Veterinary Assistant Career Profile

Do you want to work as a veterinary assistant?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for your career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!


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1 June 2024

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What is a veterinary assistant?

A Veterinary Assistant is a vital member of any veterinary team. They work directly under the supervision of a veterinarian. They are skilled in the practical side of animal care, and are responsible for feeding, bathing, and exercising the animals, and they restrain them during examinations and treatment.

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Differences in general Veterinary profiles:

In some countries, there is almost no distinction between a veterinary technologist, a veterinary technician, and sometimes even a veterinary nurse. Due to the different definitions and overlapping functions, here’s a comparison of the careers of veterinarian, veterinary technologist, veterinary technician, veterinary nurse, and veterinary assistant. It also gives you an idea of what to study for, especially regarding the level and length of study.

NB! Find out which profiles are actually found in your country, before starting your education!

Career Profile Comparison

1. Veterinarian


Veterinarians are medical professionals who diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries in animals. They may work with a variety of animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife. Their duties include performing surgeries, prescribing medications, conducting routine check-ups, and advising pet owners on proper animal care.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited veterinary college.
  • Licencing: Must pass the North American Veterinary Licencing Examination (NAVLE) and obtain a state licence to practice.

2. Veterinary Technologist


Veterinary Technologists perform medical tests under the supervision of a licenced veterinarian to help diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals. They often work in laboratories or research facilities, and their tasks may include conducting tests, preparing vaccines, and managing anaesthesia during surgeries.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Technology from an accredited programme.
  • Certification: Optional certification from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) as a Registered Veterinary Technologist (RVT).

3. Veterinary Technician


Veterinary Technicians assist veterinarians in clinical settings by performing a variety of tasks, such as taking medical histories, collecting samples, conducting lab tests, and administering medications. They are essential in both routine care and emergency situations.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Associate degree in Veterinary Technology from an accredited programme.
  • Certification: Must pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) and obtain state-specific certification or licencing.

4. Veterinary Nurse


Veterinary Nurses provide nursing care to animals under the direction of a veterinarian. They are responsible for tasks such as monitoring vital signs, providing pre- and post-operative care, administering anaesthesia, and educating pet owners on animal care.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Varies by region, but generally a diploma or degree in Veterinary Nursing.
  • Certification: Often required to pass an examination such as the VTNE or a region-specific certification exam.

5. Veterinary Assistant


Veterinary Assistants support veterinarians and veterinary technicians by performing basic care and administrative duties. Their responsibilities include feeding and bathing animals, cleaning cages, sterilising equipment, and assisting with handling animals during examinations.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: High school diploma or equivalent. Some veterinary assistant programmes offer certificates or diplomas.
  • Certification: Certification is optional but can enhance job prospects. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation.

Career Categories

The Veterinary Assistant career can be found within the following OZT career categories:

  • Health
  • Farming & Livestock Management
  • Marine Conservation
  • Wildlife Conservation
  • Zoos, Aquariums, Museams and Theme Parks

Colour of the Scrubs?

In some countries the scrubs (uniform) of vet assistants are ceil blue


Assistants can be promoted to Technicians with some training and experience

What does a Veterinary Assistant do?

Groups of animals a Veterinary Assistant works with

Cats List Icon
Dogs List Icon OZT
Critters List Icon OZT
Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
Mammals List Icon OZT
Birds List Icon OZT
Fish List Icon OZT
Reptiles List Icon OZT
Amphibians List Icon OZT

A veterinary assistant can work with a diverse range of animals across various settings. The specific types of animals they encounter will depend on the type of veterinary practice or facility they are employed at. Here are some of the different kinds of animals a veterinary assistant may work with:

Companion Animals (Pets)

  • Dogs: Commonly found in general veterinary practices; tasks may include assisting with vaccinations, surgeries, and routine check-ups.
  • Cats: Another staple of veterinary clinics, requiring assistance with similar procedures as dogs, along with specialised handling due to their different temperaments
  • Small Mammals: Includes rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and ferrets; care often involves routine health checks, dental care, and surgeries.

Exotic Pets

  • Birds: From small parakeets to larger parrots; tasks can include wing clipping, beak trimming, and health assessments.
  • Reptiles: Such as snakes, lizards, and turtles, require care that involves handling, feeding, and assisting with medical procedures specific to reptiles.
  • Amphibians: Frogs, toads, and salamanders; involves providing specialised care and maintaining proper environmental conditions.

