Veterinary Assistants

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Veterinary Assistants

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.

Course Studies Purpose
Animal Behavior and Restraint Provides 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 Terminology Overviews 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 Treatment Reviews 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 Pharmacy Covers: 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 Care Overviews 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 Care Usually 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 Assisting Covers 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.

State City / Region Typical Salary Salary Range Job Count % of All Jobs
AK Anchorage $31010 $19K – $41K 90 0.05%
AL Auburn – Opelika $20860 $16K – $38K 80 0.16%
AL Birmingham – Hoover $22560 $19K – $36K 390 0.08%
AL Florence – Muscle Shoals $21770 $19K – $24K 60 0.11%
AL Gadsden $20610 $16K – $29K 30 0.10%
AL Huntsville $19010 $16K – $26K 190 0.09%
AL Mobile $21480 $16K – $34K N/A N/A
AL Montgomery $19280 $16K – $24K 200 0.13%
AL Tuscaloosa $19430 $16K – $25K 50 0.05%
AR Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers $22900 $20K – $34K 80 0.04%
AR Fort Smith $19840 $16K – $29K 70 0.06%
AR Hot Springs $22820 $17K – $38K 30 0.09%
AR Jonesboro $22280 $17K – $30K 40 0.09%
AR Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway $21820 $17K – $29K 200 0.06%
AZ Phoenix – Mesa – Glendale $25420 $17K – $33K 440 0.03%
AZ Tucson $21120 $17K – $26K 310 0.09%
AZ Yuma $22320 $19K – $30K 40 0.07%
CA Bakersfield – Delano $25280 $18K – $31K 100 0.04%
CA Chico $26530 $20K – $36K 120 0.17%
CA Fresno $26770 $19K – $33K 170 0.05%
CA Los Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area) $27230 $21K – $44K 1580 0.04%
CA Modesto $19350 $17K – $28K 80 0.05%
CA Oakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area) $28300 $19K – $41K 540 0.06%
CA Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura $26770 $21K – $35K N/A N/A
CA Redding $22580 $18K – $31K 70 0.12%
CA Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario $28800 $18K – $37K 770 0.07%
CA Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville $25460 $18K – $37K 590 0.07%
CA Salinas $26020 $19K – $33K 140 0.09%
CA San Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos $31160 $18K – $43K 1130 0.09%
CA San Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area) $33420 $19K – $50K 510 0.05%
CA San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara $24590 $19K – $50K N/A N/A
CA San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles $28930 $19K – $36K N/A N/A
CA Santa Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area) $22660 $18K – $33K 730 0.05%
CA Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta $29560 $19K – $44K 100 0.06%
CA Santa Cruz – Watsonville $23700 $18K – $36K 110 0.13%
CA Santa Rosa – Petaluma $28980 $22K – $37K 130 0.08%
