The titles "veterinary technician'' and ''veterinary assistant" are often used interchangeably; however, there are distinct differences between the two. Some animal hospitals have veterinary technicians performing the same job duties as a veterinary assistant, but many states have regulations in place that prevent veterinary assistants from performing the same duties as a veterinary technician.
Veterinary Assistant Job Duties
A veterinary assistant is on the front lines of customer service, often the first face you see when entering an animal clinic. As a front desk worker, the assistant greets pet owners and pets as they enter the office. She also performs other clinic tasks such as processing patient paperwork, data-entry, file management, cleaning kennels, bathing, feeding and grooming patients.
Veterinary Technician Job Duties
The veterinary technician functions as a nurse working under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian. The tech is qualified to perform far more duties than the veterinary assistant, yet not as many duties as a licensed veterinarian. The vet tech is responsible for assisting the in-house veterinarian with surgery preparations, administering anesthesia, performing lab work, taking X-rays, recording patient vitals and administering medications. In many states, a vet assistant can't perform any of these tech duties. To determine the veterinary assistant restrictions for your location, contact your state's board of veterinary medicine.
Educational and Credential Requirements
The educational and credential requirements for a veterinary assistant are minimal, usually a high school diploma or GED will fit the bill. Some employers may only hire assistants who have experience working with animals. To work as a veterinary technician, you need an associate's degree in the field. Some employers may require a bachelor's degree. Veterinary technicians must also meet the licensing requirements of the state. Most states require technicians to take and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination.
Salary Comparison & Career Outlook
The career outlook for veterinary technicians is strong compared to veterinary assistants, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The demand for veterinary technicians is predicted to increase 52 percent between 2010 and 2020, whereas the demand for veterinary assistants is only expected to increase 14 percent during the same time-frame. The average salary for a veterinary technician is $31,570 annually. The top tenth percentile earn $44,740 annually. The bottom tenth percentile earn $20,880 annually. The average salary for a veterinary assistant is $24,430 annually. The top tenth percentile earn $34,970 annually. The bottom tenth percentile earn $16,970 annually.