For people with an innate love for animals and an interest in science and medicine, becoming a veterinary assistant is a dream job. Most veterinary assistants work in non-farm situations taking care of household pets and domestic animals. Some work in research labs caring for animals used in scientific studies. A few work with livestock and farm animals with a large animal veterinarian practice. While working as a veterinary assistant can be extremely rewarding, it can also be very emotionally and physically demanding. Veterinary assistants need to balance their love and compassion for animals with the practical needs and demands of providing necessary medical care. Some veterinary assistants advance their careers by pursuing education and certification to become veterinary technologists.
Some tasks a veterinary assistant may do on a daily basis include:
Keeping detailed records about an animal's condition and treatments
Performing simple laboratory screenings like stool and urine specimens
Shaving or otherwise preparing an animal for surgery
Administering medications and intravenous fluids
Dispensing medications to pet owners per the veterinarian's orders
Cleaning the kennels and other facilities in the veterinary clinic
Sanitizing and maintaining surgical instruments
Handling and restraining animals for treatment
Counseling and educating pet owners
Providing grief counseling over the loss of a pet
Veterinary assistants who work at research facilities will also do daily care, feeding, and cage cleaning for lab animals. Those working with veterinarians in a large animal practice have duties unique to the care and treatment of livestock, as well.
Veterinary Assistant Job Education Requirements
Most veterinary assistants enter the job with a high school diploma or equivalent and receive most of their training on the job. Recently, however, there is a growing trend toward certificate programs in veterinary assistant training in higher education institutions. These certificate programs tend to be more valuable for veterinary assistants seeking jobs in research labs or other academic veterinary facilities.
Veterinary Assistant Job Market
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for veterinary assistants will grow by 10 percent in the coming decade, about average for all careers. This career has a higher than average turnover rate, however, so the job market should remain fairly steady.
Veterinary Assistant Job Salary Information
The median hourly pay for veterinary assistants in 2012 was just over $11 per hour. Veterinary assistants employed by government research facilities or specialized veterinary practices made slightly more, with a salary range of $13.25 to $18 per hour.