If you love animals, a career as a veterinary assistant might seem like a natural choice. However, it is important to remember that a career in the veterinary field is significantly more demanding than caring for your own pets. The United States Department of Labor reports that the illness and injury rate is higher than the national average for those in this field. Don’t let that discourage you, though. A career as a veterinary assistant, while stressful at times, can also be extremely rewarding and lucrative.
Salary & Job Outlook
In 2010, there were 79,870 individuals employed as veterinary assistants across the United States. The average veterinary assistant has an hourly wage of $14.92, which is more than twice the amount for the hourly minimum wage set by many of the 50 states. The outlook is good for veterinary assistants, with a projected growth rate of 36 percent, or 28,500 new jobs, by 2018.
Veterinary assistants have no formal educational requirements, and they usually receive training and experience on-the-job. However, taking a training program can help prospective job-seekers differentiate themselves from their peers. Also be sure to read our article on the differences between veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians (the differences are BIG).
And then there are certain qualities that a veterinarian assistant must possess. He or she should like animals, of course, and be willing to learn what it takes to care for them appropriately. Compassion, patience and excellent communication skills are other traits and qualities that a potential veterinary assistant should have. Physical fitness is also important, as veterinary assistants spend the majority of each shift on their feet.
Typical Job Duties
The job duties of a veterinary assistant vary each day, but may include laboratory tests, record keeping, prep work for surgery and X-rays, and dental care. Some veterinary assistants only work with domestic pets, while others treat larger animals such as cattle, sheep, and horses. Most assistants are also trained to care for frogs, mice, and birds.
Where to Work?
There are many different employment options for veterinary assistants, but the majority of them find jobs at a private practice or animal hospital. Other assistants work beside physicians and veterinarians in research hospitals or laboratories. Less than 10 percent of veterinary assistants work in shelters, kennels, and zoos.
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