CA Stockton $26880 $20K – $43K 80 0.04%
CA Vallejo – Fairfield $22050 $18K – $29K 140 0.11%
CA Visalia – Porterville $20950 $18K – $30K 70 0.06%
CO Boulder $23270 $17K – $30K 80 0.05%
CO Colorado Springs $22140 $18K – $33K 90 0.04%
CO Denver – Aurora – Broomfield $20810 $17K – $33K 360 0.03%
CO Fort Collins – Loveland $27310 $21K – $35K N/A N/A
CO Greeley $21670 $18K – $24K N/A N/A
CT Bridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk $26520 $20K – $30K N/A N/A
CT Hartford – West Hartford – East Hartford $23690 $18K – $31K 300 0.05%
CT New Haven $40750 $20K – $60K 260 0.10%
CT Norwich – New London $32950 $25K – $44K 100 0.07%
DC Washington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area) $27880 $20K – $38K 1520 0.06%
DE Dover $26280 $18K – $35K N/A N/A
DE Wilmington (Metro Area) $29460 $21K – $53K 70 0.02%
FL Cape Coral – Fort Myers $20310 $17K – $29K 130 0.06%
FL Crestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin $18150 $16K – $22K 30 0.05%
FL Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach $23110 $17K – $29K N/A N/A
FL Fort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area) $19700 $17K – $29K 190 0.03%
FL Gainesville $18680 $17K – $23K 120 0.10%
FL Jacksonville $22860 $19K – $29K 340 0.06%
FL Lakeland – Winter Haven $18800 $17K – $24K 110 0.06%
FL Miami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area) $19000 $17K – $23K 140 0.01%
FL Naples – Marco Island $26290 $18K – $37K 50 0.04%
FL North Port – Bradenton – Sarasota $19950 $17K – $27K 150 0.06%
FL Ocala $23410 $19K – $33K 80 0.09%
FL Orlando – Kissimmee – Sanford $18880 $17K – $24K 470 0.05%
FL Panama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach $22800 $18K – $33K 40 0.06%
FL Pensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent $18130 $16K – $22K 90 0.06%
FL Port St. Lucie $19560 $17K – $27K N/A N/A
FL Tallahassee $18680 $17K – $27K N/A N/A
FL Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater $22170 $18K – $28K 570 0.05%
FL West Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area) $19000 $17K – $35K 350 0.07%
GA Albany $22030 $17K – $32K N/A N/A
GA Athens – Clarke County $21310 $17K – $26K 130 0.17%
GA Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta $22120 $17K – $35K 1620 0.07%
GA Augusta – Richmond County $23120 $20K – $32K 80 0.04%
GA Columbus $19150 $16K – $26K 80 0.07%
GA Gainesville $23340 $20K – $29K 40 0.05%
GA Valdosta $18770 $16K – $23K 50 0.11%
HI Honolulu $23690 $17K – $34K N/A N/A
IA Ames $23130 $17K – $35K N/A N/A
IA Davenport – Moline – Rock Island $23610 $18K – $30K 100 0.06%
IA Des Moines – West Des Moines $17810 $16K – $23K 80 0.03%
ID Boise City – Nampa $24320 $17K – $31K 130 0.05%
ID Coeur d’Alene ID $18680 $16K – $27K 30 0.06%
ID Idaho Falls $24660 $17K – $35K N/A N/A
IL Bloomington – Normal $22470 $19K – $38K 50 0.06%
IL Champaign – Urbana $24330 $19K – $31K 90 0.10%
IL Chicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area) $22490 $18K – $35K 1100 0.03%
