Veterinary assistants do not need any formal education, degrees or certifications to work in a laboratory, animal hospital or clinic. They receive on-the-job training only, usually lasting for up to one year. Veterinary assistants held approximately 75,000 jobs five years ago, however, by 2016 the veterinary industry believes there will be a huge period of job growth. This could mean more pay, more positions and more education requirements for veterinary assistants. Unfortunately, many vet assistants do not last more than a couple years in the field. This is mainly due to little pay, long hours, weekend shifts and stresses of the job. Many veterinary assistants are required to handle emotional pet owners and unruly animals on a daily basis.
Veterinary Assistant Education
As mentioned above, vet assistants are not required to prove formal education while applying for a position. Certifications and associate diplomas are available however, to those who are seeking to further their education, increase their salary and get on a career path. There are nine colleges in the United States that offer veterinary assistant diplomas and certificates. Plus, there are online courses and programs a veterinary assistant can enter called distance learning programs, however, most are trained on the job by a veterinarian or veterinarian technician. Keep in mind though, especially if you’re still not sure which career is best for you, that if you do pursue veterinary medicine, it’s a bonus to have been a veterinary assistant beforehand. This could open the doors for you in the future, if you decide to further your education in this field.
Veterinary Assistant Duties
Veterinarian’s assistants stay busy, mainly doing clerical work for the practice, clinic, hospital or laboratory that they work at. Most veterinary assistants help with daily tasks such as:
- Working at the reception area assisting clients
- Taking payments
- Answering the phones
- Scheduling appointments
- Feed, water and/or examine animals
- Administer medications orally or topically
- Clean and disinfect cages and/or work areas
- Sterilizing laboratory and surgical equipment
- Provide post-operative care
- Prepare samples for laboratory exams (under supervision of a veterinarian or veterinarian technician only)
Veterinary Assistant Salary
Unfortunately veterinary assistants do not make as much as their educated, certified co-workers. Salaries vary due to factors such as location, level of experience and how large or small the practice is. A veterinary assistant working in a big city can expect to make more than someone working in a rural town or area. The average median salary for veterinary assistants within the United States is $26,545, or less than $13.00 per hour. However, if one works in a facility that has excellent benefits, bonus programs or other forms of compensation then the position may be worth it. Still, many vet assistants work part-time instead of full-time and are paid hourly rather than salary.