What does an Veterinary Assistant do?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

It’s important to understand that a veterinary assistant is not the same as veterinary technician. In general, vet techs are people who have received formal training, certification and licensing. A veterinary assistant is someone who usually has experience working in the animal care field but is not a licensed vet tech. Most are responsible for doing front office work in a veterinary office, clinic, or animal shelter. They can assist during surgeries or procedures as needed, but they usually cannot administer medication, give injections or do procedures on their own.

Veterinary assistants check appointments.
Veterinary assistants check appointments.

Front office work of the assistant can include the following responsibilities:

Veterinary assistants may assist in surgeries.
Veterinary assistants may assist in surgeries.
  • Greeting patients
  • Pulling charts
  • Filing
  • Writing charts
  • Answering phones
  • Taking appointments
  • Escorting animals and their owners to rooms
  • Weighing animals
  • Selling over the counter vet medications only available through vets, like certain types of flea control
  • Taking payments
  • Scheduling
  • Initiating collection or billing
A vet assistant may be in charge of assisting in animal health procedures.
A vet assistant may be in charge of assisting in animal health procedures.

A veterinary assistant may get a variety of hands-on experience with animals, but this largely depends upon the type of practice in which they work, and who the employer is. Many vets who are parents will employ their children or other teens to work as assistants so they can get field experience and decide if veterinary medicine is the right career choice. James Herriot, in his books on being a Yorkshire vet in the mid 20th century, discusses how both his children were informal assistants when he would visit farms or work at his clinic. This type of training can be great for the younger or older teens interested in the field, and Herriot relates that his son later became a vet because of all the on the job practice he received.

Veterinary assistants may help out with animal shelters.
Veterinary assistants may help out with animal shelters.

Though many of these jobs are paid positions, this is a field in which many volunteer opportunities exist. This is especially the case in non-profit clinics and in animal shelters, where money may be tight and vets may need as much help as they can get. If a volunteer later decides to become a paid assistant or a vet tech, volunteer experience in the past can look great on a resume and help him or her to obtain jobs or secure acceptance to vet technician or even veterinary medicine schools.

Veterinary assistants usually have not received formal training or certification.
Veterinary assistants usually have not received formal training or certification.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


My job duties fell in between veterinary technician and veterinary assistant for awhile. I had the training and experience to do technician work, but the vet desperately needed help answering phones and doing receptionist work, so I stayed really busy until she hired an assistant.

As a technician, I could take samples from animals for tests, trim nails, and even give vaccinations. This was what I studied to do, so I was relieved when the assistant took over the desk duties.


@seag47 – Generally, yes, they are the lowest paid. My sister was a vet assistant, and she made barely above minimum wage when she started.

Once the vet saw that she was good at the job, though, she got raises every now and then. So, if you do well, you can make more money.

The only veterinary assistant training my sister had came from the vet herself at the clinic. She might have been able to earn more in the beginning if she had any previous experience.


What is the typical veterinary assistant salary like? Are these workers the lowest paid in the whole clinic?


@anon115323 – It all depends on where you work. I got away with doing it part-time, but only because there were a couple of other workers who could do all the things mentioned in the veterinary assistant job description.

Many clinics have several assistants so that someone is always there. It would be tough if a vet only had one assistant and he or she became ill and could not work for a week or longer.

I had mentioned up front that I only wanted to work part-time, and since the vet already had two other workers trained in the same field, he was fine with that. We worked out our schedules with the office manager.


I agree with anon115135. It is also infuriating to nearly kill yourself in school only to go into a practice that cares more about money than ethics. The place I work has no idea what the difference between assistants and RVTs are, so they treat us identically. That's a huge insult to me.

I didn't spend all that time in school, up all night every night so that I can be told to work in the kennel that day.


In Florida, Miami Dade College offers an A.S. in veterinary technology, and an A.A. in Pre-Veterinary medicine.


Just wondering is it better to have hands on skills to do the job?


can this be a part time job? Or can you do this job full-time and also go to school full-time to major in another field for a different future career?


As an RVT in CA, I have to disagree with our role being analogous to an LPNs in human medicine. We are far closer to RNs and in fact, are not legally called Registered Animal Nurses simply because the nurses unions wouldn't allow it.

In fact, veterinary assistants are more like VINEs. We've worked hard to be taken seriously both in our field and in the public eye. Don't belittle the education we have and work we do.


Crispety- I want to add that there are also online programs that offer training for veterinary assistants.

There is a school called Animal Behavior College online that offers a certified Veterinary assistant program. The tuition ranges from $2,500 to $3,200.


I just want to add that here in Florida, the Sanford–Brown Institute offers an Associates of Science degree in veterinary technology. A lot of vocational schools like this one offer this type of training.

Post your comments
Forgot password?