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Veterinary Assistants

Veterinary Assistants


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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.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$31,010$19K - $41K900.05%
ALAuburn - Opelika$20,860$16K - $38K800.16%
ALBirmingham - Hoover$22,560$19K - $36K3900.08%
ALFlorence - Muscle Shoals$21,770$19K - $24K600.11%
ALGadsden$20,610$16K - $29K300.10%
ALHuntsville$19,010$16K - $26K1900.09%
ALMobile$21,480$16K - $34KN/AN/A
ALMontgomery$19,280$16K - $24K2000.13%
ALTuscaloosa$19,430$16K - $25K500.05%
ARFayetteville - Springdale - Rogers$22,900$20K - $34K800.04%
ARFort Smith$19,840$16K - $29K700.06%
ARHot Springs$22,820$17K - $38K300.09%
ARJonesboro$22,280$17K - $30K400.09%
ARLittle Rock - North Little Rock - Conway$21,820$17K - $29K2000.06%
AZPhoenix - Mesa - Glendale$25,420$17K - $33K4400.03%
AZTucson$21,120$17K - $26K3100.09%
AZYuma$22,320$19K - $30K400.07%
CABakersfield - Delano$25,280$18K - $31K1000.04%
CAChico$26,530$20K - $36K1200.17%
CAFresno$26,770$19K - $33K1700.05%
CALos Angeles - Long Beach - Glendale (Metro Area)$27,230$21K - $44K1,5800.04%
CAModesto$19,350$17K - $28K800.05%
CAOakland - Fremont - Hayward (Metro Area)$28,300$19K - $41K5400.06%
CAOxnard - Thousand Oaks - Ventura$26,770$21K - $35KN/AN/A
CARedding$22,580$18K - $31K700.12%
CARiverside - San Bernardino - Ontario$28,800$18K - $37K7700.07%
CASacramento - Arden - Arcade - Roseville$25,460$18K - $37K5900.07%
CASalinas$26,020$19K - $33K1400.09%
CASan Diego - Carlsbad - San Marcos$31,160$18K - $43K1,1300.09%
CASan Francisco - San Mateo - Redwood City (Metro Area)$33,420$19K - $50K5100.05%
CASan Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara$24,590$19K - $50KN/AN/A
CASan Luis Obispo - Paso Robles$28,930$19K - $36KN/AN/A
CASanta Ana - Anaheim - Irvine (Metro Area)$22,660$18K - $33K7300.05%
CASanta Barbara - Santa Maria - Goleta$29,560$19K - $44K1000.06%
CASanta Cruz - Watsonville$23,700$18K - $36K1100.13%
CASanta Rosa - Petaluma$28,980$22K - $37K1300.08%
CAStockton$26,880$20K - $43K800.04%
CAVallejo - Fairfield$22,050$18K - $29K1400.11%
CAVisalia - Porterville$20,950$18K - $30K700.06%
COBoulder$23,270$17K - $30K800.05%
COColorado Springs$22,140$18K - $33K900.04%
CODenver - Aurora - Broomfield$20,810$17K - $33K3600.03%
COFort Collins - Loveland$27,310$21K - $35KN/AN/A
COGreeley$21,670$18K - $24KN/AN/A
CTBridgeport - Stamford - Norwalk$26,520$20K - $30KN/AN/A
CTHartford - West Hartford - East Hartford$23,690$18K - $31K3000.05%
CTNew Haven$40,750$20K - $60K2600.10%
CTNorwich - New London$32,950$25K - $44K1000.07%
DCWashington - Arlington - Alexandria (Metro Area)$27,880$20K - $38K1,5200.06%
DEDover$26,280$18K - $35KN/AN/A
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$29,460$21K - $53K700.02%
FLCape Coral - Fort Myers$20,310$17K - $29K1300.06%
FLCrestview - Fort Walton Beach - Destin$18,150$16K - $22K300.05%
FLDeltona - Daytona Beach - Ormond Beach$23,110$17K - $29KN/AN/A
FLFort Lauderdale - Pompano Beach - Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$19,700$17K - $29K1900.03%
FLGainesville$18,680$17K - $23K1200.10%
FLJacksonville$22,860$19K - $29K3400.06%
FLLakeland - Winter Haven$18,800$17K - $24K1100.06%
FLMiami - Miami Beach - Kendall (Metro Area)$19,000$17K - $23K1400.01%
FLNaples - Marco Island$26,290$18K - $37K500.04%
FLNorth Port - Bradenton - Sarasota$19,950$17K - $27K1500.06%
FLOcala$23,410$19K - $33K800.09%
FLOrlando - Kissimmee - Sanford$18,880$17K - $24K4700.05%
FLPanama City - Lynn Haven - Panama City Beach$22,800$18K - $33K400.06%
FLPensacola - Ferry Pass - Brent$18,130$16K - $22K900.06%
FLPort St. Lucie$19,560$17K - $27KN/AN/A
FLTallahassee$18,680$17K - $27KN/AN/A
FLTampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater$22,170$18K - $28K5700.05%
FLWest Palm Beach - Boca Raton - Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$19,000$17K - $35K3500.07%
GAAlbany$22,030$17K - $32KN/AN/A
GAAthens - Clarke County$21,310$17K - $26K1300.17%
GAAtlanta - Sandy Springs - Marietta$22,120$17K - $35K1,6200.07%
GAAugusta - Richmond County$23,120$20K - $32K800.04%
GAColumbus$19,150$16K - $26K800.07%
GAGainesville$23,340$20K - $29K400.05%
GAValdosta$18,770$16K - $23K500.11%
HIHonolulu$23,690$17K - $34KN/AN/A
IAAmes$23,130$17K - $35KN/AN/A
IADavenport - Moline - Rock Island$23,610$18K - $30K1000.06%
IADes Moines - West Des Moines$17,810$16K - $23K800.03%
IDBoise City - Nampa$24,320$17K - $31K1300.05%
IDCoeur d'Alene, ID$18,680$16K - $27K300.06%
IDIdaho Falls$24,660$17K - $35KN/AN/A
ILBloomington - Normal$22,470$19K - $38K500.06%
ILChampaign - Urbana$24,330$19K - $31K900.10%
ILChicago - Joliet - Naperville (Metro Area)$22,490$18K - $35K1,1000.03%
ILDecatur$20,750$18K - $36K300.06%
ILLake County - Kenosha County (Metro Area)$24,660$17K - $35K1600.04%
ILPeoria$19,680$18K - $29K900.05%
ILRockford$26,570$21K - $36KN/AN/A
ILSpringfield$19,600$18K - $27KN/AN/A
INBloomington$22,440$19K - $31K300.04%
INEvansville$19,400$16K - $30KN/AN/A
INFort Wayne$22,900$17K - $29K1500.07%
INGary (Metro Area)$18,110$16K - $27K1500.06%
INIndianapolis - Carmel$24,120$18K - $37K6900.08%
INLafayette$20,970$17K - $44KN/AN/A
INSouth Bend - Mishawaka$19,180$16K - $26K1200.10%
KSLawrence$20,760$16K - $36K400.08%
KSManhattan$22,480$17K - $29K400.08%
KSTopeka$25,580$20K - $33KN/AN/A
KSWichita$24,570$18K - $30K2700.09%
KYLexington - Fayette$17,920$16K - $22K4000.16%
KYLouisville - Jefferson County$21,120$16K - $29K3600.06%
LAAlexandria$18,950$16K - $29K500.09%
LAHouma - Bayou Cane - Thibodaux$20,300$16K - $27K300.03%
LALafayette$26,840$17K - $32K1400.10%
LALake Charles$18,770$16K - $24K700.08%
LAMonroe$18,830$16K - $23K400.06%
LANew Orleans - Metairie - Kenner$21,770$17K - $30K3600.07%
LAShreveport - Bossier City$17,940$16K - $24K1800.10%
MABarnstable Town$30,320$21K - $39K700.07%
MABoston - Cambridge - Quincy (Metro Area)$33,670$21K - $48K1,3100.08%
MAFramingham (Metro Area)$39,120$19K - $46KN/AN/A
MAHaverhill - North Andover - Amesbury (Metro Area)$25,520$19K - $40K500.07%
MALeominster - Fitchburg - Gardner$21,070$17K - $36K400.09%
MALowell - Billerica - Chelmsford (Metro Area)N/AN/A - N/A400.03%
MASpringfield$26,150$19K - $30K1300.05%
MAWorcester$29,320$19K - $41K2600.11%
MDBaltimore - Towson$21,930$17K - $38K8100.06%
MDBethesda - Rockville - Frederick (Metro Area)$29,310$20K - $47K5400.10%
MDHagerstown - Martinsburg$25,840$17K - $30KN/AN/A
MDSalisbury$24,980$17K - $29K600.11%