Large Animals (Livestock)

  • Cattle: Commonly found in rural veterinary practices; tasks may include assisting with calving, vaccinations, and treating illnesses.
  • Horses: Equine practices often require assistants to help with dental work, hoof care, surgeries, and emergency care.
  • Sheep and Goats: Involve tasks like shearing assistance, lambing or kidding, and routine health care.

Wildlife and Zoo Animals

  • Zoo Animals: Includes a wide range of species such as big cats, primates, elephants, and reptiles; requires specialised knowledge and handling techniques.
  • Wildlife: Can involve work at wildlife rehabilitation centres, treating injured or orphaned wild animals, including birds of prey, small mammals, and reptiles.

Aquatic Animals

  • Fish: Found in specialised aquatic veterinary practices or research facilities; care involves monitoring water quality, treating diseases, and assisting with surgeries.
  • Marine Mammals: Includes dolphins, seals, and sea otters, typically in marine parks or research institutions; tasks involve assisting with health assessments and medical treatments.

Laboratory Animals

  • Rats and Mice: Commonly used in research settings; care includes handling, feeding, and assisting with research procedures.
  • Other Lab Animals: Can include rabbits, guinea pigs, and sometimes larger animals like dogs or primates, depending on the research.

Farm Animals

  • Pigs: Common in rural veterinary practices, requiring assistance with health management, breeding, and surgeries.
  • Poultry: Includes chickens, turkeys, and ducks; tasks involve vaccinations, health monitoring, and treating diseases.

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With who does a Veterinary Assistant work?

Besides working with all of the animals, Veterinary Assistants will need to interact with other people while doing their daily tasks. The people might include fellow staff members or the public.

Fellow staff might include:

  • Supervisors/Managers
  • Operational staff, such as Human Resources, Finance and Maintenance
  • Veterinary staff

What does a Veterinary Assistant focus on?

​They basically assist the Veterinarian or Veterinary Technician when treating sick animals, with the routine check-ups and also talk with the owners of pets. In some cases, Veterinary Assistants work with Wildlife Vets, which means they need to help with stuff like keeping sedated animals calm. 

What are the daily tasks of a Veterinary Assistant?

  • Moving animals around in the clinic or surgery
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the kennels
  • Sterilizing the laboratory, theater and surgical equipment
  • Helping pets by feeding them, grooming them, giving them exercise and even brushing their teeth
  • Help with office work, like booking appointments, checking in animals, keeping files on each pet and making sure that there is enough medicine in stock.
  • Administration and filing

Working conditions of a Veterinary Assistant?

Where does a Veterinary Assistant work?

Environment –

Veterinary assistants mainly work indoors, but can assist outdoors when dealing with wildlife.

Places of Employment –

They work together with veterinary surgeons in various places, including veterinary clinics, zoos, animal parks, aquariums and in the wild. They can also work with pet food companies, pet care institutions or pharmaceutical companies making new medicine for animals.

What is the average annual salary of a Veterinary Assistant?

On average the income per year is around $26,000. This will differ from country to country.

Can a Veterinary Assistant be promoted?

Advancement in the field typically depends on work experience and place of employment. First-year assistants often begin on a part-time basis, fitting their training commitments around other work demands.

Assistants working for large animal hospitals or veterinary clinics where a lot of people work, might be able to be promoted easier than in small private clinics.

The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:

Intern -> Junior Assistant -> Senior Assistant -> Manager/Supervisor

What kind of difficulties can a Veterinary Assistant face?

The most difficult part of this career is being able to work with stressed animals. Animals can get difficult and temperamental when they sense a new person in their space.

Future growth and Possibilities

The current yearly growth within this career is 9%, which shows a good turnaround or opening of new posts.

Availability of Jobs


Which Skills are required by a Veterinary Assistant?

The skills required for a career as a veterinary assistant can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
Life Skills

Career Skills

  • Animal handling
  • Animal care techniques
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Good computer literacy
Career Skills

Which Subjects must I have at School to help prepare for this career?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to Study to become a Veterinary Assistant?

Minimum Requirements

A Veterinary Assistant is usually the entry-level position for anyone who would like to work at a veterinary practice or surgery.

The minimum requirement to study for a Veterinary Assistant is a High School Certificate. But, many Veterinary Assistants do further their studies after school so that they can be more competitive and hopefully progress later towards a full Veterinary Degree. Further studies can be done in completing Short Courses, or a College Diploma.