IL Decatur $20750 $18K – $36K 30 0.06%
IL Lake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area) $24660 $17K – $35K 160 0.04%
IL Peoria $19680 $18K – $29K 90 0.05%
IL Rockford $26570 $21K – $36K N/A N/A
IL Springfield $19600 $18K – $27K N/A N/A
IN Bloomington $22440 $19K – $31K 30 0.04%
IN Evansville $19400 $16K – $30K N/A N/A
IN Fort Wayne $22900 $17K – $29K 150 0.07%
IN Gary (Metro Area) $18110 $16K – $27K 150 0.06%
IN Indianapolis – Carmel $24120 $18K – $37K 690 0.08%
IN Lafayette $20970 $17K – $44K N/A 120 0.10%
KS Lawrence $20760 $16K – $36K 40 0.08%
KS Manhattan $22480 $17K – $29K 40 0.08%
KS Topeka $25580 $20K – $33K N/A N/A
KS Wichita $24570 $18K – $30K 270 0.09%
KY Lexington – Fayette $17920 $16K – $22K 400 0.16%
KY Louisville – Jefferson County $21120 $16K – $29K 360 0.06%
LA Alexandria $18950 $16K – $29K 50 0.09%
LA Houma – Bayou Cane – Thibodaux $20300 $16K – $27K 30 0.03%
LA Lafayette $26840 $17K – $32K 140 0.10%
LA Lake Charles $18770 $16K – $24K 70 0.08%
LA Monroe $18830 $16K – $23K 40 0.06%
LA New Orleans – Metairie – Kenner $21770 $17K – $30K 360 0.07%
LA Shreveport – Bossier City $17940 $16K – $24K 180 0.10%
MA Barnstable Town $30320 $21K – $39K 70 0.07%
MA Boston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area) $33670 $21K – $48K 1310 0.08%
MA Framingham (Metro Area) $39120 $19K – $46K N/A N/A
MA Haverhill – North Andover – Amesbury (Metro Area) $25520 $19K – $40K 50 0.07%
MA Leominster – Fitchburg – Gardner $21070 $17K – $36K 40 0.09%
MA Lowell – Billerica – Chelmsford (Metro Area) N/A N/A – N/A 40 0.03%
MA Springfield $26150 $19K – $30K 130 0.05%
MA Worcester $29320 $19K – $41K 260 0.11%
MD Baltimore – Towson $21930 $17K – $38K 810 0.06%
MD Bethesda – Rockville – Frederick (Metro Area) $29310 $20K – $47K 540 0.10%
MD Hagerstown – Martinsburg $25840 $17K – $30K N/A N/A
MD Salisbury $24980 $17K – $29K 60 0.11%
ME Portland – South Portland – Biddeford $26840 $21K – $36K N/A N/A
MI Ann Arbor $27380 $21K – $44K 210 0.11%
MI Detroit – Livonia – Dearborn (Metro Area) $24850 $18K – $36K 220 0.03%
MI Flint $21900 $17K – $28K N/A N/A
MI Grand Rapids – Wyoming $25480 $17K – $34K N/A N/A
MI Jackson $19460 $17K – $28K 40 0.08%
MI Kalamazoo – Portage $21850 $17K – $28K 90 0.07%
MI Lansing – East Lansing $18050 $16K – $27K N/A N/A
MI Warren – Troy – Farmington Hills (Metro Area) $26600 $19K – $34K 430 0.04%
MN Duluth $28130 $21K – $36K 40 0.03%
MN Minneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington $28620 $21K – $37K 630 0.04%
MN Rochester $33110 $18K – $44K 70 0.07%
MO Jefferson City $20210 $16K – $31K 130 0.18%
MO Joplin $19500 $16K – $29K 40 0.05%
MO Kansas City $19910 $16K – $28K 740 0.08%
MO Springfield $18140 $16K – $22K 140 0.07%
MO St. Louis $19740 $16K – $25K 660 0.05%
MS Gulfport – Biloxi $21640 $19K – $24K 60 0.05%
MS Hattiesburg $18570 $16K – $23K 70 0.12%
MS Jackson $20580 $16K – $29K 160 0.06%
MS Pascagoula $18650 $16K – $26K 40 0.08%
MT Billings $18700 $16K – $24K 60 0.07%
NC Asheville $19700 $16K – $30K 100 0.06%
NC Burlington $24390 $21K – $29K 30 0.06%
NC Charlotte – Gastonia – Rock Hill $21350 $16K – $32K 250 0.03%
NC Durham – Chapel Hill $32530 $22K – $44K 200 0.07%
NC Fayetteville $18120 $16K – $24K N/A N/A
NC Greensboro – High Point $18170 $16K – $23K 440 0.13%
NC Greenville $24850 $18K – $30K 70 0.10%
NC Hickory – Lenoir – Morganton $27110 $19K – $43K 100 0.07%
NC Jacksonville $26660 $17K – $30K 30 0.08%
NC Raleigh – Cary $23470 $17K – $36K 690 0.13%
NC Wilmington $18500 $16K – $27K N/A N/A
NC Winston – Salem $25930 $19K – $35K N/A N/A
NE Lincoln $23580 $19K – $31K 110 0.07%
NE Omaha – Council Bluffs $23630 $17K – $37K 190 0.04%
NH Manchester $23830 $17K – $29K N/A N/A
NH Nashua (Metro Area) $18720 $16K – $27K 50 0.04%
NJ Atlantic City – Hammonton $21500 $17K – $29K 40 0.03%
NJ Camden (Metro Area) $23520 $19K – $29K N/A N/A
NJ Edison – New Brunswick (Metro Area) $21480 $17K – $29K 450 0.05%
NJ Newark – Union (Metro Area) $25590 $21K – $41K N/A N/A
NJ Trenton – Ewing $22780 $17K – $30K 50 0.02%
NM Albuquerque $26540 $21K – $31K 340 0.09%
NM Farmington $20750 $17K – $24K 40 0.08%
NM Las Cruces $22070 $18K – $29K 60 0.09%
NM Santa Fe $25340 $20K – $33K 90 0.15%
NV Las Vegas – Paradise $31310 $16K – $38K 270 0.03%
NV Reno – Sparks $23160 $18K – $37K 290 0.16%
NY Albany – Schenectady – Troy $22450 $18K – $29K 300 0.07%
NY Binghamton $23070 $20K – $37K 40 0.03%
NY Buffalo – Niagara Falls $21570 $16K – $36K 260 0.05%
NY Ithaca $34490 $23K – $47K N/A N/A
NY Nassau – Suffolk (Metro Area) $23350 $19K – $36K 690 0.06%
NY New York – White Plains – Wayne (Metro Area) $30140 $20K – $45K 1470 0.03%
NY Poughkeepsie – Newburgh – Middletown $26790 $20K – $36K 280 0.12%
NY Rochester $24680 $20K – $33K 180 0.04%
NY Syracuse $24050 $17K – $37K 190 0.06%
NY Utica – Rome $22210 $20K – $28K 30 0.03%
OH Akron $21050 $17K – $27K 280 0.09%
OH Canton – Massillon $20820 $17K – $29K 80 0.05%
OH Cincinnati – Middletown $22040 $17K – $29K 480 0.05%
OH Cleveland – Elyria – Mentor $24710 $18K – $34K 460 0.05%
OH Columbus $25570 $17K – $33K 440 0.05%
OH Dayton $21170 $17K – $28K 190 0.05%
OH Toledo $20980 $17K – $25K 160 0.05%
OH Youngstown – Warren – Boardman $22400 $18K – $29K 120 0.06%
OK Lawton $18470 $16K – $26K 40 0.11%
OK Oklahoma City $25850 $17K – $39K N/A N/A
OK Tulsa $24900 $20K – $36K 460 0.11%
OR Bend $26720 $21K – $32K 40 0.06%
OR Corvallis $22520 $19K – $29K 70 0.22%
OR Eugene – Springfield $25200 $20K – $30K N/A N/A
OR Medford $22000 $19K – $27K 40 0.05%
OR Portland – Vancouver – Hillsboro $24580 $19K – $30K 600 0.06%
PA Allentown – Bethlehem – Easton $22740 $20K – $29K 190 0.06%
PA Harrisburg – Carlisle $19700 $16K – $27K 80 0.03%
PA Lancaster $23050 $20K – $28K N/A N/A
PA Philadelphia (Metro Area) $24580 $18K – $37K 1190 0.07%
PA Pittsburgh $26460 $18K – $33K 320 0.03%
PA Scranton – Wilkes – Barre $23480 $20K – $36K N/A N/A
PA State College N/A N/A – N/A 50 0.08%
PA York – Hanover $20480 $17K – $24K N/A N/A
