Bureau of Labor Statistics

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers
Veterinary assistants care for animals under the supervision of veterinarians and veterinary technicians.
Quick Facts: Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers
2019 Median Pay $28,590 per year
$13.75 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2018 92,200
Job Outlook, 2018-28 19% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-28 17,600

Summary

What Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers Do

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.

Work Environment

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work mainly in clinics, animal hospitals, and research laboratories. Their work may be physically and emotionally demanding.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the occupation on the job.

Pay

The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $28,590 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. High turnover should result in good job opportunities.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers Do

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers
Veterinary assistants may maintain and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment.

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and veterinary technologists and technicians with their daily tasks.

Duties

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers typically do the following:

  • Feed, bathe, and exercise animals
  • Clean and disinfect cages, kennels, and examination and operating rooms
  • Restrain animals during examination and laboratory procedures
  • Maintain and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment
  • Monitor and care for animals after surgery
  • Help provide emergency first aid to sick and injured animals
  • Give medication or immunizations that veterinarians prescribe
  • Assist in collecting blood, urine, and tissue samples

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers also provide nursing care before surgery and other medical procedures.

They may prepare equipment and pass surgical instruments and materials to veterinarians during surgery. They also move animals during testing and other procedures.

Veterinary assistants typically help veterinarians and veterinary technologists and technicians treat injuries and illnesses of animals.

Laboratory animal caretakers’ daily tasks include feeding animals, cleaning kennels, and monitoring animals.

Work Environment

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers
Veterinary assistants move animals and prepare equipment before procedures.

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers held about 92,200 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers were as follows:

Veterinary services 87%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 5
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 3

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work primarily in clinics and animal hospitals, colleges and universities, and research laboratories.

The work of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may be physically and emotionally demanding. Workers may handle sick or abused animals and may assist in euthanizing animals.

Injuries and Illnesses

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. When working with scared and aggressive animals, workers may be bitten, scratched, or kicked. Workers may also be injured while holding, bathing, or restraining an animal.

Work Schedules

Some veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may work nights, weekends, or holidays.

How to Become a Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers image
Veterinary assistants learn through on-the-job training.

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn the occupation on the job. Experience working with or being around animals may be helpful for jobseekers.

Education

Most workers entering the occupation have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers receive short-term on-the-job training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although certification is not mandatory, it allows workers to demonstrate competency in animal husbandry, health and welfare, and facility administration.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation for veterinary assistants. To qualify for the designation, candidates must graduate from a NAVTA-approved program and pass an exam.

Laboratory animal caretakers become certified through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). AALAS offers three levels of certification: Assistant Laboratory Animal Technician (ALAT), Laboratory Animal Technician (LAT), and Laboratory Animal Technologist (LATG). For AALAS certification, candidates must have experience working in a laboratory animal facility and pass an exam.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers communicate with pet owners, veterinarians, veterinary technologists and technicians, and other assistants. They need to be able to explain instructions, procedures, and other information clearly and effectively.

Compassion. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must treat animals with kindness and show compassion to both the animals and their owners.

Detail oriented. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must follow instructions exactly as directed. For example, they must be precise when sterilizing surgical equipment, monitoring animals, and giving medication.

Manual dexterity. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must be adept in both handling animals and using medical instruments and laboratory equipment.

Physical strength. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers must be strong enough to handle, move, and restrain animals.

Pay

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

$28,590

Healthcare support occupations

$28,470

 

The median annual wage for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers was $28,590 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,790, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $39,800.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $37,910
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 32,950
Veterinary services 28,150

Some veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers work part time. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers may work nights, weekends, or holidays.

Job Outlook

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

19%

Healthcare support occupations

18%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. These workers are expected to be needed to assist veterinarians and other veterinary care staff.

Increases in consumers’ pet-related spending are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers. In clinics and other veterinary service establishments, assistants help veterinarians and veterinary technicians and technologists with various procedures. Demand for veterinary assistants will continue as the demand for these procedures increases.

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to be good. These assistants and caretakers experience a high rate of job turnover, so many positions will become available when workers leave the occupation each year.

Employment projections data for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers, 2018-28

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

SOC Code31-9096
Employment, 201892,200
Projected Employment, 2028109,800
Percent Change, 2018-2819
Numeric Change, 2018-2817,600
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2019 MEDIAN PAY
Animal care and service workers

Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers attend to animals.

High school diploma or equivalent $24,990
Dental assistants

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants provide patient care, take x rays, keep records, and schedule appointments.

Postsecondary nondegree award $40,080
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

See How to Become One $29,640
phlebotomists image

Phlebotomists

Phlebotomists draw blood for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations.

Postsecondary nondegree award $35,510
Surgical technologists

Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists assist in surgical operations.

Postsecondary nondegree award $48,300
Veterinarians

Veterinarians

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect public health.

Doctoral or professional degree $95,460
Veterinary technologists and technicians

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians do medical tests that help diagnose animals’ injuries and illnesses.

Associate's degree $35,320

Contacts for More Info

For more information about certification as a laboratory animal caretaker, visit

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science

For more information about certification as a veterinary assistant, visit

National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America

For more information about becoming a veterinary assistant, including career opportunities, visit

American Animal Hospital Association

O*NET

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 10, 2020

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm (visited August 06, 2020).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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