Veterinary assistants, often called vet technicians, vet technologists, or animal care specialists, provide critical support for veterinarians and their often four-legged patients. While a vet technician or animal care specialist typically attends a shorter training program than a vet technologist, job duties among all three positions are quite similar.
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- Performing medical tests
- Exposing and revealing x-rays
- Treating and diagnosing medical conditions under the supervision of a registered veterinarian
- Handling, feeding, or walking the animals
What You Need to Know to Become a Veterinary Assistant
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are two primary ways to become a vet assistant: attending a 2-year program for veterinary technicians or care specialists, or a 4-year program for veterinary technologists. The majority of students choose the former, attending 2-year veterinary assisting programs at community colleges or trade schools. In both cases, veterinary assisting classes focus on: medical terminology, animal physiology, hematology, parasitology, and surgical assisting. All states require veterinary aides to be certified, licensed, or registered via coursework and an exam, though specific requirements vary. Most states use the National Veterinary Technician exam, and the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) certification is suggested for veterinary technologists seeking employment in a research facility. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for veterinary assistants was $28,900 in May, 2008, with the middle 50 percent earning between $23,580 and $34,960. Careers are expected to grow faster than the national average for all careers through 2018, thanks to relatively low job competition.