Veterinary assistants are in high demand throughout the country as it is a job that is growing in number every year. It is also a profession that requires a multi-faceted approach as veterinary assistants are responsible for a wide array of duties. Veterinary assistant jobs are integral to animal healthcare and are often considered to backbone of veterinary facilities. Obtaining a veterinary assistant job provides a rewarding future with job security, competitive pay and an exciting work environment.
Where do Vet Assistants work?
The most common place for vet assistants to work is in a veterinary practice. These are typically private animal healthcare facilities run by one or more veterinarians. There are also a high number of vet assistants employed in animal hospitals. Vet assistants can even find work in pet clinics, laboratories or research facilities. There are opportunities for vet assistants in zoos and aquariums as well. Job opportunities are available on a full-time or part-time basis.
While most veterinary practices are open during normal business hours, there are veterinary hospitals that remain open 24 hours a day. That means some veterinary assistants could find themselves working throughout the night. Emergencies can happen at any time, which makes it necessary for vet assistants to be ready to help attend to emergencies.
Veterinary Assistant Job Duties
Veterinary assistants are very important to the animal health care profession as they assume a number of duties. Veterinarians rely on their staff of vet assistants to perform the following duties:
- Oversee the care of animals after surgery
- Sanitization of tools and exam rooms
- Disinfect animal cages
- Assist in emergency care on animals who are injured or sick
- Conduct routine tests on animals
- Animal feeding and exercising
- Animal restraint techniques
- Collect blood and tissue samples
- Make records requests to other vet facilities
- Greet pet owners upon arrival
- Schedule appointments and update medical records
- Make follow-up calls and handle billing issues
Skills Needed to Attain a Veterinary Assistant Job
Vet assistants should typically have a genuine concern for animals as most consider themselves animal lovers. Since vet assistants will be working with animals, they will need to have a good rapport. Over the course of a day, vet assistants also use critical thinking skills as their job involves a number of different responsibilities. There is also the possibility of encountering aggressive animals so vet assistants should be equipped with the proper restraining techniques.
The medical component of the job will also require vet assistants to be familiar with medical terminology and procedures. There are also tools used in the veterinary field that vet assistants will need to identify. There are even times when vet assistants are looked to for their strength as euthanizing sick animals can be a very sad and traumatic time for pet owners. Vet assistants can often be a source of comfort as their emotional strength can help pet owners in their time of sorrow.
Vet Assistant Jobs by Location
There are an abundance of veterinary assistant jobs spread throughout the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state of California features the most vet assistants with more than 11,000 currently employed. Coming in second is the state of Texas with 5,140 veterinary assistants. That is followed by Florida (4,870), New York (3,690) and Virginia (3,040).
Every year, there are more than 2,100 new veterinary assistant job openings throughout the United States, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is continuing to expand each year. The AAPA (American Pet Products Association) estimates that American pet owners will spend $69.36 billion on their pets in 2017. This has led to an upsurge in veterinary care as pet owners throughout each state are visiting animal health care facilities more frequently. That bodes well for aspiring veterinary assistants.
Vet Assistant Job Salaries
The median salary for veterinary assistants in the United States checks in at $25,250 annually. The upper level average for vet assistants with more experience stands at $37,810 per year. Some states offer higher median salaries than others as Connecticut leads the way with a median salary average of $36,240 annually. Metropolitan areas typically feature higher salaries, although the exact amount is largely dependent on the type of animal healthcare facility.
Vet Assistant Job Opportunities
A quick search through the current job openings for veterinary assistants will show a multitude of opportunities at pet hospitals, animal clinics and veterinary practices throughout the country. It is a profession that is expecting to expand each year as there is no anticipated decline in pet ownership. The rise in medical technology for pets has also introduced more options for pet care. That means there is going to be an increasing demand for veterinary staff members altogether.
Vet Assistant Certifications
When looking to obtain employment as a vet assistant, most candidates go through some type of formal training program. There are an abundance of post-secondary schools that offer veterinary assistant certificates. Community colleges, technical schools and adult learning centers typically offer their own veterinary assistant programs. Students obtain a wide array of skills when they join a vet assistant training program and those skills include the following:
- Breed identification
- Medical terminology
- Animal etiquette
- Veterinary lab procedures
- In-house veterinary pharmacy
- Exam room procedures
There is also a national certification option available as becoming an approved veterinary assistant heightens the chances of obtaining employment. Vet assistants who opt to go this route may find themselves having an increased advantage when attempting to gain employment as a veterinary assistant.
There is an official way of becoming an AVA, as the NAVTA (National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America) introduced a veterinary assistant approval program in 2010. The program defined a set of guidelines that is expected from a credentialed veterinary assistant program. The schools that feature NAVTA Approved Programs can be found here. There are currently a total of 35 approved programs in the U.S. and Canada. There have also been 3 online programs that have received approval. More information on the online accredited programs can be found here.