PR San Juan – Caguas – Guaynabo $18980 $16K – $23K N/A N/A
RI Providence – Fall River – Warwick $26870 $18K – $37K 200 0.04%
SC Charleston – North Charleston – Summerville $21100 $16K – $33K 90 0.03%
SC Columbia $26470 $17K – $30K 220 0.07%
SC Florence $23510 $20K – $29K N/A N/A
SC Greenville – Mauldin – Easley $26070 $18K – $33K 300 0.10%
SC Myrtle Beach – North Myrtle Beach – Conway $21930 $16K – $49K 50 0.05%
SC Spartanburg $22470 $17K – $33K 60 0.05%
SD Rapid City $19150 $16K – $23K 40 0.06%
SD Sioux Falls $18650 $16K – $23K 40 0.03%
TN Chattanooga $19200 $16K – $24K 80 0.04%
TN Clarksville $17860 $16K – $22K 60 0.08%
TN Johnson City $21180 $17K – $28K 50 0.06%
TN Kingsport – Bristol – Bristol $20720 $16K – $28K 140 0.12%
TN Knoxville $23290 $20K – $29K N/A N/A
TN Memphis $24440 $17K – $36K 300 0.05%
TN Morristown $22440 $17K – $30K N/A N/A
TN Nashville – Davidson – Murfreesboro – Franklin $26520 $18K – $36K 420 0.06%
TX Abilene $18240 $16K – $22K N/A N/A
TX Amarillo $18740 $16K – $23K 60 0.06%
TX Austin – Round Rock – San Marcos $18750 $16K – $27K 400 0.05%
TX Beaumont – Port Arthur $19710 $16K – $28K 80 0.05%
TX College Station – Bryan $23660 $16K – $30K 110 0.12%
TX Dallas – Plano – Irving (Metro Area) $23990 $17K – $38K 850 0.04%
TX El Paso $23460 $17K – $37K 140 0.05%
TX Fort Worth – Arlington (Metro Area) $18750 $16K – $35K 470 0.05%
TX Houston – Sugar Land – Baytown $23340 $17K – $37K 1290 0.05%
TX Killeen – Temple – Fort Hood $20400 $16K – $24K N/A N/A
TX San Antonio – New Braunfels $20630 $16K – $34K 460 0.05%
TX Sherman – Denison $18810 $16K – $28K 50 0.13%
TX Waco $18100 $16K – $23K 50 0.05%
UT Provo – Orem $22320 $17K – $29K 30 0.02%
UT Salt Lake City $17700 $16K – $23K N/A N/A
VA Blacksburg – Christiansburg – Radford $27830 $19K – $40K 120 0.20%
VA Charlottesville $28510 $17K – $38K 110 0.12%
VA Lynchburg $18280 $16K – $23K 150 0.15%
VA Richmond $25840 $20K – $31K 550 0.09%
VA Roanoke $19140 $16K – $27K 190 0.13%
VA Virginia Beach – Norfolk – Newport News $22630 $17K – $30K 680 0.09%
VA Winchester $23720 $18K – $30K 60 0.12%
VT Burlington – South Burlington $19070 $18K – $24K 30 0.03%
WA Bellingham $26180 $21K – $38K 90 0.11%
WA Bremerton – Silverdale $23240 $19K – $30K 90 0.12%
WA Kennewick – Pasco – Richland $23550 $20K – $29K 50 0.05%
WA Olympia $20940 $19K – $27K 110 0.12%
WA Seattle – Bellevue – Everett (Metro Area) $26230 $20K – $34K 790 0.06%
WA Spokane $24770 $20K – $29K 130 0.07%
WA Tacoma (Metro Area) $23640 $19K – $30K 200 0.08%
WI Janesville $23380 $19K – $29K 60 0.10%
WI Madison $25640 $17K – $30K 100 0.03%
WI Milwaukee – Waukesha – West Allis $25160 $17K – $30K 250 0.03%
WI Oshkosh – Neenah $21730 $17K – $28K N/A N/A
WI Racine $22560 $18K – $29K 60 0.08%
WV Charleston $20360 $16K – $29K 80 0.06%
WV Huntington – Ashland $19110 $16K – $27K 100 0.09%
WV Parkersburg – Marietta – Vienna $20260 $17K – $28K N/A N/A
WV Wheeling $18030 $16K – $20K 40 0.06%

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