The Scoop on Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary Medicine has many levels of responsibility from the Veterinarians all the way down to Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers.

Vets Assistants (VA) and Lab Caretakers are the final line of defense for animals that are in animal hospitals or shelters. Though there is still a lot of interaction with the animals this is not a "primary care" job where you have to do a lot "to" the animal as much as you do things "for" the animals. Job growth in this field should be steady as the population grows and more and more laboratories open across the country.

What in the World Do Vet Assistants and Lab Caretakers Do?

In a Veterinary Hospital or Laboratory the clock is running 24/7 and someone is always on site. The people who are "in the building" to take care of the animals while other professionals are doing more complex work are the Vet Assistants and Lab Caretakers.

If you were working in this field you would be responsible for feeding and caring for the animals. If the animals needed medication you would make sure that they received it and you would monitor the animals to make sure they weren't getting sick or were injured.

Because a lot of this work is done in kennels at Animal Hospitals you will simply be looking after pets that are having a "vacation" in the kennel and just need a little attention to make sure they're ok during their stay. If you were working in a laboratory you may have a little more responsibility such as making notes on the animal's charts, taking specimens for testing, and monitoring their behavior.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

There are no formal training programs for Vet Assistants and Lab Caretakers, but employers will want to hire candidates who have at least a High School Diploma and who are good with animals. This doesn't mean you have to be the "Dog Whisperer" but you do need to love animals.

Also, this kind of job gives you on the job training, so anything you need to know will be taught to you on site. Because of this you can get a lot of experience working with animals and this might be especially useful if you are in school to become a Veterinary Tech or a Veterinarian.

A license is also not required in this field, but once again, if you are working on your schooling to become a Vet Technician and you were in a program for certification you might look much more desirable to certain employers because you are working hard in school. They like that.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

A large percentage of these jobs are to be had in animal hospitals and vet's offices that have kennels. The easiest way to search out a job is just to find every animal hospital and vet around you and inquire about work. The Veterinary community is pretty tight so you may not find work immediately, but you will probably get referred to others who may need people and this will help your job search immensely.

Advancement in this field comes through experience and schooling. If you are looking to stay in veterinary medicine you may want to go to school to become a Veterinary Tech or a Veterinarian. This is good entry-level work for someone who is in veterinary school. Also, you might be able to get into management of kennels or a Vet's office through experience and hard work. This would keep you in the "veterinary" field but you wouldn't be doing "patient care" as much as you would be working in administration. However, that is still a good career path and should be considered if the opportunity arises. Either way, you're not going to be watching Mrs. Jones cat while she goes to Disney World for the rest of your life.

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Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers Overview

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretaker Salary:$21,210
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:0 years
# Employed in US:71,950
% Who work Part Time:23%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being a Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

  • There is no formal training required
  • You get to work with animals
  • You can work all manner of hours and fit your work around your life

The Cons of being a Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

  • You have to get some schooling to advance, unless you get into management
  • You might have a hard time seeing little animals in cages who want to play
  • The job is VERY labor intensive