Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers


Quick Facts: Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers
2017 Median Pay $26,140 per year 
$12.57 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 83,800
Job Outlook, 2016-26 19% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 16,300

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Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretaker’s Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory AnimalCaretakers Do

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers care for animals by performing routine tasks under the supervision of scientists, veterinarians, and veterinary technologists and technicians.

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Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Duties of Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

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 the collection of blood, urine, and tissue samples

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

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

Veterinary assistants typically work in clinics and animal hospitals, helping veterinarians and veterinary technologists and technicians treat injuries and illnesses of animals.

Laboratory animal caretakers work in laboratories under the supervision of a veterinarian, scientist, veterinary technician, or veterinary technologist. Their daily tasks include feeding animals, cleaning kennels, and monitoring the animals.


Work Environment for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers held about 83,800 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers were as follows:

Veterinary services: 85%

Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: 6%

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: 2%

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 a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. 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

About 2 in 5 veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers worked part time in 2016. Many clinics and laboratories operate 24 hours a day, so veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be required to work nights, weekends, or holidays.


How to Become a Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

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

Education

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

Training

Although most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are trained on the job, some employers may prefer candidates who already have experience working with animals.

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 can 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.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers often communicate with pet owners, veterinariansveterinary technologists and technicians, and other assistants. They need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively when dealing with an emergency, such as an ill or injured animal needing immediate attention.

Detail oriented. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers 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.

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

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


salaries for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $26,140 in May 2017. 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 $19,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $38,300.

 

In May 2017, 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: $37,000

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $31,140

Veterinary services: $25,600

About 2 in 5 veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers worked part time in 2016. Many clinics and laboratories operate 24 hours a day, so veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be required to work nights, weekends, or holidays.


Job Outlook for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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 expenditures are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers. In these establishments, veterinary assistants help veterinarians and veterinary technicians and technologists with various veterinary procedures. Demand for veterinary assistants will continue as the demand for veterinary procedures increases.

Job Prospects

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

Employment projections data for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 83,800

Projected Employment, 2026: 100,000

Change, 2016-2026: +19%, +16,200


Careers Related to Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers provide care for animals. They feed, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals.

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from providing patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

Phlebotomists

Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations. Some explain their work to patients and provide assistance when patients have adverse reactions after their blood is drawn.

Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries.

Veterinarians

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to assist in diagnosing the injuries and illnesses of animals.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Animal Care and Service WorkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$23,160
Dental AssistantsPostsecondary nondegree award$37,630
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies$27,510
PhlebotomistsPostsecondary nondegree award$33,670
Surgical TechnologistsPostsecondary nondegree award$46,310
VeterinariansDoctoral or professional degree$90,420
Veterinary Technologists and TechniciansAssociate's degree$33,400

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm