Many people hear the terms veterinary assistant and veterinary technician and assume that they are interchangeable. This is incorrect. The two jobs are quite different, with different responsibilities and pay scales. This is because they require different levels of training and education.
A veterinary technician has much more schooling. Specifically, he or she has graduated from a two-year program of study that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
That’s not all. A vet tech is also licensed. You can’t get licensed without passing a state board examination. So not only have they graduated from an accredited program, they’ve demonstrated via licensing exam that they have mastered the material.
Veterinary assistants have a lot less training. Sometimes they have had some training in high school, or have completed a certificate program, but generally they only have on-the-job training from their employers. They don’t have any license, nor have they completed an accredited degree program.
Because of this, vet assistants’ job responsibilities are a lot more basic. They hold the animals during checkups, and also clean instruments and clinic areas like kennels and exam rooms. They also do some clerical work like filing or answering phones.
The veterinary technician, on the other hand, will complete much more complex tasks like giving x-rays to animals, administering vaccinations, assisting vets in surgery, collecting and analyzing samples, to name just a few.
You have probably correctly surmised that the two positions don’t have the same pay scale. Vet technicians make a good bit more money and have better job prospects. They can earn $15 or more per hour with a few years experience, whereas your average vet assistant only earns around $9-10 per hour.
If you want to work with animals as a long-range career path, you are far better off spending time becoming a veterinary technician. For those who just want perhaps part time or short term employment with little need for schooling, veterinary assistant is the better choice.