Veterinary assistants are an integral part of providing total care to animals. They provide vital support to veterinarians, performing duties such as handling administrative work, setting up exam rooms, and even assisting during medical procedures.
Becoming a veterinary assistant is a great way to join the animal care and health industry and gain experience that may lead to more advanced positions.
Read on to learn about veterinary assistant jobs and their role in caring for animals. Understand the education requirements, job duties, salary expectations, and more so that you have all the information necessary to make an informed decision about your future as a veterinary assistant.
Veterinary assistants must possess excellent communication skills and a deep appreciation for animals to thrive in this role. With so many responsibilities, veterinary assistants make it possible for veterinarians to focus on providing optimal care for animals.
Becoming a veterinary assistant is not just about helping animals but connecting with them in meaningful ways and playing a critical role in the health and well-being of their lives.
A Veterinary Assistant plays a significant role in the day-to-day operations of a veterinarian's office. It is often a varied role, depending on the type of clinic. Vet assistant duties include providing basic animal care, assisting during exams and procedures, and preparing laboratory tests and samples for evaluation.
Veterinary Assistants also give medication to patients as directed by the veterinarian, feed and bathe animals, administer injections if necessary, and take vital signs during appointments like temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate.
While working directly with animals is at the center of being a Veterinary Assistant, utilizing modern technology and software can also represent a significant portion of the job since many systems are computer controlled.
Veterinary assistants are the backbone of any office, and their responsibilities are endless. Here are some other common tasks for veterinary assistants:
Groom or clip fur when necessary
Take radiographs of animals in need
Provide emotional support to pets that may be frightened or injured while at the clinic
Answer phones as well as some clerical work
Greeting clients and their pets upon arrival
Helping with the maintenance of medical records
Cleaning the clinic
It takes a special kind of person to be a Veterinary Assistant—a love of animals is a must!
Veterinary Assistants can work in several workplaces, such as animal clinics, hospitals, private practices, and research facilities.
While these are the main areas to work in, veterinary assistants can also work in a few other places:
Zoos or wildlife sanctuaries
Pet nutrition companies
Pet pharmaceutical companies
Animal shelters or rescue centers
Becoming a veterinary assistant is one of the most rewarding career paths for those passionate about animals and animal welfare. In most places, one does not need a specific degree to become a veterinary assistant. Several educational resources are available for those who wish to pursue additional qualifications.
Generally, attending and earning certificates from Veterinary Assistant Programs, completing an externship program, acquiring experience through volunteer opportunities, or taking part in apprenticeships with established practices are all common pathways into this line of work.
Furthermore, to support and maintain the high standards set forth by the animal care industry potential assistants may be surprise-tested with scenarios they could encounter while on the job.
Although licensing requirements vary by state depending on where you are based it is important to understand that ultimately the most profitable way forward in your journey as a veterinary assistant may be paved by both knowledge and experience.
There are several skills a Veterinary Assistant needs to best care for animals and create a successful workplace. Being familiar with animal handling and health monitoring is mandatory, as you need to be able to restrain animals, take their temperature, their pulse, and respiration readings, palpate their abdomen and perform other diagnostic tests for the veterinarian.
Furthermore, time management is crucial: veterinary assistants must manage multiple tasks within a short deadline. Additionally, you need communication skills to interact with pet owners or fellow veterinary team members.
It is also beneficial to possess a sizable knowledge regarding vaccinations and medication dosage depending on the animal type and size. Knowing the emergency treatments that make up first aid can prove very handy in an emergency.
The amount of money you earn depends on where you are based, the size of your employer, and the area of specialty you’re dealing with. Typically salaries vary from around $11 an hour to upwards of $20 an hour in some cases if you have specialized skills or experience. The 2021 Bureau of Labor numbers say the average wage was $31,780 or about $15.28 an hour.
Furthermore, many veterinary assistant jobs also come with benefits such as health insurance or vacation days. Even when working part-time, these jobs can help support finances while allowing you to spend meaningful time contributing to animal welfare.
To begin this journey, you’ll need formal training and education. Veterinary assistant programs offer courses that cover animal anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and record-keeping, as well as practical skills like prepping an animal for surgery or taking radiographs.
After completing the program, vet assistants can put their learning into practice by joining a veterinary team in one of its many roles - from kennel duties to receptionist tasks. As vet assistants grow their experience and understanding of how veterinary clinics operate from the inside out, they develop valuable expertise that can lead them further down their professional path.
With additional dedication and hard work, they can move up the ranks and take on more specialized or managerial roles such as laboratory supervisor or hospital coordinator.
Here are some of the most common career paths as a vet assistant:
Educator (i.e., vet assistant school teacher)
Animal clinic manager
Veterinary assistants provide invaluable support to veterinarians and other animal care professionals. As the demand for trained veterinary personnel increases, a career as a veterinary assistant can be an ideal choice for those who love animals and want to help ensure their well-being.
As Veterinary Assistants, their workload is typically varied and engaging. That could involve providing care to pet owners in a consultative role, handling laboratory tests and specimens, coordinating medication schedules, or providing home care advice.
No matter where they work, however, Veterinary assistants have one common goal: To provide optimal care to animals under their care!