What is the Difference Between a Vet Tech and a Vet Assistant?

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People looking for careers working with animals have quite a few options from which to choose. For the really ambitious, there is a long road leading to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – DVM. Their other positions that work as part of a veterinary medical team including a veterinary technician, a veterinary assistant, as well as an animal trainer or groomer. There are different educational licensing requirements for each one of these careers. Duties as well as salaries also differ greatly. For individuals who really do not want to become a doctor, there is the choice between becoming a technician assistant. There are different levels of education associated with both, as well as different duties and personal and financial rewards.

Differences between Technician and Assistant
A veterinary technician is basically a nurse working in an animal health care situation. Vet Techs typically assist veterinarians in both clinical and laboratory procedures conducted in a variety of settings including research as well as animal hospitals and private practices. Although the job titles a veterinary technician and veterinary technologist is used interchangeably, the formal educational requirements are different. Typically a veterinary technician is one that receives a two-year education whereas the technologist receives a four year degree. However, a vet assistant is one that is typically hired by a DVM besieging on-the-job training. There are no educational requirements for this position, nor are there any national or state licensing procedures. Assistants normally conduct nonmedical related duties such as:
• Feeding, watering, monitoring and exercising animals.
• Cleaning and disinfecting work and cage areas.
• Sterilization of all surgical and laboratory equipment.
• Limited postoperative care.
• Administration of medication orally or topically.
• Some preparation lab samples for examination under the supervision of either a DVM or Vet Tech.

Technicians Are Medically Trained
Technicians receive extensive medical training which is actually comparable to becoming a registered nurse. Vet Techs usually receive an associate’s degree in veterinary technology as a minimum in their education process. These individuals can perform a number of different medical related chores such as preparation implementation of intravenous setups, surgical assistance, diagnostic assistance under the supervision of a DVM, as well as medical injection of necessary drugs and other medicines. Therefore, a great deal of training preparing for this position is required in subject matter such as chemistry, biology, animal anatomy, as well as several math courses. Techs are required to undergo a national examination called the Veterinary Technician National Examination that is used as the licensing procedure by most jurisdictions throughout the United States and Canada. See our VTNE resources.

Who Qualifies to Be a Vet Tech?
Candidates looking to become a vet tech should be people that have great communication skills and like to work with others. Successful individuals will also be well-organized and none paying good attention to detail. Obviously, a great passion and love for animals is necessary. Plus, this particular position may not be appealing to anybody who is squeamish when it comes to medical related incidents.

Job Outlook
According to the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for veterinary technicians looks quite promising. The BLS predicts that ample opportunities will exist between the years 2010-2018 for qualified veterinary technicians from at least a two-year program due to the rapid demand for the better animal and pet healthcare. The BLS predicts that this particular career will grow faster than many others will at war than 20 percent increase. Salary opportunities for qualified vet Techs will be in the median range at about $30,000. Through May, 2008, the middle earnings were from $23,580 to $34,960. Research Vet Techs may earn significantly more.

Education Growth as Well
With the demand for qualified veterinary technicians increasing the next decade, more and more opportunities will present themselves for veterinary technician education, including online sources.

Penn Foster College
A.A.S. in Veterinary Technology
Penn Foster College - Distance Learning Program
Become a vet tech in as little as 1 year. The Penn Foster Veterinary Technician associate degree program is fully accredited by the AVMA.
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  • David Madden

    Interested in becoming a vet tech or surg tech.

    • Johnny

      Veterinary tech has better job growth prospects than surgical tech

  • Andrea

    I want to make a start at being a Vet Assistant. I just was accepted through the program from a local college I graduated a while back. Only 12 were accepted, I was one among them. But I don’t know what to expect from it. I thought I would go into more detail like surgery. But I have to start somewhere.