Veterinary Assistant Careers

Careers as a Veterinary Assistant

What do Veterinary Assistants Do?

Veterinary assistants typically work under the supervision of veterinarians and veterinary technicians. They perform routine animal care but also assist the veterinarian with surgical preparation, nursing care, collecting lab samples, administering oral medications, and preparing animals for radiology or ultrasound procedures.

Veterinary assistants work closely with clients, consulting, interviewing, and explaining procedures. Thus, they need to have strong communication skills and empathy for clients dealing with difficult or emotional situations. The job can be physically demanding; you may need to lift heavy animals or work on your feet for a full shift. 

Veterinary assistants work in entry-level positions. They typically do not need to be licensed; however, requirements may differ by state. You do not need a college degree or formal education to be employed as a veterinary assistant. However, the vocational training provided by the Animal Behavior Institute will prepare you to enter the field and can enhance your job prospects. Graduates of the Advanced Veterinary Assistant program will also be able to provide pet training services, a very profitable sideline.

Where Do Veterinary Assistants Work?


Veterinary Practices and Animal Hospitals
Most veterinary assistants are employed by veterinarians. They can work in animal hospitals, veterinary practices, or emergency clinics. Veterinarians may run a general practice or they may specialize in one area, such as small animal medicine, large animal medicine, or exotics. Veterinary hospitals provide routine preventative care, in addition to diagnosing and treating medical conditions. 

Emergency medical clinics are often open 24/7 and may require shifts in the evening or early morning hours. The work is rewarding, but it can also be physically or emotionally stressful. 

Kennels and Animal Shelters

Boarding facilities and shelters employ veterinary assistants to care for animals that may be kept for extended periods. In addition to providing routine animal care, veterinary assistants are trained to administer oral medications, interpret animal body language, and identify emergency medical conditions.


Laboratory Facilities and Educational Institutions
Universities and laboratory facilities may house animals for teaching or research. Veterinary assistants working in these institutions provide proper care and handling, as they would at any institution, but they also assist with research projects and follow laboratory protocols.

While most veterinary assistants work in animal hospitals or clinics, they are employed by a wide array of institutions, including:
  • Emergency clinics
  • Zoos & aquariums
  • Diagnostic laboratories
  • Animal hospitals
  • Veterinary clinics
  • Veterinary supply companies
  • Animal control agencies
  • Humane societies
  • Dog day care centers
  • Laboratories
  • Universities
  • Kennels
  • Equine facilities
  • Animal shelters
  • Wildlife centers

Career Outlook
The outlook for veterinary assistants is excellent. Employment in these areas is expected to grow 14 percent over the next decade, faster than the average for all occupations, producing 20,000 new jobs (source: U.S. Department of Labor). Salaries vary based on the specific field or employer. Veterinary assistants can greatly increase their income by providing training services to clients of their veterinary practice.

Veterinary Assistants vs. Veterinary Technicians
Please note that veterinary assistants are not veterinary technicians. Veterinary technicians usually require two or more years of college, obtaining an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. They must pass a certification exam and usually need to obtain ongoing continuing education credits to remain certified. They can perform more advanced techniques and typically have a higher pay scale. Our program will prepare you become a veterinary assistant, not a veterinary technician.

If you have a professional interest in Animal Training & Enrichment, you may want to explore one or more of these associations for additional information.

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