Yes, there is a BIG difference between vet techs and vet assistants. Vet techs need to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam and get certified in their respective states. Fully certified veterinary technicians carry the following formal job titles depending on their state: RVT, LVT or CVT.
Vet assistants DO NOT need to pass the VTNE and do not need to seek state-level certification.
A veterinary technician works alongside a veterinarian in caring for animal patients. Vet techs will do a lot of lab work. Conducting medical tests, drawing blood, and giving animals medication are all common tasks of a veterinary technician. A veterinary technician may also help to train new workers in a veterinarian’s office and interact with pet owners.
Veterinary assistants are on the lower end of the veterinary hierarchy. They often perform more mundane tasks. Some of a veterinary assistant’s duties include cleaning cages, washing animals, and feeding them. A veterinary assistant may also take animals outside for exercise. (Source: Yahoo!)
Veterinary technicians often take a two-year training program to learn all of the skills necessary for the work. In addition, a veterinary technician takes a State licensing exam to prove that he or she is qualified to work in a veterinarian’s office.
A veterinary assistant must have a high school diploma. There are some schools that offer training programs for people who want to become veterinary assistants. However, a veterinary assistant learns about his or her tasks on the job under the guidance of a veterinarian. Furthermore, depending on the state, some veterinary assistants may or may not need to be certified.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of a veterinary technician (in 2008) was $33,000. Of course, added training and special skills may increase that annual salary for an individual.
A veterinary assistant earns an annual median salary of $23,400 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Once again, extra training and diligent work may earn a higher salary for an individual.