Job description

Veterinary assistants provide care to animals and help veterinarians and veterinary technicians during exams and surgery. They clean and disinfect examination and operating rooms, surgical instruments and equipment.

Veterinary assistants lift, restrain and soothe pets during examinations or laboratory tests. They help provide emergency aid to sick and injured animals, and care for them before and after surgical procedures.

Duties

    • Clean, maintain and sterilise examination and operating rooms, surgical instruments, and equipment
    • Lift, hold, restrain and soothe animals during veterinary exams and procedures
    • Assist veterinarians in examining animals to assess overall health as well as any illness or injury
    • Pass instruments to veterinarians, assisting with moving patient during surgical procedures
    • Administer medications and take blood, urine or tissue samples according to vet’s instructions
    • Help provide emergency aid to injured or sick animals
    • Clean and disinfect cages and kennel areas
    • Feed, bathe and exercise animals being boarded for client convenience or surgical procedures
    • Provide post-surgery care to animals, monitoring for any unusual changes or symptoms
    • Relay health, post-surgery care and medication instructions for animals to their owners
    • Assist in euthanasia of animals and transfer of remains to pet funeral services or owner
    • Perform office reception duties, such as scheduling appointments and taking client information
    • Sell pet food, vitamins and supplies to pet owners
    • Update medical records and monitor inventory of supplies

Skills, qualities and knowledge

Biology
Customer service
Active listening
Monitoring
Social perceptiveness
Critical thinking
Physical strength
Coordination
Reading comprehension
Attention to detail
Cooperation
Dependability
Initiative
Adaptability
Compassion
Communication

Working hours and environment

Average working hours

40hweek

Typical schedule

Full Time

Nights and weekends possible

Veterinary assistants may take on full-time or part-time hours. Evenings, weekends and even holiday shifts are possible to accommodate customer needs and emergencies.

You will typically work in a veterinary office, hospital or shelter.

Assisting veterinarians can be both physically and emotionally demanding. You may be exposed to contagious illnesses and potentially hazardous cleaning and pharmaceutical chemicals. You may also suffer kicks, scratches and bites from distressed animals. Following all safety protocols will help mitigate these risks.

Salary

Bottom 10%

$20k

Median

$28k

Top 10%

$39k

Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level

High School

DVM / VMD degree

Study time

2years

Most veterinary assistants only need a high school diploma or equivalent degree. You will receive on-the-job training.

Certification from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) is available. You will need to complete accredited coursework before sitting for the exam. High schools, community and technical colleges, and some high schools provide approved programs that take two years or less to complete.

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2018 to 2028, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 5%.

19%

No of new jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2018 and 2028, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.

17.6k

Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.

86%

Career progression

Veterinary assistants often start as part-time workers, gaining practical experience while attending school. Earning NAVTA certification can help you land full-time jobs and positions with more responsibility at large clinics and animal hospitals. Some veterinary assistants continue their schooling to become a veterinary technician or veterinarian.