What Does A Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Vet Assistants

Vet Assistants feed, water, and examine pets and other nonfarm animals for signs of illness, disease, or injury in laboratories and animal hospitals and clinics. Clean and disinfect cages and work areas, and sterilize laboratory and surgical equipment. May provide routine postoperative care, administer medication orally or topically, or prepare samples for laboratory examination under the supervision of veterinary or laboratory animal technologists or technicians, veterinarians, or scientists.

Salary
$30980
Becoming One
Easy
Education
No degree required
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Vet Assistants feed, water, and examine pets and other nonfarm animals for signs of illness, disease, or injury in laboratories and animal hospitals and clinics. Clean and disinfect cages and work areas, and sterilize laboratory and surgical equipment. May provide routine postoperative care, administer medication orally or topically, or prepare samples for laboratory examination under the supervision of veterinary or laboratory animal technologists or technicians, veterinarians, or scientists.

  • Hold or restrain animals during veterinary procedures.
  • Clean and maintain kennels, animal holding areas, examination or operating rooms, or animal loading or unloading facilities to control the spread of disease.
  • Fill medication prescriptions.
  • Administer anesthetics during surgery and monitor the effects on animals.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Vet Assistants hold or restrain animals during veterinary procedures. They prepare examination or treatment rooms by stocking them with appropriate supplies.

A typical day for a Veterinary Assistant and Laboratory Animal Caretaker will also include:

  • Assist veterinarians in examining animals to determine the nature of illnesses or injuries.
  • Clean, maintain and sterilize instruments or equipment.
  • Administer medication, immunizations, or blood plasma to animals as prescribed by veterinarians.
  • Record information relating to animal genealogy, feeding schedules, appearance, behavior, or breeding.
  • Fill medication prescriptions.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Vet Assistants also provide assistance with euthanasia of animals or disposal of corpses. They may also dust, spray, or bathe animals to control insect pests.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Vet Assistants groom, trim, or clip animals’ coats. They might also administer anesthetics during surgery and monitor the effects on animals.

In addition, they perform enemas, catheterizations, ear flushes, intravenous feedings, or gavages.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them perform hygiene-related duties, such as clipping animals’ claws or cleaning and polishing teeth.

To some Vet Assistants, it is also their responsibility to prepare surgical equipment and pass instruments or materials to veterinarians during surgical procedures.

Freedom to make decisions

How much decision making freedom does this job offer?

No freedom
0%

Very little freedom
15%

Limited freedom
30%

Some freedom
46%

A lot of freedom
8%

Structured vs unstructured work

To what extent is this job structured for you versus allowing you to determine your own tasks, priorities, and goals?

No freedom
10%

Very little freedom
14%

Limited freedom
9%

Some freedom
49%

A lot of freedom
18%


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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

72% said they were satisfied with their job and 78% said they found their job meaningful.


Stacia Mintner
Stumble Safari

I was a veterinary assistant/technician for over 5 years and recently left the profession full time. Occasionally, I still work relief shifts when local hospitals need extra help. I worked as a tech/assistant in three different kinds of establishments: a mobile weekend vaccine clinic, an ER as an overnight technician, and the lead technician in a normal day practice.

Mobile Vaccine Clinic

This was my very first assistant position and where I learned the very basics. I worked 10-15 hour days on Saturday and Sunday, driving around the South Florida area to different pet and farmer supply stores to offer vaccination clinics. As an assistant, I was in charge of making sure the animals looked healthy enough to receive vaccines, draw blood for heartworm tests, collect samples for fecal tests, and restrain dogs and cats for their vaccinations. This was all done in the middle of a pet or farmer supply store, so it was often a bit chaotic. We would drive a massive rig between each location, visiting 3 a day. I would often do my homework in the back of the rig between each location.

ER Hospital

The Mobile Vaccine Clinic I worked for dissolved into a different company, I got an assistant position working overnights in a veterinary ER hospital while I was still in school. There, I worked 10 hour overnight shifts Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights while going to school full time. I was in charge of seeing rooms and triaging incoming patients, caring for overnight patients in our ICU, and running lab work. Because I was one of the few employees who did not have a dog, I was often in charge of running the isolation unit for puppies with highly contagious diseases such as Parvovirus. I would also assist in emergency surgeries. Due to this being an ER, I lost more patients than I can count. Some after caring for them for weeks in the ICU. I also saw horrible diseases and injuries inflicted by uncaring owners and had to do labs and x-rays for animal abuse case testimony.

This job was highly taxing physically and emotionally, especially because of my schedule. I would go to school Monday through Friday full time, conduct independent research for my Bachelor’s senior thesis, then work overnights on the weekends. On Monday mornings, I would change in the bathroom of the hospital after my shift, grab a large coffee, and head to class, often staying up more than 24 hours in order to get everything done. This hospital was a toxic place to work overall, with several senior staff members undermining each other and blaming problems on lower-level staff (such as myself). I finally quit after they cut my already minuscule pay after accusing me of something I did not do, not letting me defend myself. Many other technicians left when I did due to similar behavior.

Day Clinic

After I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Biopsychology and Animal Behavior, I took the senior technician position at a small day practice. There, I was in charge of caring for our scheduled patients for the day, running lab work, dispensing medication, and assisting in basic surgeries. I worked “normal” hours, 40 hours a week for 4 1/2 days a week. I loved this position at first, but quickly left due to severe problems with the management in this hospital including other workers stealing drugs, yelling at each other, and other toxic and dangerous behaviors I no longer wanted to be a part of.

