For many animal lovers, pursuing a career in veterinary medicine may seem like a no-brainer. But becoming a veterinarian is a serious commitment that requires eight to ten years of education. If you’re looking for an easier, more economical way to break into the veterinary field, veterinary assisting and veterinary technology are both great options that require minimal schooling.
Assistants and techs both provide general animal care and assist with the treatment of sick and injured animals. However, there are some major distinctions that exist between these two roles. Let’s take a closer look at each.
What is a veterinary assistant?
Veterinary assistants are entry-level workers who serve as support staff for veterinary technicians and veterinarians. They perform basic administrative duties such as answering phones, maintaining patient records and ordering office supplies. Additional responsibilities of a veterinary assistant include basic animal care tasks like feeding, bathing, administering medications and keeping kennels clean. They may also help sterilize exam rooms and equipment in between patients.
One upside to veterinary assisting is that it doesn’t have any specific educational or licencing requirements. Almost anyone can get hired as a vet assistant, and many individuals even receive training on the job.
On the other hand, the lack of formal credentialing can make it difficult to demonstrate your qualifications to potential employers. Though not required, veterinary assisting certification courses do exist and can improve your odds of getting hired. Unfortunately, many of them are designed and taught by people with little knowledge of veterinary medicine.
As you might expect, opportunities to earn and advance as a veterinary assistant are somewhat limited compared to roles that require a higher level of education. While the average annual pay for veterinary assistants hovers around $28,500, jobs in this field are anticipated to grow at a much-faster-than-average rate of 19% over the next decade.
What is a veterinary technician?
In contrast, veterinary technicians are credentialed professionals who provide nursing care to animals under the direction of a licensed veterinarian. Like veterinarians, veterinary technicians are trained to work with many different animal species. In fact, licensed veterinary technicians are qualified to do nearly all the same things as a veterinarian, short of making diagnoses, prescribing medication and performing surgery. Typical job duties for a vet tech include everything from performing lab tests and taking X-rays to administering anesthesia and providing emergency first aid.
Though the bar to become a veterinary technician is a bit higher than it is for veterinary assistants, the payoff is clear. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that veterinary technicians will enjoy the same 10-year job outlook as veterinary assistants, but with a significantly higher annual wage of $35,320.
Get your veterinary career off the ground.
No matter which path you choose, you’ll be rewarded with the opportunity to provide excellent care for creatures great and small. Working as a veterinary assistant is a good way to get your foot in the door and can pave the way for an eventual career as a veterinary technician. If you’d like to become a vet tech right away, however, Baker College can help you get there fast. Our veterinary technology program is a two-year associate degree pathway that will prepare you to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam. Taught by experienced veterinary professionals, our fully accredited curriculum will give you the hands-on training you’ll need to land a job as a licensed veterinary technician.