Study Focus

Major –

If you want to study further, then look at a College Diplomas in animal science, animal care or even business management.

Short Courses –

Subjects that deal with animal care, basic animal health and first aid, or even animal behaviour.

Study Duration

The duration of College Diplomas can be up to 3 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

FREE Career Path Plan

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A preparation path is like a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

A high school student aspiring to become a veterinary assistant can follow a structured career preparation path by considering the following steps:

1. Attend Career Guidance Sessions

Objective: Gain insights into various animal-related careers, including veterinary assistant roles.
Attend school career days and guidance counsellor sessions.
Participate in webinars and workshops on animal care careers.

2. Research All Possible Careers

Objective: Understand the scope of careers in veterinary medicine and animal care.
Research online resources, such as career websites and professional organisations.
Interview or job shadow local veterinary professionals to learn about their daily tasks and career paths.

3. Explore Educational Paths

Objective: Identify the necessary education and training required to become a veterinary assistant.
Investigate vocational schools, community colleges, and certification programmes.
Learn about the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) certification by NAVTA.

4. Align High School Subjects with the Educational Path

Objective: Ensure high school coursework supports future veterinary assistant education.
Focus on subjects like biology, chemistry, and animal science.
Take advanced courses or electives related to animal care, if available.

5. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent

Objective: Meet the minimum educational requirement for most veterinary assistant positions.
Successfully complete high school or obtain a GED.

6. Learn About Animals They Will Work With

Objective: Gain knowledge and experience with various animal species.
Volunteer at animal shelters, farms, or local zoos.
Participate in 4-H or FFA (Future Farmers of America) programmes.

7. Align Post-School Path with Career Goals

Objective: Decide on the next steps after high school.
Choose between entering the workforce directly, pursuing further education, or considering entrepreneurial opportunities in animal care.

8. Gain Experience Through Volunteering, Internship, Mentorship, etc.

Objective: Build practical skills and professional connections.
Volunteer at veterinary clinics, animal shelters, or wildlife rehabilitation centres.
Seek internships or mentorships with local veterinarians or veterinary assistants.

9. Pursue Extracurricular Activities

Objective: Develop additional skills and demonstrate commitment to animal care.
Join animal-related clubs or organisations at school.
Participate in community service projects focused on animal welfare.

10. Join Professional Associations

Objective: Access resources and networking opportunities.
Join associations like NAVTA or local veterinary technician associations.
Attend conferences and workshops.

11. Gain specialised Skills

Objective: Enhance qualifications and job readiness.
Take courses or workshops on specific skills, such as animal first aid, restraint techniques, or lab procedures.
Obtain certifications like AVA.

12. Network with Professionals

Objective: Build a network for job opportunities and professional growth.
Attend industry events and local veterinary meetings.
Connect with professionals on platforms like LinkedIn.

13. Enter the Job Market, Finish Tertiary Studies, or Launch a Business

Objective: Begin a career as a veterinary assistant.
Apply for entry-level veterinary assistant positions.
If you are pursuing further education, enrol in relevant programs and complete certifications.
For entrepreneurial aspirations, develop a business plan for a pet-related venture.

14. Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education

Objective: Maintain and advance professional knowledge and skills.
Regularly read veterinary journals and attend workshops.
Complete continuing education courses and pursue advanced certifications.

By following this comprehensive career preparation path, high school students can systematically work towards becoming successful veterinary assistants, gaining the necessary education, skills, and experience along the way.

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Stepping Stone Career

Being a veterinary assistant can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).

You can begin as an intern vet assistant after the necessary short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and apprenticeship

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a veterinary assistant will be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior Assistant or veterinarian.

Join the Veterinary Assistants Group in the OZT Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of all the people who enter the career

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.

Learn more about requirements by joining the OZT Community!

Professional Associations

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care and handling.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in figuring out a path to prepare, as well as help you to gain further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools. There are almost a dozen free tools, but these are the three primary ones:


Use the career path plan above on this profile as an example to follow, or to work out your own path.

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ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 


Access easy-to-use short courses to make your career preparation easier! The basic information in each course is free, but the rewards can only be unlocked as an OZT member!

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 


Get a supercharged study guide that fits into the career path plan! Now that's really upping your preparation game! Join us for free to gain access!

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ACCESS: Members Only

But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.


Join the OZT community and career chat Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a veterinary assistant.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being a Veterinary Assistant, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu, and search for something different.

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