These three hospitals took place over 5 years. After I left my last full-time position, I decided I no longer wanted to work full-time in the veterinary profession and ultimately decided not to attend Veterinary school like I was planning. The low pay, toxic behaviors within the hospital, and emotional fatigue made me extremely unhappy. I still do relief shifts at a local ER with some technicians that I am close with when they need an extra set of hands. However, after the last fiasco of a clinic, I worked for, I decided I wanted to use my animal medicine and behavior knowledge to teach others about animal tourism around the world as a travel blogger! This career change has made me much happier!

In short, working as a veterinary assistant is very rewarding, but very taxing. Assistants make much less money than veterinarians or certified veterinary technicians. Much less so. Assistants are also usually the ones doing the physical labor of restraining animals, cleaning the hospital, and doing physically taxing procedures such as trimming nails, performing radiographs, and prepping animals for surgery.

Seeing my patients recover and feel better was one of the most rewarding experiences I got to have over and over again. However, I left the veterinary medicine field because of the cons of being an assistant. Assistants are often the ones communicating with clients because technicians and doctors are busy with paperwork, so we get constantly yelled at. The emotional fatigue of working in the veterinary field combined with the financial struggles many assistants face cause an abundance of mental health problems. Veterinary care staff have the highest suicide rate of any profession in the United States.

It’s an incredibly important job, but often an overlooked one. Veterinary assistants do the job because they love it; not for the money.

I am currently a travel blogger at Stumble Safari who uses my experience as a veterinary assistant/technician and my degree in Biopsychology and Animal Behavior to educate others on animal tourism around the world.


Pros

Suitable for people who like practical and hands-on work.

Suitable for people who value relationships between co-workers and customers and want to work in a friendly non-competitive environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

It is not too difficult to get into this career. Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.

Short working hours (Less than 40 hours per week).

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to start and carry out projects.

One of the lowest paying jobs.

How much do they make

Average salary

$30980 per year

Average hourly wage

$15 per hour

Entry-level Vet Assistants with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $21,570 to $25,370 per year or $10 to $12 per hour.

Salary range Hourly Annual
Highest (Top 10%) $20 $41,080
Senior (Top 25%) $17 $35,900
Middle (Mid 50%) $14 $29,930
Junior (Bottom 25%) $12 $25,370
No experience (Bottom 10%) $10 $21,570

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
33%

40 hours
60%

More than 40 hours
7%

Working schedule

81%

19%

0%

Work with group or team

How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
0%

Important
33%

Very important
4%

Extremely important
63%

Deal with external customers

How important is it to work with customers in this job?

Not important at all
2%

Fairly important
0%

Important
36%

Very important
47%

Extremely important
15%

Manage or lead others

How important is it to coordinate or lead others in completing work activities in this job?

Not important at all
1%

Fairly important
0%

Important
51%

Very important
45%

Extremely important
2%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
17%

Every day
51%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
16%

Every day
67%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
1%

Every day
80%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
49%

Once a year
22%

Once a month
14%

Once a week
7%

Every day
9%

Frequency of conflict situations

How often are there conflict situations in this job?

Never
2%

Once a year
23%

Once a month
46%

Once a week
8%

Every day
21%

Dealing with angry people

How often do you have to deal with angry, unpleasant, or discourteous individuals in this job?

Never
6%

Once a year
25%

Once a month
36%

Once a week
12%

Every day
21%

Dealing with physically aggressive people

How often do you have to deal with physically aggressive people in this job?

Never
67%

Once a year
23%

Once a month
0%

Once a week
0%

Every day
9%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
31%

Slightly competitive
23%

Moderately competitive
20%

Highly competitive
13%

Extremely competitive
13%

Repetition in this job

How important is repeating the same type of task over and over in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
3%

Important
26%

Very Important
39%

Extremely Important
32%

Impact of decisions on co-workers or company results

What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the reputation or financial resources of your employer?

No impact
7%

Minor impact
12%

Moderate impact
5%

Important impact
30%

Very important impact
46%

Frequency of decision making

How frequently do you have to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the reputation of the company?

Never
10%

Once a year
1%

Once a month
10%

Once a week
20%

Every day
59%

Responsibility for others’ health and safety

How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?

No responsibility
11%

Limited responsibility
21%

Moderate responsibility
29%

High responsibility
33%

Very high responsibility
7%

Responsibility for outcomes and results

How much responsibility is there for the work outcomes and results of other workers?

No responsibility
12%

Limited responsibility
7%

Moderate responsibility
36%

High responsibility
27%

Very high responsibility
18%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
1%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
98%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
63%

Once a year or more
10%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
26%

Every day
1%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
47%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
10%

Once a week or more
26%

Every day
17%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
68%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
19%

Every day
13%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Easy
You may need some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Most careers in this difficulty category usually don’t require a degree. However, you will need a few months of on-the-job training with experienced employees. Similar careers include Customer Service Representatives, Security Guards, and Bank Tellers.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
6%

High School Diploma or equivalent
78%

Post-Secondary Certificate
11%

Some College Courses
4%

Associate’s Degree or similar
0%

Bachelor’s Degree
0%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
0%

Master’s Degree
0%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
35%

1 month
13%

1 to 3 months
1%

3 to 6 months
6%

6 months to 1 year
25%

1 to 2 years
3%

2 to 4 years
9%

4 to 6 years
10%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
2%

1 month
35%

1 to 3 months
20%

3 to 6 months
32%

6 months to 1 year
3%

1 to 2 years
8%

2 to 4 years
0%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality for this career
The Builder

People with this personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

95%

57%

29%

62%

29%

38%

You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

They also like working with, communicating with, and teaching people. They like helping or providing service to others.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

FAQ


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