Vet Tech or Vet Assistant: Which is Which?

July 8th, 2011 by admin

Among those looking to enter the field of veterinary medicine, there is often confusion between the terms “veterinary technician” and “veterinary assistant.” Some might even think that the two positions are interchangeable. This is not the case, however, as anyone attending a veterinary technician school will verify. The positions differ significantly in job scope, whether attending a veterinary technician college is required, salary and benefits, and job opportunities.

The first difference between the two positions is in the scopes of the jobs. While each position entails assisting a veterinarian, they do so in very different manners. A veterinary technician is someone who has graduated from a veterinary technician college and, therefore, has learned the skills necessary to act as a nurse, anesthetist, lab technician and/or radiology technician, as needed. While at vet tech school, he or she will also have learned how to administer shots, set bones and perform many other aspects of the daily care for animals.

Veterinary assistants, on the other hand, may or may not have attended a vet tech college as well, but they are trained for a different set of tasks. They generally serve as an extra set of hands for performing the routine clinical work. Their jobs may include cleaning and sterilizing the tables and instruments, scheduling appointments, answering phones, and taking care of the front desk. They may also assist in the feeding, exercising, and cleaning of overnight patients.

The next significant difference between the two positions is in the degree of education required. In order to become a veterinary technician, one must earn a degree from a two-, three- or four-year program at a vet tech college. Vet techs are also required to pass a state exam and become licensed. While a veterinary assistant may have attended a vet tech school, it is not always required because an assistant does not generally take part in the higher-level medical care of the animals. Often veterinarians train their assistants on the job.

Yet another difference is the annual salary for each position. Because of their advanced training and greater responsibilities, veterinary technicians command a much higher salary than do veterinary assistants. The annual salary of a vet tech ranges from $26,000 to $40,000 while that of a veterinary assistant is generally in the range of $14,000 to $25,000.

Job opportunities are also more available for those with degrees from accredited veterinary technician schools. In addition to working in veterinary hospitals and clinics, vet techs can often find work in zoos, animal shelters, biomedical facilities and research laboratories. Opportunities may also exist in wildlife medicine, livestock management and with humane societies. The veterinary assistant’s prospects are often more limited. Most find work in clinics, pet hospitals, private practices, pet stores and shelters.

While there is plenty of need for smart, hard-working people in both positions, for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to earn a degree from an accredited veterinary technician college, the opportunities and benefits abound.

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