- JOB DUTIES
- JOB OUTLOOK
- EDUCATION AND TRAINING NEEDED
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers look after animals in laboratories, animal hospitals, and clinics. They care for the animals by performing routine tasks under the supervision of scientists, veterinarians, and veterinary technologists and technicians.
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 the collection of blood, urine, and tissue samples
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are responsible for many daily tasks, such as feeding, weighing, and taking the temperature of animals. Other duties may include giving medication, cleaning cages, and providing nursing care before and after surgery and other medical procedures.
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers play a large role in helping veterinarians and animal scientists with surgery and other minor procedures. They may prepare equipment and pass surgical instruments and materials to veterinarians during surgery. They also move animals and restrain them during testing and other procedures.
Veterinary assistants typically work in clinics and animal hospitals, helping veterinarians and veterinary technologists and technicians treat injuries and illnesses of animals.
Laboratory animal caretakers work in laboratories under the supervision of a veterinarian, scientist, veterinary technician, or veterinary technologist. Their daily tasks include feeding animals, cleaning kennels, and monitoring the animals.
The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $25,250 in May 2016. 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 $18,540, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $37,810.
About 1 in 3 veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers worked part time in 2014. Many clinics and laboratories operate 24 hours a day, so veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be required to work nights, weekends, or holidays.
Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers will be needed to assist veterinarians and other veterinary care staff.
Although some establishments are replacing veterinary assistant positions with veterinary technicians and technologists, growth of the pet care industry means that the number of veterinary assistant positions should continue to increase.
Demand for laboratory animal caretakers is expected to grow in areas such as public health, where organizations work to protect the health of an entire population; food and animal safety, where organizations work to prevent foodborne contaminations and diseases in animals; national disease control; and biomedical research on human health problems.
Overall job opportunities for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to be very good. Veterinary assistants experience a high rate of job turnover, so many positions will become available from workers who leave the occupation each year.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING NEEDED
Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma and learn the occupation on the job. Experience working with animals can be helpful for jobseekers.
Most workers entering the occupation have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are trained on the job, but some employers prefer candidates who already have experience working with animals.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although certification is not mandatory, it allows workers to demonstrate competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration. Employers may prefer to hire candidates who have certification, and it may be required for advancement.
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 can 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.