Veterinary Assistant: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Training Requirements

Research what it takes to become a veterinary assistant. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Veterinary Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Veterinary Assistant?

Veterinary assistants take on various clinical and administrative tasks within animal clinics and hospitals. Little formal education is required to get started in the field. Veterinary assistants work with veterinarians to help treat illnesses and injuries of various animals. They may be responsible for exercising, feeding and bathing animals, as well as cleaning and disinfecting their cages and exam rooms. They will often help restrain animals throughout exams and diagnostic tests. Veterinary assistants will care for animals after surgery, administer vaccinations and medications and take blood and tissues samples. A summary of general requirements, as well as career data is provided in the table below.

Education Required High school diploma; on-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Assist veterinary staff with examinations, post-surgery care, sample collection and immunizations; feed and bathe animals; schedule patient appointments
Job Growth (2018-2028) 19%*
Median Salary (2018) $27,540*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What are My Career Options as a Veterinary Assistant?

When you work as a veterinary assistant, you perform a variety of tasks and are responsible for cleaning examination rooms, disinfecting cages, feeding animals, answering phones, washing animals, scheduling appointments, and providing post-operative care for animals. In some instances, you may even prepare hair and fluid samples for analysis under the watchful eye of a general veterinarian.

Additional duties you may have as a veterinary assistant include being an animal orderly, animal caretaker, attendant and clinical aide. Having the ability to perform multiple duties allows you to work in various work environments.

What is the Job Outlook?

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to have a 19% growth in employment from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ( The BLS noted that pet owners are taking advantage of advanced medical care offered by general veterinarians and their assistants. The demand for more specialized services is expected to favor employment in the future.

What are the Training Requirements?

As a prospective veterinary assistant, you are not required to have a college degree, and the majority of assistants receive their training while employed by a veterinarian. On-the-job training offers you the opportunity to develop the skills and methodology necessary to treat and work with animals in a specific setting. Because assistant veterinarians have varied work environments, the amount and type of training is different.

Although a formal education is not necessary to become an assistant veterinarian, many community colleges and technical schools provide certificate programs that may be useful in obtaining employment. An example program may include lab procedures, animal nursing and pathology courses, and a practicum. Some employers may prefer that you obtain certification through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) as well.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

An alternative career that is closely related to veterinary assistants is animal care and service workers. Animal care and service workers are only required to have a high school diploma or equivalent. They care for animals and perform similar tasks as veterinary assistants, such as feeding, bathing and exercising animals. Another possible career is a pet groomer. These professionals need a high school diploma or equivalent, but usually receive on-the-job training. They help maintain an animal's appearance through grooming, bathing, and nail trimming.

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