What Does a Veterinary Assistant Do?

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Veterinary assistants are inevitable parts of any veterinary facility.

These are educated people trained to care for animals.

They essentially assist veterinarians or veterinary technicians with their everyday tasks.

For instance, they help treat injuries and illnesses of animals.

Read on to learn more about what a vet assistant does.

Duties and Responsibilities

puppy getting checked by a vet

A vet assistant usually does the following tasks:

  • Feed, bathe, and exercise animals
  • Clean and disinfect cages, kennels, and examination and operating rooms
  • Restrain animals during examination and laboratory procedures
  • Maintain and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment
  • Monitor and care for animals after surgery
  • Help provide emergency first aid to sick and injured animals
  • Give medication or immunizations that veterinarians prescribe
  • Assist in collecting blood, urine, and tissue samples

Work Environment

One great perk of being a vet assistant is that you can work in numerous facilities.

Most vet assistants get employed in veterinary hospitals and clinics.

But those aren’t the only workplace options they have.

They can also find jobs in:

  • Kennels
  • Colleges
  • Research programs and labs

It’s best to remember that this job is physically demanding and stressful.

Whenever you go to work, you must expect erratic behaviors from animals, especially when they’re aggressive or scared.

This is part of the reason why vet assistants often incur injuries and illnesses.

To avoid the risk of being bitten or scratched, it’s important to wear protective clothing and gear all the time.

The work can sometimes be emotionally taxing.

For instance, when you need to assist the vet in euthanizing animals and disposing of their remains.

When that time comes, you have to offer condolences, consolation, and encouragement to the owners.

Education, Training, and Certification

Becoming a vet assistant doesn’t require a four-year college degree.

The only minimum requirement is that you received your high school diploma or GED equivalent.

In terms of training, you only have to either:

  • Enroll in a training program
  • Do internships under a seasoned vet or vet tech

This way, you are able to acquire the necessary skills for this profession.

Upon completion, you can opt to get certified through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America.

To earn the title of Approved Veterinary Assistant, you must:

  • Complete a NAVTA-approved training program
  • Pass the exam

Skills and Competencies

caring for a dog

During training, you will learn the required skills and competencies to become a good vet assistant.

Your personal qualities also play a role here.

Listening and communication skills

Vets and vet techs will have instructions for you, and pet owners will have concerns.

So having these skills allows you to understand, follow, and give information to concerned parties.


You must be able to notice any changes in the animals’ conditions and be ready to take appropriate action.


As someone in medical care, you have to show compassion to your patients and pet owners.

Problem solver

Although you assist vets and vet techs, they won’t be able to be present at all times.

So you have to be quick on your feet to solve any problem that arises.

Utilize the knowledge and experience you gained to make decisions with the most promising outcome.

Ability to remain calm

Being a vet assistant is a stressful job.

That’s why it’s critical that you can remain calm amid the chaotic environment.

Physically fit

Aside from being stressful, this career is also labor-intensive.

So you being strong enough to lift, restrain, and handle animals is helpful and useful.

Expected Salary

The amount of money a vet assistant earns depends on several factors.

  • Experiences they have
  • Duties they perform
  • Where they work
  • Industry they’re working for
  • Certification and licenses, if any

Per the May 2020 data of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), here’s the average annual salary.

Lowest Median Highest
$21,570 $29,930 $41,080

As mentioned, where a vet assistant works also affects their salary.

So here are the top five paying states you can consider working at.

State Annual Mean Wage
Maine $43,290
Massachusetts $41,000
District of Columbia $38,890
Connecticut $36,100
California $35,620

Job Outlook

One good thing about this career is that you won’t need to worry about employment.

This is because of the rising demand of pet owners to provide the best animal care service to their pets.

As a result, it drives the veterinary services to grow exponentially.

Think of it this way:

The more vets provide veterinary medical services, the more they need vet assistants to support them.

The table below shows the May 2020 employment level data from the BLS.

Employment 2020 107,200
Projected employment 2030 122,500
Percentage of change 14%

Meanwhile, these are the top five states that employ vet assistants the most.

State Employment
California 13,040
Texas 6,950
Florida 5,190
New York 4,810
Virginia 4,140

Note: Estimates don’t include self-employed workers.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a vet assistant is a good dream, but only a few can commit to it.

And that’s despite being an animal lover!

So if you’re part of the few who saw this career through the end, congratulations.

You get to enjoy high-demand, high-paying careers in the U.S.

And if you’re still thinking to be one, we hope that the information here has helped you with your decision.

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