(by Andres Rojas)
If you love animals, but vet school isn’t your calling, you can still have a long, satisfying career in the veterinary field as a vet tech or vet assistant. Let’s take a closer look at the differences in the positions.
The first, most obvious difference between a vet tech and a vet assistant is the difference in education each is required to have received. Vet technicians are usually animal nurses who have completed a degree in veterinary technology for the duration of approximately 2-4 years.
Vet tech education includes courses like:
- Mammalian Anatomy
- Animal Pharmacology
- Physical Rehabilitation
- Veterinary Nutrition
- Emergency care
By comparison, a vet assistant is an entry-level job position that doesn’t require a certification at the start – making it an ideal job for animal lovers looking to test the waters without the financial stress of going to vet school. As a vet assistant gains experience, he or she may opt for a Vet Assistant certificate or study further to become a vet tech.
Both vet techs and assistants may work together or under a licensed veterinarian. Typically, vet assistants will take care daily tasks such as:
- Feeding and exercising animals
- Kennel work
- Restraining animals while they’re being examined
- Post-surgery care
- Clerical duties
Veterinary technicians, on the other hand, may perform more specialized medical tasks in a clinical, laboratory, and surgery settings, such as:
- Running laboratory tests
- Preparing and administering vaccines
- Taking x rays
- Preparing animals and cleaning instruments for a surgery
- Assisting a vet during surgery
- Administer animal anesthesia
- Providing emergency care to injured animals
- Nursing recovering animals
As for their hours, vet technicians typically work full time, and may end up with overtime if there’s an animal recovering from surgery. Meanwhile, vet assistants enjoy a more flexible schedule, often part time, but may also be called to care for recovering animals on overtime hours.
Whether you choose to start as a vet technician or assistant, having previous experience working with animals will open to you many doors in the veterinary industry, as Dr. Jeff recalls about his veterinary journey:
“I DID REALLY WELL. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, BECAUSE OF MY EXPERIENCE WORKING FOR THE FOUR YEARS IN BETWEEN, THE CLINICS FOR ME WERE A BREEZE. SO IT WAS WORTH IT.”
Becoming a licensed veterinarian or technician requires years of studying. That’s why working as a veterinary assistant is a great option for animal lovers because they can gain a ton of experience – and find out if it’s their true calling – without spending the years in a school a fully licensed veterinary practitioner or surgeon does.
To emphasize, Dr. Jeff states:
“THE EXPERIENCE I HAD WAS INVALUABLE AND I THINK IT HELPED ME A LOT BY THE TIME WE GOT TO CLINICS.”
How Do You Become a Vet Assistant?
Veterinarians are always short of help. And that’s why volunteering is one of the best ways of starting in the animal health field (think “intern”, if you must).
Like Dr. Jeff says, helpful, highly-driven volunteers can secure a paying vet assistant job, if they’re willing to put in the hours:
“MANY OF OUR VOLUNTEERS HAVE ENDED UP PROVING THEMSELVES TO BE VERY, VERY HELPFUL AND THEN THEY DO GETTING A PAYING JOB IF WE NEED THEM – THEY GET THE FIRST OPENING. SO THERE IS AN ADVANTAGE SOMETIMES TO VOLUNTEERING AT SOME PLACE, PROVING THAT YOU ARE COMMITTED, PROVING THAT YOU LEARN QUICKLY AND THAT YOU CAN BE VERY, VERY HELPFUL, AND THEN THEY DO GET A PAYING JOB. IF AN OPENING COMES UP YOU WOULD BE NUMBER ONE IN LINE FOR A REAL JOB.”
Visit Dr. Jeff Werber’s Instagram account (@werbs_dvm) to view and submit questions and answers on weekly AMAs – or call and leave a voicemail at 424-835-0576. Your call will be returned posthaste. For emergencies, download Dr. Jeff Werber’s app , a video-chat option for veterinary needs at any time of day or night!