Vet Technician vs. Vet Assistant: What’s the Difference? — MedCerts

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There’s often confusion about veterinary assistants and veterinary technicians as the same job.

While employees in these two positions work together, their role duties do vary. Both roles are very different but ultimately lead to keeping animals healthy and strong.

In either role, you become a trusted member of a veterinarian’s staff.

Below, we share the difference between a vet assistant and technician to help you choose which path is best for your career goals.

Education and Tasks Vary in Each Role

It’s easy to mix up the difference between a veterinary assistant and a veterinary technician as both perform similar yet specialized tasks. The biggest difference between a veterinary technician and a veterinary assistant in education.

In turn, that means different education requirements for each role:

  • Currently, formal education and credentialing are not required for veterinary assistant positions. However, graduating from an Approved Veterinary Assistant Program (AVA) and passing the national Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) exam boosts hiring opportunities. After passing the exam, technicians receive the nationally-recognized AVA designation, which gives applicants a distinct advantage when applying for a position in the veterinary field over those with no training or credential.
  • Veterinary technicians graduate from an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited program after two to four years of study. Upon graduation, they are required to pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE®), a computer-based exam. Veterinary technicians then apply to the appropriate credentialing board or agency within their state.


Education

Generally, a veterinary assistant can start working in an animal hospital or clinic right out of high school. Vet assistants learn on the job, but can also earn an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation to bring even more experience to the table.

Veterinary technicians have to complete a post-secondary program like a 2-year associate’s degree. Depending on the state, a vet tech might also need to pass an exam to become certified, registered, or licensed.

Job Duties

As every veterinary practice needs and state laws vary, this isn’t a full listing of duties that may be performed or required.

Veterinary assistant

  • Maintain safe and clean veterinary hospital environment
  • Groom and bathe animals
  • Feed animals
  • Exercise animals
  • Watch and care for animals after surgery
  • Restrain animals during procedures or exams
  • Help veterinary technician x-ray animals
  • Stock exam rooms and hospital treatment areas with medical supplies
  • Set-up supplies and equipment for medical procedures


Veterinary technician

  • Restrain animals during procedures or exams
  • Take x-rays
  • Collect and perform lab tests like blood counts
  • Monitor hospitalized animal patients
  • Prep animals and instruments for surgery
  • Administer anesthesia and monitor responses
  • Provide emergency first aid


Pay

Veterinary assistant

According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, the highest-paid vet assistants earned more than $38,000 yearly in 2017.

Veterinary technician

The highest 10% of veterinary technicians earned more than $49,000 as reported in 2017.

Job Outlook

The job outlook and opportunity for both career options are excellent. Both fields have a 19-20% growth from now until 2026.

Career Opportunities

Most of the time you’ll find work with a veterinary services employer like a vet’s office.

  • 85% of veterinary services employers hire vet assistants
  • 91% of veterinary services hire veterinary technicians


Other settings may include research facilities, boarding facilities, animal welfare groups, animal control offices, or universities.

As you gain more experience in the industry, you may be tasked with more responsibilities. Additionally, there’s always room for more training on the job and certifications or designations through a variety of veterinary programs.

Take Your Next Step Into the Veterinary Field

Whichever career path you decide to take, you’ll be rewarded with the opportunity to care for animals daily. While the biggest difference between a vet tech and a vet assistant is education, both roles are focused on optimum animal care.

Vet assisting is the stepping stone into the animal welfare world. If you want to spend your career helping animals, becoming a veterinary assistant is a perfect starting point.

No matter which path you pick, know that your role is an important one within any veterinary practice. Without these specialized roles in the veterinary healthcare team, it would be an even bigger challenge for veterinarians to keep animals safe and healthy.

Why do you want to become a veterinary assistant or vet tech? Let us know on social media!

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Written by MedCerts Team
Education Specialist

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Published on July 17, 2019