Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and veterinary technologists and technicians with their daily tasks.

Duties

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers typically do the following:

  • 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

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers also provide nursing care before surgery and other medical procedures.

They may prepare equipment and pass surgical instruments and materials to veterinarians during surgery. They also move animals during testing and other procedures.

Veterinary assistants typically help veterinarians and veterinary technologists and technicians treat injuries and illnesses of animals.

Laboratory animal caretakers’ daily tasks include feeding animals, cleaning kennels, and monitoring animals.

Is This the Right Career for You?

Not sure how to choose the best career for you? Now, you can predict which career will satisfy you in the long term by taking a scientifically validated career test. Gain the clarity and confidence that comes from understanding your strengths, talents, and preferences, and knowing which path is truly right for you.

Take The Test

 

 

 

 

 

Work Environment

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers held about 92,200 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers were as follows:

Veterinary services 87%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                               5
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 3

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work primarily in clinics and animal hospitals, colleges and universities, and research laboratories.

The work of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be physically and emotionally demanding. Workers may handle sick or abused animals and may assist in euthanizing animals.

Injuries and Illnesses

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. When working with scared and aggressive animals, workers may be bitten, scratched, or kicked. Workers may also be injured while holding, bathing, or restraining an animal.

Work Schedules

Some veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may work nights, weekends, or holidays.

Education and Training

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the occupation on the job. Experience working with or being around animals may be helpful for jobseekers.

Education

Most workers entering the occupation have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers receive short-term on-the-job training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although certification is not mandatory, it allows workers to demonstrate competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation for veterinary assistants. To qualify for the designation, candidates must graduate from a NAVTA-approved program and pass an exam.

Laboratory animal caretakers become certified through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science(AALAS). AALAS offers three levels of certification: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG). For AALAS certification, candidates must have experience working in a laboratory animal facility and pass an exam.

Personality and Interests

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Helping interest which might fit with a career as a veterinary assistant and laboratory animal caretaker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Compassion. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must treat animals with kindness and be compassionate to both the animals and their owners.

Detail oriented. These workers must follow strict instructions. For example, workers must be precise when sterilizing surgical equipment, monitoring animals, and giving medication.

Dexterity. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must handle animals and use medical instruments and laboratory equipment with care.

Physical strength. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must be able to handle, move, and restrain animals.

Pay

The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $28,590 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $39,800.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                                    $37,910
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 32,950
Veterinary services 28,150

Some veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may work nights, weekends, or holidays.

Job Outlook

Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. These workers are expected to be needed to assist veterinarians and other veterinary care staff.

Increases in consumers’ pet-related spending are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers. In clinics and other veterinary service establishments, assistants help veterinarians and veterinary technicians and technologists with various procedures. Demand for veterinary assistants will continue as the demand for these procedures increases.

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to be good. These assistants and caretakers experience a high rate of job turnover, so many positions will become available when workers leave the occupation each year.

For More Information

For more information about certification as a laboratory animal caretaker, visit

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science

For more information about certification as a veterinary assistant, visit

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

For more information about becoming a veterinary assistant, including career opportunities, visit

American Animal Hospital Association

 

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

I would like to cite this page for a report. Who is the author?

There is no published author for this page. Please use citation guidelines for webpages without an author available. 

I think I have found an error or inaccurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

Find Jobs Near You