MEPortland - South Portland - Biddeford$26,840$21K - $36KN/AN/A
MIAnn Arbor$27,380$21K - $44K2100.11%
MIDetroit - Livonia - Dearborn (Metro Area)$24,850$18K - $36K2200.03%
MIFlint$21,900$17K - $28KN/AN/A
MIGrand Rapids - Wyoming$25,480$17K - $34KN/AN/A
MIJackson$19,460$17K - $28K400.08%
MIKalamazoo - Portage$21,850$17K - $28K900.07%
MILansing - East Lansing$18,050$16K - $27KN/AN/A
MIWarren - Troy - Farmington Hills (Metro Area)$26,600$19K - $34K4300.04%
MNDuluth$28,130$21K - $36K400.03%
MNMinneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington$28,620$21K - $37K6300.04%
MNRochester$33,110$18K - $44K700.07%
MOJefferson City$20,210$16K - $31K1300.18%
MOJoplin$19,500$16K - $29K400.05%
MOKansas City$19,910$16K - $28K7400.08%
MOSpringfield$18,140$16K - $22K1400.07%
MOSt. Louis$19,740$16K - $25K6600.05%
MSGulfport - Biloxi$21,640$19K - $24K600.05%
MSHattiesburg$18,570$16K - $23K700.12%
MSJackson$20,580$16K - $29K1600.06%
MSPascagoula$18,650$16K - $26K400.08%
MTBillings$18,700$16K - $24K600.07%
NCAsheville$19,700$16K - $30K1000.06%
NCBurlington$24,390$21K - $29K300.06%
NCCharlotte - Gastonia - Rock Hill$21,350$16K - $32K2500.03%
NCDurham - Chapel Hill$32,530$22K - $44K2000.07%
NCFayetteville$18,120$16K - $24KN/AN/A
NCGreensboro - High Point$18,170$16K - $23K4400.13%
NCGreenville$24,850$18K - $30K700.10%
NCHickory - Lenoir - Morganton$27,110$19K - $43K1000.07%
NCJacksonville$26,660$17K - $30K300.08%
NCRaleigh - Cary$23,470$17K - $36K6900.13%
NCWilmington$18,500$16K - $27KN/AN/A
NCWinston - Salem$25,930$19K - $35KN/AN/A
NELincoln$23,580$19K - $31K1100.07%
NEOmaha - Council Bluffs$23,630$17K - $37K1900.04%
NHManchester$23,830$17K - $29KN/AN/A
NHNashua (Metro Area)$18,720$16K - $27K500.04%
NJAtlantic City - Hammonton$21,500$17K - $29K400.03%
NJCamden (Metro Area)$23,520$19K - $29KN/AN/A
NJEdison - New Brunswick (Metro Area)$21,480$17K - $29K4500.05%
NJNewark - Union (Metro Area)$25,590$21K - $41KN/AN/A
NJTrenton - Ewing$22,780$17K - $30K500.02%
NMAlbuquerque$26,540$21K - $31K3400.09%
NMFarmington$20,750$17K - $24K400.08%
NMLas Cruces$22,070$18K - $29K600.09%
NMSanta Fe$25,340$20K - $33K900.15%
NVLas Vegas - Paradise$31,310$16K - $38K2700.03%
NVReno - Sparks$23,160$18K - $37K2900.16%
NYAlbany - Schenectady - Troy$22,450$18K - $29K3000.07%
NYBinghamton$23,070$20K - $37K400.03%
NYBuffalo - Niagara Falls$21,570$16K - $36K2600.05%
NYIthaca$34,490$23K - $47KN/AN/A
NYNassau - Suffolk (Metro Area)$23,350$19K - $36K6900.06%
NYNew York - White Plains - Wayne (Metro Area)$30,140$20K - $45K1,4700.03%
NYPoughkeepsie - Newburgh - Middletown$26,790$20K - $36K2800.12%
NYRochester$24,680$20K - $33K1800.04%
NYSyracuse$24,050$17K - $37K1900.06%
NYUtica - Rome$22,210$20K - $28K300.03%
OHAkron$21,050$17K - $27K2800.09%
OHCanton - Massillon$20,820$17K - $29K800.05%
OHCincinnati - Middletown$22,040$17K - $29K4800.05%
OHCleveland - Elyria - Mentor$24,710$18K - $34K4600.05%
OHColumbus$25,570$17K - $33K4400.05%
OHDayton$21,170$17K - $28K1900.05%
OHToledo$20,980$17K - $25K1600.05%
OHYoungstown - Warren - Boardman$22,400$18K - $29K1200.06%
OKLawton$18,470$16K - $26K400.11%
OKOklahoma City$25,850$17K - $39KN/AN/A
OKTulsa$24,900$20K - $36K4600.11%
ORBend$26,720$21K - $32K400.06%
ORCorvallis$22,520$19K - $29K700.22%
