Veterinary Assistants


Schools and Education

What's needed: A veterinary assistant generally must hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. Most employers do not require veterinary assistants to obtain any further diplomas or degrees. In fact most assistants are trained on the job. However aspiring vet assistants who hold certain certifications may have greater access to employment opportunities and command significant salary premiums. Those with post-secondary degrees or other relevant experience may enjoy similar advantages.

What you study:

Your on-the-job training and/or classroom studies will likely include the following areas of instruction:

  • Basic veterinary pharmacology
  • Basic veterinary anatomy
  • Confinement cleaning protocols
  • Equipment sterilization protocols
  • Hazardous material handling protocols
  • Feeding transport and safety procedures

What courses you'll take

Below are examples of courses that you'll likely take as a veterinary assistant student.

Animal Behavior and RestraintProvides an introduction to veterinary professions and specifically the vet assistant field covering: responsibilities; animal breeds; types of animal behavior; and restraint of patients.Give students basic core knowledge needed for further training.
Veterinary TerminologyOverviews common prefixes roots and suffixes for terms related to animal anatomy pharmacological agents and medical procedures.Give understanding of vocabulary needed for communication between veterinary workers.
Patient Care and TreatmentReviews basics of day-to-day care of animals including: exam room procedures; fluid therapies; dentistry; immunizations; euthanasia; nursing; nutrition; large animal care; office procedures; and client relations.Ready students to assist in evaluation and treatment of animal patients.
Diagnostics and PharmacyCovers: radiology; lab sampling and tests; ultrasound; drug categories; drug dispensing; legal issues related to veterinary drugs; and drug safety.Prepare students to use diagnostic imaging techniques and dispense pharmaceutical treatments.
Surgery Anesthesia and Emergency CareOverviews basics of veterinary surgery anesthesia and emergency care as relevant to an assistant including: types of surgical procedures; common anesthesia techniques; emergency medicines; critical care; and CPR.Provide basics needed to assist veterinarians during surgeries and emergency treatments.
Exotic Animal CareUsually an elective studies cover care of exotic pets such as snakes lizards aquarium fish turtles hamsters ferrets gerbils and tarantulas. Topics include: diets; housing; anatomy; physiology; diseases; special restraining techniques; and owner education.Prepare students to care and treat a range of exotic animals.
Veterinary Medical Ethics and Office AssistingCovers business aspects of a veterinary practice such as: ethics; legal concerns; communication with clients; and records.Ready students to support the business and professional needs of their veterinary practice employers.

Video Overview

Shows a brief overview of what veterinarian assistants do. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.

Certifications and Licensing

No formal certification or licensing is required for most veterinary assistant jobs. This is especially true for positions in private veterinary practices and other non-institutional settings. On the other hand aspiring laboratory animal caretakers who wish to work in formal research settings may need to obtain specific certifications. The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science issues three cumulative certificates:

  • Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician
  • Laboratory Animal Technician
  • Laboratory Animal Technologist

The AALAS proctors exams for each respective certification. In order to obtain each certificate a veterinary assistant with prior practical experience must pass the appropriate exam. In addition certified laboratory animal caretakers may find it easier to transition into employment as full-blown veterinary technicians. Since many veterinary assistants ultimately pursue this career track these three certificates are perennially in high demand.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Although most work part-time and are paid on an hourly basis veterinary assistants do not have "easy" jobs. Even though the bulk of veterinary assistants' job duties are performed during normal weekday business hours assistants must also be on hand at all times to assist with inpatient animals. As such these workers can expect to log several weekend and overnight shifts per month.

Work location:

Virtually all veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work on-site. Five in six workers are employed by veterinary practices and animal hospitals. Many of these workers are on the clock for between 25 and 40 hours per week.

Recommended Websites

These websites should prove helpful for aspiring veterinary assistants who wish to learn more about career options in the field.

