How To Become A Veterinary Assistant
If you love animals and want to care for them without having to go through the educational requirements of becoming a veterinarian, you can consider a career as a veterinary assistant. In this profession, you will have the chance to care for animals under the direction and supervision of veterinarians, veterinary technologists and technicians and scientists.
You can expect to feed and bathe these animals in clinics, laboratories and animal hospitals. You will also be responsible for cleaning and disinfecting their cages and the facility’s operating rooms. It will also be your task to keep surgical instruments and equipment sterile and ready for use.
As a veterinary assistant, you will also be assisting during checkup and surgical procedures. During emergencies, you will also be giving first aid treatment to the animals. You will be restraining them while the veterinarian or scientist is conducting his examinations. You will be tasked with administering medications or immunizations prescribed by veterinarians. If blood, urine and tissue samples of the animals need to be obtained, you will be assisting the veterinarian in these procedures. After surgery, you will also be tasked with monitoring and caring for the animals.
To succeed in this profession, you really need to have a genuine love for all kinds of animals. Whether it’s a dog, cat, parrot or iguana, you should not have any qualms or phobias in handling them because people can have various interests as far as pets are concerned. You should be compassionate towards them so that you can treat them with kindness and respect. You should also have the same compassion for their owners so that you will know how to reassure them about the condition of their pets or break bad news to them as gently as possibly.
You should have a penchant for noting the little details as you will need to follow the veterinarian’s instructions to the letter. You should also possess manual dexterity since you will be handling laboratory instruments that could potentially cause injuries to you, the people around and the animals if not handled properly. It’s important to be physically fit and healthy since you will be handling and restraining animals of all shapes and sizes and will be working on your feet most of the time.
Why Become A Veterinary Assistant
A genuine love for animals is the primary reason to pursue this career. Nothing is more fulfilling than being able to nurse sick pets back to health and seeing the joy in the eyes of their owners after recovering them from the animal hospital. The demand for veterinary assistants will continue in the coming years, providing good job opportunities.
Veterinary Assistant Work Environment
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 82 percent of veterinary assistants employed in 2012 worked in the veterinary services industry. The companies in this industry comprise private animal clinics and animal hospitals. The remaining others worked in research facilities, colleges and universities and various laboratories.
Veterinary assistants work full-time during regular hours but since animal clinics and hospitals provide services 24 hours a day, they may also be asked to work in shifts which include evenings, weekends and holidays.
The nature of the work makes veterinary assistants prone to a lot of injuries and sicknesses. They may get scratched, bitten and kicked by distraught and aggressive animals. In fact, the rate of injuries among veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is higher than the national average.
Aside from the physical dangers, they may also experience a lot of emotional and mental stress in their jobs. This is because they will see first-hand the condition of abused animals brought to their care and will have to assist in putting the unwanted and overly sick animals to sleep.
Veterinary Assistant Salary
The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $25,110 in May 2013. The agency reported in May 2012 that those employed with colleges, universities and professional schools received the highest pay at $30,760.
This was followed by those who were employed in the scientific research and development services industry who received $29,710 annually. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers who were hired in the veterinary services industry were paid $22,450 annually.
Just as a comparison, veterinary assistants often work for veterinarians who receive $96,140. However, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree typically takes four years to complete after obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
Average Veterinary Assistant Annual Salary
The average annual salary for veterinary assistants is $27,570 a year. Salaries start at $19,110 a year and go up to $38,300 a year.
Average Veterinary Assistant Hourly Wage
The average hourly wage for a veterinary assistant is $13.26. Hourly wages are between $9.19 and $18.41 an hour.
Stats were based out of 84,400 employed veterinary assistants in the United States.
Highest Paying States For Veterinary Assistants
- 1. Massachusetts $17.40 / hr $36,200 / yr
- 2. Connecticut $17.17 / hr $35,720 / yr
- 3. Maine $15.95 / hr $33,180 / yr
- 4. California $15.01 / hr $31,220 / yr
- 5. Alaska $15.00 / hr $31,200 / yr
Top Paying Cities For Veterinary Assistants
- 1. Boston, MA $19.58 / hr$40,720 / yr
- 2. Port St. Lucie, FL $19.39 / hr$40,330 / yr
- 3. San Jose, CA $18.59 / hr$38,670 / yr
- 4. Santa Cruz, CA $18.11 / hr$37,670 / yr
- 5. Ithaca, NY $17.95 / hr$37,330 / yr
Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Veterinary Assistant Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that for the decade covering 2012 to 2022, the employment rate for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is forecasted to grow 10 percent. This rate is as fast as the average for all job types. From the 74,600 assistants and caretakers employed in 2012, the number is expected to rise to 81,700 in 2022.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics warned, however, that a lot of veterinary practices are projected to replace veterinary assistants with veterinary technicians and technologists who possess higher skill sets. This would impact the demand for this career. This will be mitigated by the continued growth of the pet care industry which would still contribute to the demand of veterinary assistants.
Veterinary Assistant Degree
Veterinary assistants are normally trained by their employers on the job although some would want to hire those who already have related experience when it comes to working with animals. One can also increase his chances of getting hired by earning the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) certification from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). This certification is voluntary and not required.
Being certified shows to employers that he or she is competent in areas like animal husbandry, health and welfare and facility administration.