Understanding the Difference Between Veterinary Assistants and Technicians
Veterinary assistance and veterinary technicians have very similar sounding titles, but different careers in the field of veterinary medicine. They each have the very rewarding job of assisting veterinarians with the care of animals, but have different responsibilities when it comes to accomplishing this task.
Those interested in entering one of these positions working with animals should carefully examine the differences between the two lines of work to decide which one would be best for them and their personal goals.
Education and Qualifications
- To become a veterinary assistant, a person must begin with either a high school diploma or GED. This degree will enable you to begin a either a veterinary assistant program or join a clinic. Vet assistant programs can be found either online or in some cases the veterinary clinic will be associated with a school you can attend.
In these programs you will learn about basic animal care, nutrition, and health to prepare you in assisting the veterinarian. Typically, you will need to study about six months to a year to receive your certificate. Once you have the certificate you will be able to work in a clinic.
There are also clinics that will allow assistants to receive basic training from the vet they will be working with. They can begin working with just a high school degree, but the vet may have certain requirements to complete before they can really begin the job.
- To become a veterinary technician, you will need to enter one of the accredited vet tech schools. These programs are typically two to four years depending on full time or part time enrollment. These programs will teach vet tech students more about animal health care and the work of the veterinarian.
If the student seeking to become a vet tech is already a vet assistant, there are often online programs or accelerated programs offered. Each state has slightly different qualifications for those looking to become veterinary technicians, but most require a state given exam to qualify for a license before a person can work in this particular field.
Veterinary assistants provide support for the veterinarians in the clinic. They will handle things such as taking information from owners about the animals in for visits and gathering data such as temperature. During typical visits assistants also help with the animals during the examination and assist during any procedures performed. Depending on the size of the office, they may also be in charge of administrative tasks such as bookkeeping and appointments as well as cleaning and sanitizing the visiting rooms following check ups.
Veterinary technicians have a bit more responsibility than assistants. They will be involved with more technical tasks, such as anesthesia, radiography, and interpreting images from tests. Vet techs will be able to complete jobs such as collect specimens for lab analysis and interpret the results, administer medication, and provide surgical assistance.
Salary and Career Opportunities
Since veterinary assistants are limited in what they can do, their salaries are not particularly high. On average, assistants are paid between $9-12 per hour, or between 19,000 and 25,000 per year, though with experience some make up to $31,000 per year in certain areas.
The pay is not particularly lucrative, but it is a job that can be easily trained for without having to invest too much time or money in additional education. It might be a good fit for someone looking for additional income, that needs a job that doesn’t require advanced degrees, or perhaps someone looking for exposure to the field with an interest in advancing at a later date.
Veterinary assistants do not have too much room for advancement without investing in some additional education, such as vet tech school. With experience and some on the job training, they may be able to earn a slightly higher salary and take on some additional responsibilities, but that depends on the employer. Assistants are able to work in a variety of locations, such as veterinary clinics or zoos, which could be appealing for candidates.
Veterinary technicians earn a bit more than assistants due to their additional education. On average pay is between $12-15 per hour, or $25,000-$31,000 per year, again with higher salaries coming with experience and depending on region. Since vet techs are trained, there is a bit more room for advancement in salary and responsibility as the person gains experience.
Like veterinary assistants, technicians can work with veterinarians in clinics and zoos, but also have opportunities in pharmaceutical companies or research. For someone interested in making a career out of working with animals and can afford the time to attend a little additional schooling, a veterinary technician might be a better fit.
Veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians both other valuable services to veterinarians and the animals they serve.
Both career opportunities give people the chance to find rewarding work with animals and making a difference each day. Those interested in pursuing such a job should consider carefully whether they are better suited for a position as an assistant or technician.
They should think about the importance of responsibility, advancement, and salary as well as the practicality of attending school. It may help to get in touch with local people in these two positions and discussing the pros and cons to each before making a decision. Hopefully now you understand the basic differences between the two jobs and will be able to make a more informed choice regarding your future job in veterinary medicine.