  • National Association of Veterinary Assistants in America — NAVTA offers a succinct primer on veterinary assistants' job duties education requirements and salary ranges. The trade organization also provides resume-building advice and up-to-date national job postings for aspiring vet assistants.
  • American Veterinary Medical Association — This organization offers a comprehensive outline of the training requirements job duties and industry outlook for veterinary assistants and other veterinary specialists. As a leading veterinary trade organization it also features a comprehensive job-search feature as well as resume-building and interview advice for prospective veterinary assistants.
  • U.S. Department of Labor — This official government resource can serve as an excellent starting point for those who wish to learn more about becoming a veterinary assistant. It contains step-by-step instructions on obtaining proper training and provides detailed salary and job growth data. Unfortunately the Department of Labor currently does not post active job listings on its site.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$31010$19K – $41K900.05%
ALAuburn – Opelika$20860$16K – $38K800.16%
ALBirmingham – Hoover$22560$19K – $36K3900.08%
ALFlorence – Muscle Shoals$21770$19K – $24K600.11%
ALGadsden$20610$16K – $29K300.10%
ALHuntsville$19010$16K – $26K1900.09%
ALMobile$21480$16K – $34KN/AN/A
ALMontgomery$19280$16K – $24K2000.13%
ALTuscaloosa$19430$16K – $25K500.05%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$22900$20K – $34K800.04%
ARFort Smith$19840$16K – $29K700.06%
ARHot Springs$22820$17K – $38K300.09%
ARJonesboro$22280$17K – $30K400.09%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$21820$17K – $29K2000.06%
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$25420$17K – $33K4400.03%
AZTucson$21120$17K – $26K3100.09%
AZYuma$22320$19K – $30K400.07%
CABakersfield – Delano$25280$18K – $31K1000.04%
CAChico$26530$20K – $36K1200.17%
CAFresno$26770$19K – $33K1700.05%
CALos Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)$27230$21K – $44K15800.04%
CAModesto$19350$17K – $28K800.05%
CAOakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)$28300$19K – $41K5400.06%
CAOxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura$26770$21K – $35KN/AN/A
CARedding$22580$18K – $31K700.12%
CARiverside – San Bernardino – Ontario$28800$18K – $37K7700.07%
CASacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville$25460$18K – $37K5900.07%
CASalinas$26020$19K – $33K1400.09%
CASan Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos$31160$18K – $43K11300.09%
CASan Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)$33420$19K – $50K5100.05%
CASan Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara$24590$19K – $50KN/AN/A
CASan Luis Obispo – Paso Robles$28930$19K – $36KN/AN/A
CASanta Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)$22660$18K – $33K7300.05%
CASanta Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta$29560$19K – $44K1000.06%
CASanta Cruz – Watsonville$23700$18K – $36K1100.13%
CASanta Rosa – Petaluma$28980$22K – $37K1300.08%
CAStockton$26880$20K – $43K800.04%
CAVallejo – Fairfield$22050$18K – $29K1400.11%
CAVisalia – Porterville$20950$18K – $30K700.06%
COBoulder$23270$17K – $30K800.05%
COColorado Springs$22140$18K – $33K900.04%
CODenver – Aurora – Broomfield$20810$17K – $33K3600.03%
COFort Collins – Loveland$27310$21K – $35KN/AN/A
COGreeley$21670$18K – $24KN/AN/A
CTBridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk$26520$20K – $30KN/AN/A
CTHartford – West Hartford – East Hartford$23690$18K – $31K3000.05%
CTNew Haven$40750$20K – $60K2600.10%
CTNorwich – New London$32950$25K – $44K1000.07%
DCWashington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)$27880$20K – $38K15200.06%
DEDover$26280$18K – $35KN/AN/A
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$29460$21K – $53K700.02%
