Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Veterinary Assistant Jobs

  • Veterinary Technician / Veterinary Assistant - DoveLewis - Portland, OR

    On a daily basis, you will triage patients, calculate medical dosages and administer medications, run

  • Veterinary Assistant - Rockfish Valley Veterinary Clinic - Nellysford, VA

    Greeting clients and checking in patients • Working closely with the veterinarian and other assistants during patient care • Walking, feeding

  • Veterinary Technician Assistant - Mount Laurel Animal Hospital - Mount Laurel, NJ

    Mount Laurel, NJ is in close proximity to Philadelphia. MLAH is the premier critical care and referral center for Southern New Jersey and the

See all Veterinary Assistant jobs

Top 3 Laboratory Animal Caretaker Jobs

See all Laboratory Animal Caretaker jobs

What Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers look after animals in laboratories, animal hospitals, and clinics. They care for the animals by performing routine tasks under the supervision of scientists, veterinarians, and veterinary technologists and technicians.

Duties of Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers typically do the following:

  • Feed, bathe, and exercise animals
  • Clean and disinfect cages, kennels, and examination and operating rooms
  • Restrain animals during examination and laboratory procedures
  • Maintain and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment
  • Monitor and care for animals after surgery
  • Help provide emergency first aid to sick and injured animals
  • Give medication or immunizations that veterinarians prescribe
  • Assist in the collection of blood, urine, and tissue samples

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are responsible for many daily tasks, such as feeding, weighing, and taking the temperature of animals. Other duties may include giving medication, cleaning cages, and providing nursing care before and after surgery and other medical procedures.

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers play a large role in helping veterinarians and animal scientists with surgery and other minor procedures. They may prepare equipment and pass surgical instruments and materials to veterinarians during surgery. They also move animals and restrain them during testing and other procedures.

Veterinary assistants typically work in clinics and animal hospitals, helping veterinarians and veterinary technologists and technicians treat injuries and illnesses of animals.

Laboratory animal caretakers work in laboratories under the supervision of a veterinarian, scientist, veterinary technician, or veterinary technologist. Their daily tasks include feeding animals, cleaning kennels, and monitoring the animals.

Work Environment for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers[About this section] [To Top]

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers hold about 73,400 jobs. Eighty-five percent are employed in the veterinary services industry, which includes private clinics and animal hospitals. Most others are employed in colleges, universities, and research facilities.

The work of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be physically and emotionally demanding. Workers may handle sick or abused animals and may assist in euthanizing animals.

Injuries and Illnesses

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. When working with scared and aggressive animals, workers may be bitten, scratched, or kicked. A worker also may be injured while holding, bathing, or restraining an animal.

Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker Work Schedules

About 1 in 3 veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Many clinics and laboratories operate 24 hours a day, so veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be required to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers near you!

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma and learn the occupation on the job. Experience working with animals can be helpful for jobseekers.

Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker Education

Most workers entering the occupation have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker Training

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are trained on the job, but some employers prefer candidates who already have experience working with animals.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although certification is not mandatory, it allows workers to demonstrate competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration. Employers may prefer to hire candidates who have certification, and it may be required for advancement.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation for veterinary assistants. To qualify for the designation, candidates must graduate from a NAVTA-approved program and pass an exam.

Laboratory animal caretakers can become certified through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). AALAS offers three levels of certification: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG). For AALAS certification, candidates must have experience working in a laboratory animal facility and pass an exam.

Important Qualities for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Communication skills. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers often communicate with pet owners, veterinarians, veterinary technologists and technicians, and other assistants. Good communication skills are especially important when dealing with an emergency, such as an ill or injured animal needing immediate attention.

Detail oriented. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must follow strict instructions. For example, workers must be precise when sterilizing surgical equipment, monitoring animals, and giving medication.

Dexterity. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must handle animals and use medical instruments and laboratory equipment with care.

Empathy. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must treat animals with kindness and be empathetic to both the animals and their owners.

Physical strength. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must be able to handle, move, and restrain animals.

Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is $24,360. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,060, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $36,690.

About 1 in 3 veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Many clinics and laboratories operate 24 hours a day, so veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be required to work nights, weekends, or holidays.

Job Outlook for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 9 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers will be needed to assist veterinarians and other veterinary care staff.

Although some establishments are replacing veterinary assistant positions with veterinary technicians and technologists, growth of the pet care industry means that the number of veterinary assistant positions should continue to increase.

Demand for laboratory animal caretakers is expected to grow in areas such as public health, where organizations work to protect the health of an entire population; food and animal safety, where organizations work to prevent foodborne contaminations and diseases in animals; national disease control; and biomedical research on human health problems.

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to be very good. Veterinary assistants experience a high rate of job turnover, so many positions will become available from workers who leave the occupation each year.

Employment projections data for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers 73,400 80,000 9 6,600


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Explore more careers: View all Careers or Browse Careers by Category

Search for jobs: