Differences Between a Vet Technician and Vet Assistant

Veterinary technicians and assistants play key roles in the day-to-day functions of a veterinary clinic. They work alongside veterinarians, helping them as they provide care and treatment to animals. Some individuals want to work in the veterinary field, but they don’t want to become veterinarians because the educational requirements are quite extensive and not everyone can see themselves working in the field for a long period of time. Becoming a vet tech or assistant will allow you to work in the veterinary field with minimal to no schooling.

Below are a few of the differences between vet techs and assistants to help you choose which path is best suited for you.

The difference

One of the major differences between the two occupations is education. Vet techs need to obtain an education while vet assistants can be taught the skills they need on the job. Veterinary technicians must complete an associate’s degree in a veterinary technology program. Depending on the requirements of the state in which they work, some will need to pass a credentialing exam to become registered, licensed, or certified. Assistants can obtain training, if they choose, and that will result in a certification of completion with an internship at a facility. It is not mandatory, though.

Duties

Vet techs and assistants have similar roles, but their duties vary a little bit. Vet assistants normally handle routine animal care and they help veterinarians and vet techs with their daily tasks.

Vet assistants typically do the following:

  • Exercise the animals
  • Bathe the animals 
  • Clean, sterilize, and maintain kennels, examination rooms, cages, and operating rooms
  • Assist veterinarians and vet technicians with lab work
  • Comfort the animals
  • Feed the animals

Vet techs are supervised by licensed veterinarians. They perform various medical tests and they help diagnose animals’ injuries and illnesses. They can also help out vets with surgical procedures if they have the experience and proper qualifications.

Vet techs’ typical duties include:

  • Taking x-rays
  • Preparing animals for surgery
  • Collecting blood samples
  • Administering medicine or anesthesia
  • Assisting with surgical procedures
  • Monitoring hospitalized animals

Education

Veterinary assistants do not need a formal education. Generally, they can start working in an animal hospital or clinic right out of high school. Most clinics provide on-the-job training. If individuals want more credentials and specialized training, they can earn an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) certification. This will better prepare them for the job, but the certification is not required.

Veterinary technicians, on the other hand, need some education and experience prior to starting. They usually have to complete a post-secondary education program, like a two-year associate’s degree. Every state has different requirements and regulations, though. Some states will also require techs to pass a separate exam to become certified, registered, or even licensed.

Job outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor projects a roughly 16 percent increase in the need for both vet assistants and vet techs in the U.S. between 2019 and 2029. This is faster than the average for all occupations. Increased pet-related spending is expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs vet techs and assistants. The demand for both of these occupations will continue in the years to come as the demand for the procedures increases.

Where to work

After completing your training program, there are a few places where you could work. You can work in private clinics and animal hospitals. You may also work in animal control offices, laboratories, colleges and universities, and humane societies. As you gain more experience in the field, you will have more opportunities and options to choose from.

Regardless of the career path that you choose, both occupations are equally as important. They are a major part of the medical team, and without these roles, it would be a lot harder for veterinarians to do their job. Becoming a vet tech or assistant provides a stepping stone to those who want to work in the veterinary field.

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