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What Is the Difference Between a Vet Assistant & a Vet Tech?

Nov 04, 2019

Both a vet assistant and vet tech work closely with animals and have responsibility for their care. Learn more about these two veterinary jobs, including similarities and differences, to see which might be the best fit for you.

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Comparing Vet Assistants to Vet Techs

Vet assistants and vet technicians work closely with veterinarians in an office or animal hospital. Both work together to ensure that their animal patients are kept healthy. To learn more about the similarities and differences of these two roles, read more below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Vet Assistant High school diploma $27,540 (vet assistants and lab animal caretakers) 19% (vet assistants and lab animal caretakers)
Vet Technician Associate's degree $34,420 (vet technologists and technicians) 19% (vet technologists and technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Vet Assistants vs. Vet Techs

A vet assistant and vet tech both provide general animal care and assist with the treatment of sick and injured animals. Depending on the setting, a vet assistant may have more administrative responsibilities, while a vet tech may have more clinical responsibilities. One of the main differences between these two careers is that a vet assistant is a supportive role to a vet tech, who often supervises the assistant. A vet tech also needs to acquire additional training through an approved program.

Vet Assistants

Vet assistants assist both vet techs and veterinarians by providing basic animal care. They may feed animals, clean their cages, and administer medications. They also perform administrative tasks, such as maintain records, answer phones, and stock supplies. Vet assistants are generally not required to complete a specific program and do not need a license to work. Many vet assistants receive their training while on the job.

Job responsibilities of a vet assistant include:

  • Assisting veterinarians with animal health care and treatment
  • Sterilizing operating and exam rooms before use
  • Maintaining equipment used in vet care
  • Caring for animal patients in the recovery room after surgery
  • Assisting in sample collection, such as urine and blood

Vet Techs

Vet techs work directly under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to help provide treatment and care to animals. They assist techs in conducting general health exams, procedures, and surgeries in both an outpatient and inpatient animal setting. Their degree must be from program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. In addition, some states require a vet tech to be licensed. Some vet techs may work in research-related jobs to ensure that animals are treated humanely.

Job responsibilities of a vet technician include:

  • Monitoring animals while they are in surgery
  • Performing labs, x-rays, and other health tests
  • Taking and reviewing an animal's health history
  • Providing first aid to animals when needed
  • Restraining animal patients during their exams
  • Preparing instruments used in surgery and exams

Related Careers

If you are interested in a career working with animals you may also want to consider animal caretaker jobs. An animal caretaker is responsible for animals' well-being in a variety of settings. Those looking for a job with increased responsibility should consider becoming a veterinarian, which allows them to diagnose and treat animal health issues.

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