Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.

Work Environment: Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work mainly in clinics, animal hospitals, and research laboratories. Their work may be physically and emotionally demanding.

How to Become One: Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the occupation on the job.

Salary: The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is $28,590.

Job Outlook: Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 16 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. High turnover should result in good job opportunities.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a veterinary assistant or laboratory animal caretaker with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Veterinary Assistant Jobs

  • Veterinary Assistant - McGrath Veterinary Center - Los Angeles, CA

    We are seeking an experienced Veterinary Technician/ Assistant to join our team! McGrath Veterinary Center is a State of the Art Veterinary Hospital located in the Sherman Oaks/Encino area. We are a ...

  • Veterinary Assistant - Emergency Veterinary Hospital of Coeur d'Alene - Coeur d'Alene, ID

    Emergency Veterinary Hospital of Coeur d'Alene is looking for a few great veterinary assistants . We are a wonderful group of skilled professionals who need you to complete our team! Our ideal ...

  • Veterinary Assistant - N. Cascade vet hospital - Sedro-Woolley, WA

    We are looking for a full time veterinary assistant to add to our dedicated team of professionals. We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality of medicine and comfort for our patients and ...

See all Veterinary Assistant jobs

Top 3 Laboratory Animal Caretaker Jobs

  • Animal Care Technician - Purdue University - West Lafayette, IN

    High school diploma / GED One year animal caretaker experience Skills in record keeping and ... Coursework/degree in Animal Husbandry or related field Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT ...

  • Animal Care Technician / Boarding / Kennel - Westbury Animal Hospital - Houston, TX

    Animal Caretakers are responsible for the day-to-day care of patients and boarders. This includes ... Laboratory . We have 10 doctors, practicing small animal care and emergency. Please visit our ...

  • Veterinary Receptionist - The Grand Lake Veterinary Hospital - Oakland, CA

    Answers client's inquiries about basic animal care questions and routine procedures. * Educates ... caregivers for all phases of our patients' lives. We recognize that our patients are family members ...

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 care for 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 also provide nursing care before and after surgery and other medical 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 99,500 jobs. The largest employers of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are as follows:

Veterinary services 87%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 3%

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work primarily in clinics and animal hospitals, colleges and universities, and research laboratories.

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 for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

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. Workers may also be injured while holding, bathing, or restraining an animal.

Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker Work Schedules

Some veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may work nights, weekends, or 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 or being around animals can be helpful for jobseekers.

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Education for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

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

Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker Training

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Although certification is not mandatory, it allows workers to demonstrate competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration.

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. They need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively 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 $28,590. 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 $20,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $39,800.

The median annual wages for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $37,910
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences $32,950
Veterinary services $28,150

Some veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may 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 16 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. These workers are expected to be needed to assist veterinarians and other veterinary care staff.

Increases in consumers’ pet-related spending are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers. In clinics and other veterinary service establishments, assistants help veterinarians and veterinary technicians and technologists with various veterinary procedures. Demand for veterinary assistants will continue as the demand for veterinary procedures increases.

Job Prospects for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Overall job opportunities for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to be 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, 2019-29
Occupational Title Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29
Percent Numeric
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers 99,500 115,200 16 15,700


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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