What Are the Average Salaries for Veterinary Assistants?

Are you looking to turn your love of animals into a career? As a veterinary assistant, you will help care for animals by assisting veterinarians in animal hospitals and clinics. Read on to discover how the average salary varies depending on experience, location, industry and employer. Schools offering Veterinary Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Education Requirements

In order to begin working in this field, you'll be required to have a high school diploma. Most veterinary assistants begin their careers with on-the-job training. However, you may choose to further develop your knowledge and skills through veterinary assistant training programs offered by technical schools and community colleges.

Average Salary Overview

You can expect to earn an average annual salary of $24,740 as a veterinary assistant or laboratory animal caretaker, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of May 2012 (www.bls.gov). The top-paid 10% earned $35,510 or more annually, while the bottom-paid 10% earned $17,150 or less a year. The BLS also reported that the mean hourly wage was $11.90.

Salary by Experience

Your earnings may depend on how much experience you have in the field. The following are examples of salary ranges for the middle 80% of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers based on years of experience as reported by PayScale.com in January 2014:

  • Less than one year: $21,500-$38,475
  • 1-4 years: $19,100-$44,698
  • 5-9 years: $33,854-$52,903

Salary by Location

The cost of living varies throughout the country and may affect what you can expect to earn. For instance, you may earn more as a veterinary assistant in California than you would in Florida. According to May 2012 BLS figures, some states with top average pay for this field included Massachusetts ($32,040), Delaware ($31,450), Maine ($30,140), Connecticut ($29,970) and Alaska ($29,330).

The average annual salaries for the following locations with high employment levels were reported by the BLS as of May 2012:

  • California: $27,990
  • Texas: $23,370
  • Virginia: $25,370
  • New York: $28,050
  • Florida: $21,880

Salary by Industry

Your salary may also depend on your employer's industry. Some of the industries with the highest number of employment opportunities for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers in May 2012 included other professional, scientific and technical services; colleges, universities and professional schools; and scientific research and development services. Mean pay for these industries was $23,600, $32,310 and $31,170, respectively.

As reported by the BLS in May 2012, below are some examples of industries with the highest average salaries for veterinary assistants:

  • Local government: $39,290
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: $35,390
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $34,780

Job Outlook

The BLS expects veterinary assistant and laboratory animal caretaker employment growth to be at a rate of 10% over the 2012-2022 decade. Although this growth is about average, the BLS notes that some practices will use veterinary technicians instead of assistants because they have more advanced skills. The BLS still expects good job prospects because of high turnover.

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