Vet Tech vs. Vet Assistant

Vet Tech vs. Vet Assistant

By Christina Payne

Published on August 26, 2021

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Vet techs and vet assistants help veterinarians take care of animals and perform routine veterinary procedures. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that veterinary technologists and technicians will experience 16% job growth from 2019-2029. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are projected to experience the same level of growth over that time period.

In the following sections, you can explore the different job responsibilities of vet techs vs. vet assistants, learn about the salary and job outlook for each career, and find answers to frequently asked questions about these roles.

How Are Vet Techs vs. Vet Assistants Different?

Veterinary technicians complete medical tests and help diagnose animal illnesses under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. In most states, aspiring vet techs need an associate degree in veterinary technology to become a vet tech. Potential students should look for programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Vet technicians need proficiencies in the following areas:

Many states also require vet techs to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination offered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards. Aspiring vet techs should research the requirements in their state to learn what type of credentials they need.

Veterinary assistants handle day-to-day animal care for patients and lab subjects. Most vet assistants only need a high school diploma (or the GED equivalent), but some aspiring vet assistants may opt to pursue an associate degree. Vet assistants work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

Vet assistants need skills in the following areas:

Vet assistants can qualify to become Approved Veterinary Assistants (AVA) through the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). Aspiring vet assistants must graduate from a NAVTA-approved program and pass an examination to receive their AVA credential.

How Does Salary Differ for Vet Techs vs. Vet Assistants?

Vet tech vs. vet assistant pay differs depending on factors such as a worker's level of education and location. However, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for a veterinary technician was $36,260 in 2020. In the same year, veterinary assistants earned a median annual wage of $29,930.

In general, employees with a college degree tend to earn more than those without a postsecondary education. The amount of training needed to meet job requirements also plays a role in a worker's salary potential. Vet techs require more advanced technical and medical skills to perform day-to-day tasks. In contrast, vet assistants typically only need on-the-job training to complete their daily duties.

Vet assistants looking for higher pay should consider earning an associate degree and/or completing an accredited training program. Additionally, vet techs who pursue a specialization, such as dentistry or zoological medicine, can qualify for higher salaries.

How Does the Career Outlook Differ for Vet Techs vs. Vet Assistants?

According to the BLS, both vet techs and vet assistants are projected to experience 16% job growth from 2019-2029 — a rate much faster than the national average.

An increase in pet owners and an increase in spending on pets should drive job growth in this field. Vets rely on technicians who can properly maintain and use medical equipment. According to the BLS, 90% of vet techs work in the veterinary services industry.

Vet assistants experience high turnover in the workplace. This, along with the rise in pet owners, should lead to a high level of available jobs for this profession. Many vet assistants decide to earn a postsecondary degree in search of job advancement. These professionals often transition into vet technician careers to take advantage of opportunities for increased pay and more professional responsibility.

Frequently Asked Questions About Vet Techs

How do vet technicians and vet technologists differ? true

Vet technicians and vet technologists share many of the same duties. One of the main differences between these two careers is the required level of education — vet technicians typically only need an associate degree while vet technologists usually earn a bachelor's degree. Vet technologists also tend to work in research and laboratory facilities, while vet technicians work at animal clinics and hospitals.

What skills should a vet tech have? true

Vet techs must know how to handle injured or ill animals. These professionals maintain medical equipment in a veterinary clinic and perform routine tests, such as X-rays and urinalysis. Vet techs may also administer medications and vaccines to animal patients. Licensed veterinarians rely on vet techs to collect the medical histories of animals and prepare equipment for surgery.

Are there online vet tech associate degree programs? true

Yes! Many colleges offer online vet tech associate degree programs. Online degree programs often provide more flexibility for students than in-person programs, especially if the program also follows a part-time schedule. An online associate degree typically takes a full-time student two years to complete. However, students may be able to complete their degree faster by taking courses over the summer or attending an accelerated learning program.

Feature Image: xavierarnau / E+ / Getty Images

Learn about the most important vet tech skills, including skills like empathy and communication. Learn about the vet tech requirements in your state and see what it takes to help sick or injured animals. What should you know about being a vet tech? Learn about the vet tech career, including salary potential and job outlook.