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What Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers Do About this section

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers
Veterinary assistants may maintain and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment.

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and veterinary technologists and technicians with their daily tasks.

Duties

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers typically do the following:

  • Feed, bathe, and exercise animals
  • Clean and disinfect cages, kennels, and examination and operating rooms
  • Restrain animals during examination and laboratory procedures
  • Maintain and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment
  • Monitor and care for animals after surgery
  • Help provide emergency first aid to sick and injured animals
  • Give medication or immunizations that veterinarians prescribe
  • Assist in collecting blood, urine, and tissue samples

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers also provide nursing care before surgery and other medical procedures.

They may prepare equipment and pass surgical instruments and materials to veterinarians during surgery. They also move animals during testing and other procedures.

Veterinary assistants typically help veterinarians and veterinary technologists and technicians treat injuries and illnesses of animals.

Laboratory animal caretakers’ daily tasks include feeding animals, cleaning kennels, and monitoring animals.

Work Environment About this section

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers
Veterinary assistants move animals and prepare equipment before procedures.

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers held about 99,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers were as follows:

Veterinary services 87%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 3

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work primarily in clinics and animal hospitals, colleges and universities, and research laboratories.

The work of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be physically and emotionally demanding. Workers may handle sick or abused animals and may assist in euthanizing animals.

Injuries and Illnesses

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. When working with scared and aggressive animals, workers may be bitten, scratched, or kicked. Workers may also be injured while holding, bathing, or restraining an animal.

Work Schedules

Some veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may work nights, weekends, or holidays.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker About this section

veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers image
Veterinary assistants learn through on-the-job training.

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the occupation on the job. Experience working with or being around animals may be helpful for jobseekers.

Education

Most workers entering the occupation have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers receive short-term on-the-job training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although certification is not mandatory, it allows workers to demonstrate competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation for veterinary assistants. To qualify for the designation, candidates must graduate from a NAVTA-approved program and pass an exam.

Laboratory animal caretakers become certified through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). AALAS offers three levels of certification: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG). For AALAS certification, candidates must have experience working in a laboratory animal facility and pass an exam.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers communicate with pet owners, veterinarians, veterinary technologists and technicians, and other assistants. They need to be able to explain instructions, procedures, and other information clearly and effectively.

Compassion. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must treat animals with kindness and show compassion to both the animals and their owners.

Detail oriented. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must follow instructions exactly as directed. For example, they must be precise when sterilizing surgical equipment, monitoring animals, and giving medication.

Manual dexterity. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must be adept in both handling animals and using medical instruments and laboratory equipment.

Physical strength. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must be strong enough to handle, move, and restrain animals.

Pay About this section

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

$28,590

Healthcare support occupations

$28,470

 

The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $28,590 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $39,800.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $37,910
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 32,950
Veterinary services 28,150

Some veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may work nights, weekends, or holidays.

Job Outlook About this section

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Healthcare support occupations

23%

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

16%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 16 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. These workers are expected to be needed to assist veterinarians and other veterinary care staff.

Increases in consumers’ pet-related spending are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers. In clinics and other veterinary service establishments, assistants help veterinarians and veterinary technicians and technologists with various procedures. Demand for veterinary assistants will continue as the demand for these procedures increases.

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to be good. These assistants and caretakers experience a high rate of job turnover, so many positions will become available when workers leave the occupation each year.

Employment projections data for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

31-9096 99,500 115,200 16 15,700 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about certification as a laboratory animal caretaker, visit

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science

For more information about certification as a veterinary assistant, visit

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

For more information about becoming a veterinary assistant, including career opportunities, visit

American Animal Hospital Association

O*NET

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

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