When a person considers becoming a veterinary assistant and wants an idea what kind of salary can be expected, a look into the pay assistants receive indicates a fairly wide range. Reasons for this include location, level of experience and the size of the veterinary practice. A veterinary assistant in a large metropolitan area can expect to make significantly more than someone in a rural area or small town.
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Veterinary assistants help with daily tasks at the clinic, including working in the reception area, assisting clients, taking payments, answering the phone and scheduling appointments. They assist the veterinary technicians, sterilise surgical equipment, feed and care for animals, restrain them during exams, shave them before surgery and clean surgical areas and exam rooms. They bathe animals and trim nails. If there is a boarding kennel, the veterinary assistant often does the feeding and dog walking. Some also clean kennels.
In rural areas and very small veterinary practices, a veterinary assistant might have a chance to do more technical work, assisting the veterinarian directly during exams and surgeries.
Salaries for veterinary assistants in 2005 were about £9,100 at the low end, with an average of £13,650, and topped out at about £16,250. Many vet assistants work part-time and are paid hourly, with median pay at close to £6 an hour.
A veterinary assistant employed full-time typically receives benefits of health insurance, vacation pay and perhaps a 401(k). Part-time positions usually do not include benefits, though for both part-time and full-time positions, discounts on veterinary care and boarding services usually are provided.
Veterinary assistants are employed almost exclusively by clinics and animal hospitals, but they also can find employment at animal shelters, kennels and pet stores. Opportunities also are available as a laboratory animal caretaker.
Salaries vary a great deal depending on location, with large cities offering much higher pay than rural areas and small towns. The size of the clinic makes a difference as well. A large clinic with several veterinarians and many clients is likely to offer higher pay, but it also may employ several vet assistants on a part-time basis, rather than full-time.
Working at a clinic or animal hospital involves difficult situations, such as distraught owners, euthanasia and animals who do not survive surgery. A vet assistant also may be expected to work evenings and weekends.
On the other hand, veterinary assistants typically find the work rewarding and enjoy the chance to work with animals without needing formal education. Vet assistants sometimes receive training at a technical college or through a distance-learning program, but most are trained on the job by a veterinarian or a technician.
Because more people are becoming pet owners each year and are willing to pay more for preventive care, such as spaying and neutering, demand for vet assistants is steadily increasing. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts faster-than-average growth for veterinary assistant positions through 2016.