Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Summary

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers
Veterinary assistants may hold or restrain animals during procedures.
Quick Facts: Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers
2012 Median Pay $23,130 per year
$11.12 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 74,600
Job Outlook, 2012-22 10% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 7,100

What Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers Do

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers look after animals in laboratories, animal hospitals, and clinics. They care for the well-being of animals by performing routine tasks under the supervision of veterinarians, scientists, and veterinary technologists and technicians.

Work Environment

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work mainly in clinics, animal hospitals, and research laboratories. Their work may be physically and emotionally demanding.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma and learn on the job.

Pay

The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $23,130 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Despite average employment growth, high occupational turnover will result in good job opportunities.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers Do

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers
Veterinary assistants may hand tools to veterinarians during surgery.

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers look after animals in laboratories, animal hospitals, and clinics. They care for the well-being of animals by performing routine tasks under the supervision of veterinarians, scientists, and veterinary technologists and technicians.

Duties

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers typically do the following:

  • Feed, bathe, and exercise animals
  • Clean and disinfect cages, kennels, and examination and operation 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 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 work mainly in clinics and animal hospitals, helping veterinarians and veterinary technicians and technologists 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 general well-being of laboratory animals.

Work Environment

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

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers held about 74,600 jobs in 2012. About 82 percent were employed in the veterinary services industry, which includes private clinics and animal hospitals. Most others were employed in laboratories, colleges and universities, and research facilities.

The work of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be physically and emotionally demanding. Workers may witness abused animals and may assist in euthanizing sick, injured, and unwanted animals.

Injuries and Illnesses

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. When working with scared and aggressive animals, workers may be bitten, scratched, and kicked. A worker also may be injured while holding, bathing, or restraining an animal.

Work Schedules

Many clinics and laboratories operate 24 hours a day, so veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be required to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers image
Veterinary assistants provide basic care for sick animals.

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma and learn on the job. Experience working with animals can be helpful for jobseekers.

Education

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

Training

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 not required by employers, veterinary assistants can become certified as an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA).

For laboratory animal caretakers seeking work in a research facility, the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) offers three levels of certification: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG).

Although certification is not mandatory, it allows workers at each level to demonstrate competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration. To become certified, candidates must have work experience in a laboratory animal facility and pass the AALAS exam.

Important Qualities

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

Detail oriented. These workers must follow strict instructions. For example, workers must be precise when sterilizing surgical equipment, monitoring animals, and giving medication.

Dexterity. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must handle animals and use medical instruments and laboratory equipment with care.

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

Pay

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Healthcare support occupations

$25,550

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

$23,130

 

The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $23,130 in May 2012. 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 $17,150, and the top 10 percent earned more than $35,510.

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers working in research positions often earn more than those in clinics and animal hospitals. In May 2012, the median annual wages for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers in the top three industries employing these workers were as follows:

Colleges, universities, and professional schools$30,760
Scientific research and development services29,710
Veterinary services22,450

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.

Job Outlook

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Healthcare support occupations

28%

Total, all occupations

11%

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

10%

 

Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Although veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers will be needed to assist veterinarians and other veterinary care staff, many veterinary practices are expected to increasingly replace veterinary assistants with higher-skilled veterinary technicians and technologists, thus requiring fewer veterinary assistants.

However, there will be demand for laboratory animal caretakers in areas such as public health, food and animal safety, national disease control, and biomedical research on human health problems.

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to be good.

Although some establishments are replacing veterinary assistant positions with higher-skilled veterinary technicians and technologists, growth of the pet care industry means that the number of veterinary assistant positions should continue to increase.

Furthermore, veterinary assistants experience a high rate of job turnover, so many positions will become available from workers who leave the occupation each year.

Employment projections data for Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

31-9096 74,600 81,700 10 7,100 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Animal care and service workers

Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers provide care for animals. They feed, water, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals. Job tasks vary by position and place of work.

See How to Become One $19,970
Dental assistants

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants have many tasks, ranging from providing patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,500
Dental hygienists

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventative dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.

Associate’s degree $70,210
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants and orderlies help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

See How to Become One $24,400
Surgical technologists

Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries.

Postsecondary non-degree award $41,790
Veterinarians

Veterinarians

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.

Doctoral or professional degree $84,460
Veterinary technologists and technicians

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to help diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals.

Associate’s degree $30,290
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm (visited October 25, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014