||$44,700*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job duties for veterinary assistants include sterilizing surgical equipment, administering first aid and preparing samples for examination under the supervision of a veterinarian. Many veterinary assistants are also responsible for cleaning examination rooms, observing patients as they recover from anesthesia and stocking supplies. In veterinary offices with boarding facilities, veterinary assistants may be tasked with cleaning the cages as well as feeding and exercising the boarded pets.
Veterinary technicians generally perform their work in a laboratory environment. Job duties for veterinary technicians include conducting a variety of medical tests, taking blood samples, preparing tissue samples, developing x-rays and providing nursing care. Veterinary technicians also typically assist the veterinarian during surgical procedures by passing instruments, monitoring the animal's vital signs and positioning the animal.
Emergency veterinarians provide care to animals with urgent medical problems by assessing, diagnosing, treating and stabilizing the patient. Emergency veterinarians are competent in the fields of surgery, anesthesia, cardiology and internal medicine. These skills allow emergency veterinarians to treat injuries caused by car accidents, falls and other trauma. Emergency veterinarians also treat chronically ill animals or animals that have ingested dangerous substances.
Veterinary assistants may be hired with only a high school diploma or GED. However, many employers prefer to hire veterinary assistants who have completed a one-year certificate program through a junior college or other accredited source. Although not mandatory, certification allows candidates to demonstrate various areas of competence. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) certification. Additionally, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) offers different levels of certification for assistants who wish to work in a research facility. Students in veterinary assistant programs learn the basics of animal care and veterinary terminology. Training usually includes the proper preparation of samples and specimens.
Veterinary technicians must complete a veterinary technology program from a community college accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Graduates of these programs usually earn a two-year associate's degree. Students in these programs learn how to safely apply and remove bandages, perform veterinary first aid and properly position animal patients during exams and surgical procedures. In many states, candidates may also need to pass a credentialing exam known as the Veterinary Technician National Examination.
To become a veterinarian, a person must graduate from a four-year college accredited in veterinary medicine. Veterinarians are also required to obtain a license from the state in which they wish to practice. Emergency veterinarians must complete an additional three years of training in a critical care, surgery and emergency program approved by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC). The individual must pass a board certification examination.
Entry-level positions for veterinary paramedics include veterinary assistant and veterinary technician. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual income for veterinary assistants as of May 2018 was $27,540; while veterinary technicians and technologists earned median annual wages of $44,700 during that same time.
The BLS reported excellent job growth for veterinary technicians and technologists; roughly 19% from 2018 through 2028. This is due in part to a growing pet population and the tendency of pet owners to see their pets as extensions of their families. Also, these technicians will be increasingly needed to perform lab care and routine work so that veterinarians can perform more specialized tasks. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers, are also expected to see a much faster than average increase of 19% in jobs during that same interval. This is about average across all occupations.
The BLS reported a median salary of $93,830 for veterinarians as of May 2018. According to the BLS, job growth in this field was expected to increase much faster than average by 18% from 2018 to 2028. This is in line with average employment growth across all job sectors. Job opportunities were projected to be good, due in part to the fact that there are currently only 29 accredited veterinary medicine colleges in the U.S. and admission is quite competitive.
While the title of veterinary paramedic can apply to a wide array of different occupations, the job duties, educational requirements, and salaries for each position can vary quite drastically. Veterinarians tend to make more money than assistants, technologists or technicians in the field, but they also require far more education and certification. Those interested in a career under the branch of veterinary paramedics should carefully consider their educational options and work expectations to make sure they end up on the desired path.