What you'll do: While veterinary technicians perform tasks such as administering medication and preparing animals for surgery, veterinary assistants fill a different but equally vital role in the veterinarian's office. They support animal doctors and technicians in their daily tasks by cleaning and maintaining equipment, feeding, exercising and grooming patients, preparing and sanitizing surgery suites, restraining and handling patients, and clerical and administrative work.
Where you'll work: Animal hospitals, clinics, research laboratories, universities.
Degree you'll need to practice: Certificate or Associate's degree
Median annual salary: $23,120*
Veterinary assistants work mainly in clinics and hospitals, helping technicians treat the injuries and illnesses of animals. You can choose to work in small private practices or large veterinary hospitals. Your main job is to ensure a comfortable, safe and sanitary environment.
As a related entry-level veterinary career, laboratory animal caretakers work in labs under the supervision of a veterinarian, scientist, veterinary technician or veterinary technologist. Their daily tasks include feeding animals, cleaning kennels and monitoring lab animals' general well-being.
Different locations will bring you into contact with distinctly different kinds of animals, specific to region and environment. Whether focused on domestic animals or working in scientific research environments, your primary responsibility will be the humane care of animals.
Beginning work as a veterinary assistant is a great way to enter the field of veterinary medicine. While this career can be physically and emotionally demanding, especially if there's an emergency, or a patient has to be put to sleep, supporting veterinarians in providing comfort to pet owners may be one of the most important aspects of the job. It assures them that your clinic is committed to giving their pet the best possible treatment.
If you end up loving the work as much as the animals, consider studying to become a veterinary technician or technologist. These positions require more education and will increase your job prospects. To advance into a technician role, you'll complete a two-year associate's degree. To advance into a technologist position, you'll complete a four-year bachelor's degree program in veterinary technology.
Veterinary science and support is a fast growing field for compassionate and capable animal lovers.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers.
*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.