OREugene - Springfield$25,200$20K - $30KN/AN/A
ORMedford$22,000$19K - $27K400.05%
ORPortland - Vancouver - Hillsboro$24,580$19K - $30K6000.06%
PAAllentown - Bethlehem - Easton$22,740$20K - $29K1900.06%
PAHarrisburg - Carlisle$19,700$16K - $27K800.03%
PALancaster$23,050$20K - $28KN/AN/A
PAPhiladelphia (Metro Area)$24,580$18K - $37K1,1900.07%
PAPittsburgh$26,460$18K - $33K3200.03%
PAScranton - Wilkes - Barre$23,480$20K - $36KN/AN/A
PAState CollegeN/AN/A - N/A500.08%
PAYork - Hanover$20,480$17K - $24KN/AN/A
PRSan Juan - Caguas - Guaynabo$18,980$16K - $23KN/AN/A
RIProvidence - Fall River - Warwick$26,870$18K - $37K2000.04%
SCCharleston - North Charleston - Summerville$21,100$16K - $33K900.03%
SCColumbia$26,470$17K - $30K2200.07%
SCFlorence$23,510$20K - $29KN/AN/A
SCGreenville - Mauldin - Easley$26,070$18K - $33K3000.10%
SCMyrtle Beach - North Myrtle Beach - Conway$21,930$16K - $49K500.05%
SCSpartanburg$22,470$17K - $33K600.05%
SDRapid City$19,150$16K - $23K400.06%
SDSioux Falls$18,650$16K - $23K400.03%
TNChattanooga$19,200$16K - $24K800.04%
TNClarksville$17,860$16K - $22K600.08%
TNJohnson City$21,180$17K - $28K500.06%
TNKingsport - Bristol - Bristol$20,720$16K - $28K1400.12%
TNKnoxville$23,290$20K - $29KN/AN/A
TNMemphis$24,440$17K - $36K3000.05%
TNMorristown$22,440$17K - $30KN/AN/A
TNNashville - Davidson - Murfreesboro - Franklin$26,520$18K - $36K4200.06%
TXAbilene$18,240$16K - $22KN/AN/A
TXAmarillo$18,740$16K - $23K600.06%
TXAustin - Round Rock - San Marcos$18,750$16K - $27K4000.05%
TXBeaumont - Port Arthur$19,710$16K - $28K800.05%
TXCollege Station - Bryan$23,660$16K - $30K1100.12%
TXDallas - Plano - Irving (Metro Area)$23,990$17K - $38K8500.04%
TXEl Paso$23,460$17K - $37K1400.05%
TXFort Worth - Arlington (Metro Area)$18,750$16K - $35K4700.05%
TXHouston - Sugar Land - Baytown$23,340$17K - $37K1,2900.05%
TXKilleen - Temple - Fort Hood$20,400$16K - $24KN/AN/A
TXSan Antonio - New Braunfels$20,630$16K - $34K4600.05%
TXSherman - Denison$18,810$16K - $28K500.13%
TXWaco$18,100$16K - $23K500.05%
UTProvo - Orem$22,320$17K - $29K300.02%
UTSalt Lake City$17,700$16K - $23KN/AN/A
VABlacksburg - Christiansburg - Radford$27,830$19K - $40K1200.20%
VACharlottesville$28,510$17K - $38K1100.12%
VALynchburg$18,280$16K - $23K1500.15%
VARichmond$25,840$20K - $31K5500.09%
VARoanoke$19,140$16K - $27K1900.13%
VAVirginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News$22,630$17K - $30K6800.09%
VAWinchester$23,720$18K - $30K600.12%
VTBurlington - South Burlington$19,070$18K - $24K300.03%
WABellingham$26,180$21K - $38K900.11%
WABremerton - Silverdale$23,240$19K - $30K900.12%
WAKennewick - Pasco - Richland$23,550$20K - $29K500.05%
WAOlympia$20,940$19K - $27K1100.12%
WASeattle - Bellevue - Everett (Metro Area)$26,230$20K - $34K7900.06%
WASpokane$24,770$20K - $29K1300.07%
WATacoma (Metro Area)$23,640$19K - $30K2000.08%
WIJanesville$23,380$19K - $29K600.10%
WIMadison$25,640$17K - $30K1000.03%
WIMilwaukee - Waukesha - West Allis$25,160$17K - $30K2500.03%
WIOshkosh - Neenah$21,730$17K - $28KN/AN/A
WIRacine$22,560$18K - $29K600.08%
WVCharleston$20,360$16K - $29K800.06%
WVHuntington - Ashland$19,110$16K - $27K1000.09%
WVParkersburg - Marietta - Vienna$20,260$17K - $28KN/AN/A
WVWheeling$18,030$16K - $20K400.06%