FLCape Coral – Fort Myers$20310$17K – $29K1300.06%
FLCrestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin$18150$16K – $22K300.05%
FLDeltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach$23110$17K – $29KN/AN/A
FLFort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$19700$17K – $29K1900.03%
FLGainesville$18680$17K – $23K1200.10%
FLJacksonville$22860$19K – $29K3400.06%
FLLakeland – Winter Haven$18800$17K – $24K1100.06%
FLMiami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)$19000$17K – $23K1400.01%
FLNaples – Marco Island$26290$18K – $37K500.04%
FLNorth Port – Bradenton – Sarasota$19950$17K – $27K1500.06%
FLOcala$23410$19K – $33K800.09%
FLOrlando – Kissimmee – Sanford$18880$17K – $24K4700.05%
FLPanama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach$22800$18K – $33K400.06%
FLPensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent$18130$16K – $22K900.06%
FLPort St. Lucie$19560$17K – $27KN/AN/A
FLTallahassee$18680$17K – $27KN/AN/A
FLTampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater$22170$18K – $28K5700.05%
FLWest Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$19000$17K – $35K3500.07%
GAAlbany$22030$17K – $32KN/AN/A
GAAthens – Clarke County$21310$17K – $26K1300.17%
GAAtlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta$22120$17K – $35K16200.07%
GAAugusta – Richmond County$23120$20K – $32K800.04%
GAColumbus$19150$16K – $26K800.07%
GAGainesville$23340$20K – $29K400.05%
GAValdosta$18770$16K – $23K500.11%
HIHonolulu$23690$17K – $34KN/AN/A
IAAmes$23130$17K – $35KN/AN/A
IADavenport – Moline – Rock Island$23610$18K – $30K1000.06%
IADes Moines – West Des Moines$17810$16K – $23K800.03%
IDBoise City – Nampa$24320$17K – $31K1300.05%
IDCoeur d'Alene ID$18680$16K – $27K300.06%
IDIdaho Falls$24660$17K – $35KN/AN/A
ILBloomington – Normal$22470$19K – $38K500.06%
ILChampaign – Urbana$24330$19K – $31K900.10%
ILChicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)$22490$18K – $35K11000.03%
ILDecatur$20750$18K – $36K300.06%
ILLake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)$24660$17K – $35K1600.04%
ILPeoria$19680$18K – $29K900.05%
ILRockford$26570$21K – $36KN/AN/A
ILSpringfield$19600$18K – $27KN/AN/A
INBloomington$22440$19K – $31K300.04%
INEvansville$19400$16K – $30KN/AN/A
INFort Wayne$22900$17K – $29K1500.07%
INGary (Metro Area)$18110$16K – $27K1500.06%
INIndianapolis – Carmel$24120$18K – $37K6900.08%
INLafayette$20970$17K – $44KN/A</t26K1200.10%
KSLawrence$20760$16K – $36K400.08%
KSManhattan$22480$17K – $29K400.08%
KSTopeka$25580$20K – $33KN/AN/A
KSWichita$24570$18K – $30K2700.09%
KYLexington – Fayette$17920$16K – $22K4000.16%
KYLouisville – Jefferson County$21120$16K – $29K3600.06%
LAAlexandria$18950$16K – $29K500.09%
LAHouma – Bayou Cane – Thibodaux$20300$16K – $27K300.03%
LALafayette$26840$17K – $32K1400.10%
LALake Charles$18770$16K – $24K700.08%
LAMonroe$18830$16K – $23K400.06%
LANew Orleans – Metairie – Kenner$21770$17K – $30K3600.07%
LAShreveport – Bossier City$17940$16K – $24K1800.10%
MABarnstable Town$30320$21K – $39K700.07%
MABoston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area)$33670$21K – $48K13100.08%
MAFramingham (Metro Area)$39120$19K – $46KN/AN/A
MAHaverhill – North Andover – Amesbury (Metro Area)$25520$19K – $40K500.07%
MALeominster – Fitchburg – Gardner$21070$17K – $36K400.09%
MALowell – Billerica – Chelmsford (Metro Area)N/AN/A – N/A400.03%
MASpringfield$26150$19K – $30K1300.05%

Related Articles

MyPerfectResume Staff Writer

MyPerfectResume Staff Writer

At MyPerfectResume, we are passionate about two things: sharing our knowledge about the workforce and providing exceptional tools to help jobseekers get ahead. Thanks to our well-rounded assemblage of experts, we offer industry-specific resume and cover letter writing tips and career advice for almost every job. MyPerfectResume culls detailed advice…

More Articles by MyPerfectResume Staff Writer